Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 13:39 UK

Italy quake survivors mark Easter

A monk carries a cross during preparations for Easter Sunday in L'Aquila, 12 April.
Easter services were held in many of the 67 tent cities in the Abruzzo region

Hundreds of people made homeless by Monday's earthquake in the Italian city of L'Aquila have attended Easter Mass.

Survivors used a makeshift altar in a giant tent. Similar services are being held in many surrounding villages.

Some 20,000 people are living in camps in the Abruzzo region, where Monday's quake killed at least 294 people.

Pope Benedict XVI sent out greetings to those "suffering from the earthquake" when he celebrated Easter Mass on St Peter's Square in the Vatican.

He also delivered his main "Urbi et Orbi" (To the city and the world) blessing.

It's a really different Easter... Usually I'm with my friends, but here I'm surrounded by tents
Giovanni Diletti, survivor

On Saturday, Pope Benedict offered a special prayer for quake survivors at an Easter eve service in St Peter's Basilica.

The Pope also sent chocolate Easter eggs to victims of the earthquake.

Easter, the most important Church feast in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, is being celebrated at makeshift venues in the area.

Conquering fear

In L'Aquila a brick from a destroyed building was blessed by a priest, along with equipment used by the emergency crews.

Services were held in many of the 67 tent cities that have been set up to accommodate the survivors.

Benedict XVI delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" Easter message
The Pope sent greetings to to earthquake victims during Easter Mass

Survivor Giovanni Diletti, 47, told AFP news agency: "It's a really different Easter after what happened. Usually I'm with my friends, but here I'm surrounded by tents."

Local Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari, who celebrated Mass in a makeshift venue north of L'Aquila, said in his homily: "I was afraid, I suffered like you. We're here to conquer that fear."

Many churches were ruined or damaged by the quake or are in areas cordoned off by the security forces as a precaution.

Some found little comfort in religion.

"Now the professionals of prayer are praying, saying Mass," said Francesco Pagani, an elderly survivor sitting in one of the emergency camps.

"Everybody prays... and yet Jesus Christ sends us an earthquake."

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi went to L'Aquila to attend Easter Mass.

Months of uncertainty

The local chief prosecutor has set up an inquiry to see if there is any criminal blame for the number of collapsed buildings.

Inside a camp for survivors of the earthquake in Italy

Some rescuers have spoken of the ease with which they sawed through concrete blocks and the investigation will look at whether the correct mix of sand and concrete was used in their construction.

One estimate values the earthquake damage at up to 3bn euros ($4bn) but the impact on Italy's economy, already hit by recession, is expected to be limited, Reuters news agency reports.

About 40,000 people are homeless of whom some 15,000 have found shelter in hotels or private homes.

The authorities have said it could be weeks, if not months, before it is known which of the houses left standing are safe enough to be repaired and which will have to be demolished.

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