President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria laid to rest in the Wawel
On Sunday, President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria were laid to rest in the Wawel. The family and friends of the deceased, as well as the representatives of the highest authorities and 18 foreign delegations, took part in the funeral ceremony. About 150,000 people gathered in the Market Square of Cracow, in the adjacent streets, in the Błonia Park and near the Sanctuary in Łagiewniki.
The invited foreign guests that attended the ceremony included: the presidents of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, Germany, Horst Koehler, Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, and Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite as well as the prime Minister of Estonia Andrus Ansip. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delegations of 18 countries took part in the funeral ceremonies. The head of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, also arrived at the Basilica.
In St. Mary’s Basilica, the coffins were placed on catafalques in front of the main altar by Veit Stoss, with a guard of honour beside them. The church was decorated with national flags and flowers. At 2 p.m. the mass began, in which the official delegations took part. The emissary of Pope Benedict XVI, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, had been expected to celebrate the mass. However, due to the closed airspace, he was unable to arrive in Cracow on Sunday. He was replaced by the papal nuncio in Poland, Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, who read out the homily prepared by Cardinal Sodano.
“70 years ago Katyń made two nations grow apart and attempts at concealing the truth of the innocent blood spilt there prevented painful wounds from healing. The tragedy that happened eight days ago has brought out the good in people and nations. The compassion and support that we were offered in those days from our Russian brothers revives our hopes for rapprochement and reconciliation between our two Slavonic nations,” said Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz while beginning the ceremonial service.
“I direct these words to the President of Russia,” said the metropolitan bishop of Cracow, turning to Dmitry Medvedev, present at the mass. He added that the reconciliation was a task for our generation. “Let us accept it with magnanimity,” he appealed. He reminded those gathered that this was also the wish of the deceased president and the speech that he never managed to give in Katyń included the following words: “we ought to walk the road that brings our nations closer together, without stopping and without moving backwards.”