Poles riot to keep memorial cross in place

Many Poles hoped that April plane crash of the Polish presidential jet would shock the nation enough to bridge the divide between conservative and liberal camps. But it’s only added fuel to the already heated debate about whose values should prevail.

Today’s demonstration and controversy about the removal of the cross erected in front of the presidential palace as a memorial to those who died in the tragedy shows Poland is once again divided into “true Poles” — those pledging their allegiance to the core of Poland’s Catholic Church — and all others, exposing deep rifts about the role of the Catholic church and its relationship with the Polish state.

The “true” Poles won their battle on Tuesday when, gathered in their hundreds, they prevented the relocation of the memorial.

The cross was erected by scouts after thousands of mourners began to lay flowers and candles in front of the presidential palace on the news of the crash in April that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others. The scouts erected the wooden cross outside the palace gate, but on the ground owned by the president’s office. More than three months after the plane crash, with president-elect Bronislaw Komorowski getting ready for his inauguration on Friday, life was supposed to get back to normal and the cross was to be moved to St. Anne’s Church half a kilometer away.

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