Poland's church urges move of cross for late president
Poland's Catholic Church Thursday urged supporters of a cross erected outside the presidential palace in Warsaw for the late president Lech Kaczynski to let it be moved to a nearby church.
The plain wooden cross spontaneously erected by Polish scouts after the April 10 crash of the presidential jet in Smolensk, western Russia, which killed the president, his wife and 94 others, has stirred high-pitched political and religious controversy in Poland.
A first attempt to move it, agreed by the presidential palace, the Diocese of Warsaw and scout organizations failed on August 3 in the face of fierce opposition by supporters of the cross.
"To all those who pray at the cross, we must say that despite their good intentions they are being exploited for political purposes. We urge everyone to make the transfer of the cross possible," press secretary for the Polish Episcopate, Bishop Stanislaw Budzik, told reporters in Warsaw Thursday.
"We call on politicians not to use the cross as a tool to achieve their goals. We urge the government to open dialogue that would defuse social tensions," he added.
The president's office on Thursday unveiled a modest plaque in memory of victims of the disaster, fixed to a facade of the presidential palace facing a busy central Warsaw street.
But self-proclaimed defenders of the cross objected to it, arguing the memory of the crash victims should be honoured with a monument.
The controversy over the cross acquired a strong political dimension after Jaroslaw Kaczynski, conservative opposition leader and twin brother of the late president, failed in his bid for the presidency and freshly-elected liberal President Bronislaw Komorowski, Church authorities and scout groups agreed to move it.
© 2010 AFP