Pope Benedict XVI last night attacked the rise of aggressive secularism in Western societies, warning them that they risked drifting into a 'desert of godlessness'.
He used his Good Friday meditations to compare deliberate attempts to remove religion from public life to the mockery of Jesus Christ by the mob as he was led out to be crucified.
'Religious sentiments' were increasingly ranked among the 'unwelcome leftovers of antiquity' and 'held up to scorn and ridicule', he added.
'We are shocked to see to what levels of brutality human beings can sink,' said the Pope at an evening ceremony at the Coliseum in Rome.
'Jesus is humiliated in new ways even today when things that are most holy and profound in the faith are being trivialised, the sense of the sacred is allowed to erode.
'Values and norms that held societies together and drew people to higher ideals are laughed at and thrown overboard. Jesus continues to be ridiculed.'