(Pope Francis lies on the ground as he prays during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer)

The Vatican’s official preacher, at a Good Friday service attended by Pope Francis, said huge salaries and the world financial crisis were modern evils caused by the “cursed hunger for gold”.

The pope presided at a “Passion of the Lord” service in St. Peter’s Basilica, the first of two papal events on the day Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’ death by crucifixion.

The long service is one of the few times during the year that the pope listens while someone else preaches.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, whose title is “preacher of pontifical household,” weaved his sermon around the character of Judas Iscariot, who the Bible says betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.