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Up to one million people gather in Seoul for mass by Pope Francis

Published on Aug 16, 2014 9:35 AM
 
Catholic worshippers wave as Pope Francis (centre) arrives at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul on Aug 16, 2014. A  tight security cordon was thrown around central Seoul on Saturday to screen out possible threats as up to one million people gathered for a huge, open-air mass by Pope Francis. -- PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - A tight security cordon was thrown around central Seoul on Saturday to screen out possible threats as up to one million people gathered for a huge, open-air mass by Pope Francis.

Office windows overlooking Gwanghwamun plaza, the South Korean capital's main ceremonial thoroughfare, were sealed, with snipers on the rooftops among 30,000 police deployed for the event.

The mass, which will see the pope beatify 124 early Korean martyrs, is the centrepiece of his five-day visit to South Korea, the first papal trip to Asia in 15 years.

Three hours before the event was scheduled to begin at 10.00am (0100 GMT), Gwanghwamun boulevard was already crammed with spectators for a one-kilometre stretch north of City Hall. Some had begun arriving as early as 3.30am, and whiled away the time quietly reading their bibles in small groups.

 
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