Italy marks a day of mourning on Friday as survivors from a devastating earthquake prepared to attend a mass state funeral in L'Aquila for the nearly 300 victims. Pope Benedict XVI is also expected to visit the region after Easter.
AFP - Italy marked a day of mourning on Friday, as survivors from a devastating earthquake prepared to attend a mass state funeral in the epicentre city of L'Aquila for the nearly 300 victims.
Flags flew at half mast across Italy as top government and Roman Catholic Church leaders joined mourners for the service, which is to be held according to both Catholic and Muslim rites and will be held in the open air.
Italy's ANSA news agency reported that there will be between 100 and 150 coffins at the mass. Some of the other victims out of the at least 281 people reported dead were retrieved by loved ones and have been buried from Wednesday.
There will then be burials at the local cemetery on a nearby hillside.
The exceptional Good Friday funeral mass with full state honours is being held after the Vatican granted special permission for the mourners to take communion, normally not part of the liturgy on the Friday before Easter Sunday.
The earthquake struck on Monday, turning a large part of L'Aquila into a disaster zone and flattening some surrounding villages. Local churches have been badly hit and priests have held masses in tent camps for survivors.
Tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes as numerous strong aftershocks have continued to shake the region -- located in an earthquake-prone part of the Appennine mountains in central Italy.
There has also been public anger over alleged delays in the rescue effort and apparent poor quality construction which has been blamed for increasing the death toll. Prosecutors have opened an inquiry into building standards.
As he toured the disaster zone on Thursday, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano blamed "widespread irresponsibility" for the collapse of many modern buildings and called for an "examination of conscience" by those responsible.
The Italian government has estimated three billion euros (four billion dollars) will be needed to repair or rebuild some 10,000 buildings damaged in the quake as those made homeless wonder what they can do next.
Friday's funeral is to be held in the vast square courtyard of an army training centre near L'Aquila where most of the dead lie in a morgue.
The mass is to celebrated by L'Aquila Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari.
Molinari, who celebrated Maunday Thursday mass at an emergency tent camp, said in a sermon delivered in a voice full of emotion: "I can't say any learned words to explain what happened, but I can say that Christ has risen."
Pope Benedict XVI is also expected to visit the region after Easter.
Date created : 2009-04-10