Bikers flock to St Peter's Square for Pope's blessing

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Media captionThe engines almost drowned out the Our Father prayer before mass

St Peter's Square in Rome has been resounding to the roar of hundreds of motorcycles as bikers from around the world joined Catholic pilgrims for a Mass and a blessing by Pope Francis.

Leather-clad cyclists sat alongside nuns and other members of the large congregation, turning the famous square into a giant and noisy parking lot.

The Pope blessed the bikers without referring to them directly.

The bikers are marking the 110th anniversary of Harley-Davidson.

Some 35,000 Harley-Davidson bikers have pulled up in the Italian capital for the event, attending concerts at Ostia beach and taking part in a parade.

Earlier in the week, the US maker of the iconic bikes gave the pontiff two white classic Harleys for the Vatican police force to use.

The Pope delivered a pro-life sermon, offering prayers "for every human life, especially the most fragile, defenceless and threatened', without speaking directly about abortion or contraception.

After the Mass, the Argentine Church leader spoke to disabled people in the square, including one on a motorcycle wearing Harley garb.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Hundreds of Harley Davison bikes stood parked on St Peters' Square on Sunday.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The arrival of bike culture, with its hedonistic associations, at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church was an incongruous sight for some.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The motorcyclists strained to get photos of the new pope.
Image copyright AP
Image caption After Mass, Pope Francis met some of the bikers.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The bikers are in Rome for a Harley-Davison festival.

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