|Current mood:|| crushed|
"They were angels bringing peace, to die like that is not fair,"
ROME, Italy -- Tens of thousands of people have been attending a state funeral at a Roman basilica for 19 Italians killed in last week's truck bombing in Iraq.
Mourners at the Mass were told that Christians had to love their enemies, even if they were "terrorist assassins," Reuters reported.
Authorities had asked Italians to observe a national day of mourning Tuesday, and fly national flags from their windows. Shops closed briefly, workers paused for 10 minutes, schools observed a minute's silence and the Colosseum will turn off its lights in the evening.
President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi led the nation in mourning at St Paul's Basilica, Rome's second-largest church, where the 19 coffins rested on a red carpet in front of the altar.
Army trucks carrying the flag-draped caskets had earlier slowly made their way past hundreds of thousands from the Monument to the Unknown Soldier where they had been lying in state.
"Our hearts are as big as our heroes," read one banner held up along the funeral route that wound its way through central Rome, Reuters reported.
The funeral came the day after tens of thousands of people, from Italy's president to ordinary citizens, streamed past the coffins containing the victims at Rome's Vittoriano monument.
"They were angels bringing peace, to die like that is not fair," Valentina Angelone, a 21-year old student, told The Associated Press as she queued outside the monument.
CNN correspondent Paula Hancocks said the deaths of the 12 Carabinieri, five army soldiers and two civilians had left Italians in deep shock.
They died last Wednesday in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya when a vehicle bomb exploded at their compound.
The attack, in which at least nine Iraqis also died, has made Italians realize they were now at war and in the line of fire, she added.
Tamara Crolla, a 19-year-old student who came from Caserta in southern Italy to pay her respects, said: "I feel pain and admiration."
She added that she felt proud of her nation. "This feeling has brought everyone together."
Despite polls indicating that up to 85 percent of Italians opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the leftist opposition pulled back from criticizing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi after the attack in Nasiriya, Hancocks said.
The political truce will remain in place for a few days, she predicted, and the long-term implications of the deaths will not be known until that is over.
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