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German church resurrects prayer with Easter service at drive-in cinema

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Pastor Frank Heidkamp holds an easter service under the open sky in Duesseldorf drive-in cinema, western Germany, on April 10, 2020
Pastor Frank Heidkamp holds an easter service under the open sky in Duesseldorf drive-in cinema, western Germany, on April 10, 2020   -   Copyright  INA FASSBENDER/AFP
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Several hundred Christians didn't let the coronavirus lockdown stop them as they held a Good Friday mass at a drive-in cinema in Germany.

It was held in Düsseldorf, where people stayed in their cars to listen to the ecumenical celebration on the radio.

"I would have wanted to be at church, but that is not possible right now, because of the pandemic," vicar Frank Heidkamp told AFP news agency.

"We are trying to keep our community together with this drive-in service."

In Germany, groups of more than two people are banned from meeting under social distancing measures to stop the spread of the virus.

Düsseldorf mayor Thomas Geisel has offered the use of the drive-in cinema, which is currently closed, to the city's religious figures.

Tickets are free and available online. They must be scanned at the cinema's entrance, through the car's window, which must remain closed.

During the drive-in service, priests stand on a small stage to read sacred texts. They are then allowed to go and speak to inviduals within reasonable distance of their car.

"God is glad that people miss him. He would probably have wanted a church service, but since that isn't possible, I think God will be happy as things are," Heidkamp said.

Alice Courek, a local attending the service, told AFP that since she couldn't visit family, she thought "it was a great idea to do something different for Easter".

"I miss personal contact, religious services, speaking with other faithfuls," Reinold Welbers, a 53-year-old local, said. "We are not used to this, but maybe it can work."

Düsseldorf's drive-in cinema will welcome a Catholic mass on Easter Sunday and a Protestant mass on Monday.