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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Giant new church at Fatima shrine
The church is 113km north of Lisbon

Thousands of pilgrims have flocked to a ceremony in Portugal to consecrate one of the world's biggest churches.

The Church of the Holy Trinity is at the shrine of Fatima, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.

The low, oval, white building - which cost 60m euros (42m) to build - can accommodate nearly 9,000 worshippers and has no internal columns.

Pope Benedict XVI will give a televised address to the congregation on Sunday.

WORLD'S BIGGEST CHURCHES
Basilica of Yamoussoukro in Ivory Coast
Saint Peter's in Rome
Church of Nossa Senhora Aparecida in Brazil
Church of the Holy Trinity in Portugal

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, and about 40 other cardinals and bishops from around the world attended Friday's opening ceremony.

The site, 113km (70 miles) north of the Portuguese capital Lisbon, took three years to build and is said to be the world's fourth biggest church.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to visit during the weekend's celebrations.

Designed by Greek architect Alexandros Tombazis, it has 13 doors, said to represent Christ's last supper with the 12 apostles.





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