A memorial service has been held in Barcelona for the victims of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the Alps last month, killing all 150 on board. Many of the passengers who died were Spanish nationals.
Monday's memorial service for the 144 passengers and six crew members who died when flight 4U9525 slammed into the side of a mountain in southern France, was held at Barcelona's landmark Sagrada Familia basilica.
Among the approximately 600 mourners who packed the basilica on Monday evening were Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as well as several senior members of his government.
Also in attendance was Carsten Spohr, the chief executive of Lufthansa, Germanwings' parent company, as well as Germanwings' managing director, Thomas Winkelmann.
150 candles lit
Before the Roman Catholic service began, students from a high school outside of Barcelona lit 150 candles, one for each of the victims of the crash. They were from the school that hosted 16 students and two teachers from the German town of Haltern, who were on the flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf to return home from an exchange.
"We carry the victims in our hearts," Barcelona Archbishop and Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach said, while also reminding the mourners of the victims of Saturday's devastating earthquake in Nepal and the hundreds of people who have recently died trying to reach European territory by crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
After the ceremony, the king, queen and prime minister personally expressed their sympathies to the victims' families who were in attendance.
According to Germany's foreign office, 72 Germans and 51 Spanish citizens were among the victims of the March 24 crash. An ecumenical memorial service for the victims was held at Cologne Cathedral in western Germany 10 days ago.
Prior to the Barcelona memorial service, Spain's Catholic Church had been criticized for not planning a more inclusive ceremony. Perhaps in response to this, representatives of the protestant church, as well as Spain's Jewish and Muslim communities, gave short speeches in which they, too, expressed their sympathies to the victims' families.
Investigators looking into the cause of the crash believe that the plane's co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who had a history of depression, likely deliberately steered the Airbus A320 into a mountainside, after having locked the pilot out of the cockpit. Investigators who searched Lubitz' flat found sick notes indicating that he should not have been flying on the day of the crash.
pfd/gsw (dpa, AFP, AP)