Pope meets loved-up couples

About 20,000 future brides and grooms have gathered for a Valentine's Day date with Pope Francis. (AAP)

About 20,000 future brides and grooms from 25 countries have gathered for a Valentine's Day date with Pope Francis.

Thousands of engaged couples clutching heart balloons and holding "I Love You" banners have crowded into St Peter's Square for a highly unusual Valentine's Day date - an audience with Pope Francis.

White silk cushions on which couples tie their wedding rings were handed out as gifts during an unprecedented event entitled The Joy of Yes Forever.

The Vatican said about 20,000 future brides and grooms attended from 25 countries, all of them enrolled in Catholic marriage preparation courses.

The couples were regaled with love songs and dance numbers from the stage in front of St Peter's Basilica, and a stand-up comic cracked jokes about chat-up lines before the pope's arrival.

Couples also told stories about how they first met, including a pair who said they first exchanged glances while admiring the traditional Nativity scene set up on St Peter's Square before Christmas.

"This pope is really close to the way we live, to modern life, the new family, who we are," said Emmanuelle, a 29-year-old from Nantes in France on a Valentine's holiday with her atheist boyfriend Benoit.

Michael, 24, said he had left the Catholic Church because of the scandal of child sex abuse by priests but his fiancee Rosa, 21, was still a believer and thought the new pope was "a great, positive change".

Valentine's Day is a secular celebration even though it celebrates a third century bishop, Saint Valentine, who is believed to have secretly married couples with a Christian rite despite persecution by the Romans.

February 14 was the date of his martyrdom in the year 273.

The celebration was not open to same-sex couples as Francis is opposed to gay marriage, even though he has called for a more tolerant approach to homosexuals.

Source AAP

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