Thousands attend Venice funeral for Italian woman killed

Five gondoliers aboard a black gondola rowed her flower-draped casket up the Grand Canal to St. Mark's Square.

Thousands attend Venice funeral for Italian woman killed in Paris

Thousands gathered in Venice's St. Marks Square on Tuesday for a multi-faith funeral for Valeria Solesin, the 28-year-old Italian student killed by Islamist militants in Paris.

Solesin, a PhD student studying demographics at the Sorbonne University, was one of the 89 who died at the Bataclan concert hall and the only Italian among the 130 victims of the Nov. 13 attacks. She was shot as she entered the theatre with her Italian boyfriend.

Five gondoliers aboard a black gondola rowed her flower-draped casket up the Grand Canal to St. Mark's Square. Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti attended the ceremony.

At her family's request, Solesin's friends and religious leaders of various faiths spoke at the funeral, which was held outdoors on a sunny morning in front of the arched doors and domes of St. Mark's Basilica.

"I want to thank the religious figures -- Christian, Jewish and Muslim -- who are here together in this square as a symbol of our common humanity at a moment when fanatics try to turn a massacre into an honourable act by invoking a faith," Solesin's father, Alberto, said with her mother, Luciana, by his side.

The ceremony, which began with the playing of both the Italian and French national anthems, was broadcast live nationally by Italy's state broadcaster RAI. At midday, the funeral paused for the tolling of the church bells.

Venice residents and tourists were among those attending the funeral, watched over by dozens of police and security officers.

At the end of the ceremony, to the notes of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", the casket was put back on the gondola, which made its way slowly towards the cemetery.

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