Poland’s cross wars revive debate on role of Catholic Church
(Photo: Protesters urging removal of the cross at the presidential palace. The road sign reads “Attention! Cross defenders.” August 9, 2010/Kacper Pempel)
A simple wooden cross honouring victims of a plane crash that killed Poland’s president in April has spurred demands that the influence of the powerful Roman Catholic Church be pared back to forge a more secular Poland.
A scout group set a crucifix outside the presidential palace in Warsaw, which turned into a shrine for the victims. Four months later, the three-meter-high cross is still there, festooned with candles and flowers despite attempts by the state and some clergy to move it to a nearby church. The “cross defenders” stood their ground, squabbling with police.
The cross debate reflects political divisions. It has become a rallying point for radical rightists backed by the main opposition, the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party led by Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw.
“The problem of too close links between church and politics exists here for so long that many people don’t even see it,” said Jacek Kucharczyk, head of the Institute of Public Affairs.