Poland begins week of mourning

Our Lady of Czestochowa

Our Lady of Czestochowa

A week of national mourning has been declared in Poland after  Saturday's devastating plane crash in Smolensk on SAturday morning which claimed the life of Lech Kaczysnki, with his wife Maria, and a further 95 senior government and military officials and church leaders.

The group was travelling to Russia to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre in which 22,000 Polish soldiers were killed by the Soviets.

In Krakow's main cathedral on Sunday, Cardinal Dziwisz read out a list of the dead. The clergy who died included:  Bishop Tadeusz Ploski, head of the Polish Army Chaplaincy, Orthodox Archbishop Miron Chodakowski, Fr Zdzislaw Król, Fr Adam Pilch, Fr Józef Joniec, and  Monsignor Bronislaw Gostomski, (Fr Bronek)  parish priest at St Andrew Bobola Roman Catholic Church in  west London.

Tens of thousands of mourners gathered in Warsaw on Sunday, turning the avenue in front of the Presidential Palace into a sea of flowers and candles as the president's coffin arrived in the city.

In the UK and Ireland,  thousands of Poles paid tribute to the dead by laying flowers, lighting candles and attending church services.  A prayer vigil  was held for Fr Bronek on Sunday. "We loved him" one parishioner said. "Fr Bronek was a great parish priest, kind and hard working. He was always available for people. He will be sadly missed."

Mrs Jadwiga Kozlowska, an Auszwitz survivor who also lost a brother at Katyn told ICN: "It is particularly terrible that this should happen at this time when we are already remembering an awful period in our history. But our faith will help us survive this shocking event."

In a television address to the nation, parliamentary speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, who is now temporarily in charge of the government said the country was united in grief. He said: "There is no division into left and right, differences of views don't matter. We are together in the face of this tragedy."

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