Ariana Grande has sent a message of support on the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack at her Manchester Arena concert where 22 people were murdered.
The singer posted a message on her Instagram account as prayers were said, candles lit and church bells tolled in Manchester in remembrance of those killed in the suicide attack.
Grande wrote: “I know that this anniversary will never be an easy one. Please know that I am thinking of you today.”
Below a picture of a love heart made from bees, which is a symbol of Manchester, she added: “Manchester, my heart is with you today and always.”
The names of the 22 people who died were listed below.
Their names were also read out at prayer service at Manchester Cathedral.
Rogers Govender, the Dean of Manchester, welcomed a small socially distanced congregation to the gathering which included relatives of those who died.
He described it as a “solemn day in the life of our city when we remember the lives of 22 beautiful people”.
He also noted that 22 copper bees had been “beautifully designed” into the stalls of the cathedral choir to remember them and as “a little act of love that we hope will make a difference to all of us”.
The cathedral bells are being rung 21 times at 10.31pm on Saturday to remember the victims, as are those of St Ann’s Church in St Ann’s Square, which became a sea of floral tributes in the days following the attack.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who lit a candle at the service, later said: “Today we remember the beautiful souls we lost.
“We think about their families and everyone whose lives changed. And we thank the Greater Manchester public for confronting adversity with great humanity.”
Bev Hughes, Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for policing, crime and fire, added: “Four years ago Manchester stood in grief, love and solidarity in response to the devastating attack on our city-region.
“We will never forget those we lost that night. Their loved ones, those who were injured and all those affected are forever in our hearts.”
She added that although the anniversary would be “difficult” for people, “once again we stand together in remembrance, unity and unfaltering determination to never give in to hatred”.
Four years ago thousands of children and parents had enjoyed the concert at the arena.
Then, Manchester-born Salman Abedi, 22, surrounded by the throng of youngsters leaving the gig, exploded his shrapnel-packed rucksack bomb, sending thousands of nuts and bolts shredding everything in their path.
Along with the 22 bystanders killed, six of them children, hundreds more were injured.
Pandemic-related restrictions remain in place, limiting the scope for gatherings this year, and the leaving of floral or other tributes outside the cathedral or elsewhere in the city centre is politely discouraged, the city council said.
From next year the focal point of commemorations will be the Glade of Light memorial garden, which will open in time for the fifth anniversary.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester will never forget the terrible events of 22 May 2017, nor the moving way the city came together to express solidarity with all those affected by the attack and a determination not to give in to hatred.
“This year we pay our respects once more, albeit in a necessarily low-key fashion, and our thoughts remain especially with the families of those who lost loved ones in the attack.”
Joanne Roney, chief executive of the council, said: “Four years may have passed but we know that for many the pain of what happened on 22 May 2017 has not diminished. We will always remember those who were killed, as well as those left with physical and mental injuries.
“Of course, anniversaries have a particular resonance but we don’t just remember them one day every year and it is heartening that good progress is being made on the city’s permanent memorial.”
The bomber’s brother, Hashem Abedi, was jailed in 2020 for a minimum of 55 years for his part in the bomb plot.
A public inquiry into the background of the attack is ongoing in Manchester.