ROME Catholic nuns and priests in Italy are following their flocks to the beach this summer, establishing an inflatable church and a beach-convent in the sands to lure sunbathers.
The 30-metre (98 ft) long blow-up church -- staffed by priests ready to take confession -- will debut on Saturday on the Adriatic coast in the Molise region, an organizer said.
"There will be four or five people singing, with music about God," said Chiara Facci with Catholic group Sentinelli del Mattino. Night time activities, which will not include Mass, will run from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The first attempt to inaugurate the inflatable church last month on the holiday island of Sardinia failed after strong winds forced organizers to relocate, she said.
Big cities like Rome and Milan empty in August, when Italians head to the beach for summer holidays, leaving streets empty and many businesses closed. Churches are hardly immune, and also see their congregations thin.
On the Mediterranean coast, nuns from a convent near the southern Italian city of Naples have relocated to beach cabins to join holidaymakers saying the rosary. An adjoining altar was set up under two tents.
"The concept of a beach-convent is something that is appreciated by vacationers and the nuns themselves," priest Antonio Rungi, who helped spearheaded the initiative, told Italian news agency ANSA.
(Reporting by Olivia Scarlett and Phil Stewart, editing by Mary Gabriel)