Pope confesses his sins in St Peter's Basilica

Handout picture released on March 28, 2014 by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis during a confession at St Peter's Basilica

Pope Francis went to confession on Friday in St Peter's Basilica, leading by example in a Catholic Church initiative to get believers to admit their sins to a priest and do penance before Easter celebrations.

The leader of the world's Catholics was seen kneeling for a few minutes in front a priest and then himself took confessions during the service in which he emphasised the importance of "reconciliation with God".

"Who can say he is not a sinner? Nobody. We all are," the pope told thousands of faithful in the basilica.

All around the basilica, priests sitting on plastic chairs at the base of its massive columns could be seen taking confessions from ordinary faithful and cardinals.

Similar initiatives were being held in churches around the world as part of a project by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

Francis said confession was "not a court to judge people but an experience of mercy and forgiveness".

Easter Sunday falls on April 20 this year.