Move of cross to late Polish president stirs row

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Polish authorities decided Friday to move a wooden cross dedicated to late president Lech Kaczynski, after he was killed in April, from outside the presidential palace, despite objections.

The palace, archbishop of Warsaw and scouts groups announced the cross, erected spontaneously by scouts after the April 10 crash, would be moved in August in a procession to nearby Saint Anne's church.

It would stay at the church for two days before joining an annual pilgrimage to the revered Marian shrine of Czestochowa in southern Poland, said the church and palace statement in the devoutly Catholic country.

Supporters and relatives of the late president, including his twin brother and conservative opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have demanded the cross remains in front of the palace and as a memorial to the air crash victims.

Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 other Polish dignitaries including top military brass and the central bank governor were killed when a jet crashed in bad weather in western Russia.

The president's death forced a snap election on July 4 in which his twin stood against liberal Bronislaw Komorowski, who won the vote.

Komorowski is due to take office in early August when he will move into the presidential palace in central Warsaw, roughly the same time the cross is to be removed.

Dozens of people meet at the site every day for prayers, to lay flowers and to light candles, and they also want the cross to stay where it is.

"This cross belongs to this place," said one of the "defenders" of the symbol, Edward Mizikowski, adding fellow supporters were expected to bring more crosses to the site in protest.

"They want to fight against one cross, but they will have thousands," he said.

But Catholic priest Jacek Siekierski, from Saint Anne's church, defended the move to TVN24, saying: "This is our gesture of unity around the cross in common prayer for the victims of the disaster and our entire country."

© 2010 AFP

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