Loved ones of those who died have been joined at Liverpool FC's Anfield home by players, club officials and ordinary fans among the 24,000 attending to mark today's emotional anniversary.
The 96 Liverpool fans died in the crush on the Leppings Lane terraces at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium after going to see their team play Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989.
As the families of those who did not return home took their places in reserved seats on Anfield's famous Spion Kop for the start of the service, the crowd got to their feet as one with a roar of approval and a huge ovation from all four sides of the ground.
There were also loud cheers and clapping for the gathering of past and present Anfield greats who took their seats, including current club captain Steven Gerrard, Kenny Dalglish, manager at the time of the disaster, Ian Rush, Phil Thompson, Alan Hansen and Graeme Souness.
More recent stars Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman were also in attendance, along with Howard Kendall, Everton's manager in 1989, and current Everton boss Roberto Martinez, who will give a reading.
On the pitch, thousands of football scarves were laid out in the shape of "96", donated from fans and clubs across the UK and beyond after an appeal from Liverpool FC for scarves to show a symbol of unity across fan rivalries.
The Rev Kelvin Bolton, from the local parish of Christ Church and Holy Trinity, began the service with a welcome and introduction.
Mr Bolton said it was Easter, a time when Jesus was treated as a criminal "yet innocent in every way".
He said: "Twenty-five years, a quarter of a century, a lifetime. Thank you for the example you have given to us of refusing to give up."