POLAND: Country's right unhappy at plans to move cross commemorating late President Kaczynski and other plane crash victimsRecord ID: 382675
- Title: POLAND: Country's right unhappy at plans to move cross commemorating late President Kaczynski and other plane crash victims
- Date: 21st July 2010
- Summary: WARSAW, POLAND (JULY 21, 2010) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR PRESIDENTIAL PALACE VARIOUS CROSS IN MEMORY OF LATE KACZYNSKI PRESIDENTIAL COUPLE (2 SHOTS) CROSS WITH POLISH FLAG IN BACKGROUND PEOPLE GATHERED AROUND CROSS
- Reuters ID: LVA5EZ8N98VQE4ACA9C96EGOPD37
- Location: Poland
- Country: Poland
- Duration: 00:00:24
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Story Text: An ad-hoc wooden cross set outside the Polish presidential palace in the days of mourning after a plane crash that killed 96, mostly members of the state hierarchy including the president, will be moved, officials said.
The cross is at the heart of a heated political dispute over responsibility for the crash near an airport in Smolensk in western Russia on April 10, which killed Poland's conservative President Lech Kaczynski and which continues to polarise Poles.
"The Cross set by the Presidential Palace will be moved to the Academic Church of St.Anna in Warsaw, a place strongly bound to the history of ... Poland," a joint statement by the President's Chancellery, Warsaw diocese, a scout organisation and the Church of St.Anna read.
"This temple is the site of permanent prayers for the tragically perished President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and all victims of the Smolensk catastrophe," it said.
A scout group posted the cross outside Kaczynski's offices following the crash and tens of thousands of people prayed by it, lit candles or laid flowers to honour the victims, which also included ministers, lawmakers and military elite.
"At the moment when people started gathering, started placing candles and started praying a couple of scouts took the decission to place a cross here, for two reasons - firstly it's the traditional Polish way to remember the dead, we cannot put it up in Smolenski, so we put it here, where the late President used to live. Secondly, the people who prayed had a place where they could gather, a cross in front of which they could pray," said scout Tomasz Szulewski.
Details of the ceremony for moving the cross to the nearby church would be agreed soon, the statement said.
President elect Bronislaw Komorowski, who won Poland's presidency in June backed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform (PO) in early elections forced by Kaczynski's death, wanted to move the cross earlier to a more appropriate place.
This sparked anger among some Poles, mostly the right-wing, Catholic electorate of the main opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), led by Kaczynski's twin brother, Jaroslaw.
Groups of elderly Kaczynski supporters kept guard around the clock for several days to prevent the removal of the cross, accusing Komorowski, Tusk and PO of betraying Poland and the Catholic faith.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a recent news conference removing the cross would be "moral abuse" until a proper memorial is erected on the site.
Soon afterwards a stand was set up to collect signatures of those wanting the cross removal from the site, one of Warsaw's most popular streets in the historic Old Town.
"Poles who keep on coming here and reliving this dramatic death want nothing more but what is the will of society, that is a memorial. And only then, with solemn dignity, we will escort the cross to a church to which our President was very closely tied," said 52-year old poet Maria Joanna,who was protesting by the cross.
But some Poles doubt that the argument over the moving of the cross has anything to do with remembering Lech Kaczynski.
"Generally I feel that what is going on is not an argument about the cross, but a political scuffle. Some kind of attempt to didvide Poles, that's the saddest part," said Warsaw resident Wojciech Borawski.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski blames Tusk's government for misconducting an investigation into the crash and has suggested Warsaw is at least partly responsible for organising the president's trip that ended in a catastrophe.
He also questioned the role of the Smolensk airport ground control in the accident and criticised Russian authorities' handling of the case after the crash.
Tusk's PO accuses Jaroslaw Kaczynski of using the catastrophe to win political points and urge confidence in the crash investigations by Polish and Russian bodies.
Since taking power in 2007, Tusk has sought to improve relations with Russia, traditionally strained over historic as well as security issues, after hitting a rocky patch during Jaroslaw Kaczynski's rule as prime minister in 2006-2007.
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