Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Sunday, 18 April 2010 19:33 UK

Poland holds state funeral for President Lech Kaczynski


The state funeral Mass was at the Basilica of Our Lady in Krakow

The state funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria has been held in Krakow, with thousands gathering in the city to pay respects.

A funeral Mass was held in St Mary's Basilica and a procession later took the coffins to be buried in a crypt of the historic Wawel Cathedral.

Many world leaders could not attend due to volcanic ash grounding flights.

Poland's first couple and 94 other people died eight days ago when their plane crashed as they flew to Russia.

21-gun salute

In remarks at the funeral Mass, Krakow's Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz said the international fellow feeling in the wake of the deaths had shown "many layers of good between the people and nations".

Adam Easton
Adam Easton, BBC News, Krakow

The president and his wife were buried together in a honey-coloured alabaster sarcophagus in the crypt of the Wawel cathedral. It was inscribed with their names and a cross. Earlier world leaders attended a moving and solemn funeral at the nearby St Mary's Basilica.

Outside on the medieval market square and beyond 150,000 people watched the service on specially erected TV screens. As the funeral procession began its way to Wawel cathedral many chanted: "Lech Kaczynski, we thank you, and we're with you".

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev defied the air restrictions to fly to Krakow.

Archbishop Dziwisz said he was addressing Mr Medvedev personally in stating: "The sympathy and help we have received from Russian brothers has breathed new life into a hope for closer relations and reconciliation between our two Slavic nations."

The coffins were then taken in a gun-carriage procession through Krakow and on to the walled castle and cathedral at Wawel for a 21-gun salute and the burial.

Thousands lined the streets, waving flags, applauding and chanting: "Lech Kaczynski! We thank you!"

The Krakow ceremonies were for family, friends and international dignitaries but were shown on screens across the city.

Among those unable to attend the funeral are US President Barack Obama, the UK's Prince of Wales, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Those mourners on the streets of Krakow said it was right for the funeral to take place on Sunday, despite cancellations by so many world leaders.

Not attending: US President Barack Obama; French President Nicolas Sarkozy; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; the UK's Prince of Wales and Foreign Secretary David Miliband; Spanish King Juan Carlos and PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero; Turkish President Abdullah Gul; Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt; Finnish President Tarja Halonen; South Korean PM Chung Un-chan; Canadian PM Stephen Harper; Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson
Attending: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev; Czech President Vaclav Klaus; Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic; Slovenian President Danilo Turk; Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych; Latvian President Valdis Zatlers; Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Andrus Ansip; Romanian President Traian Basescu; Hungarian President Lazslo Solyom and PM Gordon Bajnai

One mourner, Bartek Kargol, told Associated Press: "I wouldn't move the funeral. This event is for our president."

Maria Kurowska, mayor of the town of Jaslo, told Agence France-Presse news agency that her town had paid for three coaches to bring mourners to Krakow.

"It's an exceptional moment. Poles have to be here," she said.

Earlier, the coffins had been driven through Warsaw on a route that took in key locations of Lech Kaczynski's life, such as city hall, where he served as the capital's mayor.

The coffins were then taken from Warsaw to Krakow on a military transport plane that flew below the volcanic ash cloud.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people had attended an open-air memorial service in the centre of Warsaw.

The couple's final resting place is in a sarcophagus in the royal crypt in Wawel cathedral, next to Poland's revered independence leader, Jozef Pilsudski.

The decision to entomb a leader seen as divisive by many during his lifetime in such a hallowed place has drawn some protests.

The Polish government airliner crashed in western Russia on 10 April.

Investigators believe pilot error caused the plane to hit tree-tops in heavy fog in the Smolensk region, where the Polish delegation had meant to attend a memorial for about 22,000 Poles massacred by Stalin's secret police at Katyn in World War II.

Key Polish political and military leaders were killed in the air crash, including the heads of all three branches of Poland's military.

BBC News website readers have been sending in their thoughts on President Lech Kaczynski's funeral:

Kaczynski's burial in Wawel is controversial to many people - I understand that Kaczynski, although obviously important, was not on a par with these greats. However, the decision had to be a rushed one - this was not something Poland was prepared for - and the final choice was given to his family, and I think their wishes should be respected.
Aaron Munday, Krakow, Poland

I am in Krakow at the moment doing a TEFL course. I went to the city centre this afternoon to try and see what was happening, but only caught a few glimpses of the screens as there are so many people here and a lot of the streets are closed off. I saw people from all over Poland, including a large and visible contingent from the Gdansk branch of the Solidarity Union. Lots of people were wearing all kinds of uniforms, particularly scouts and military personnel, plus a few people wearing what I guess to be Polish national costumes. The atmosphere was respectful but not overly sombre.
Ben, Worthing, England

I actually live in Krakow. I saw the coffin of President Lech Kaczynski. It was an emotional moment for me. Goodbye Mr Lech Kaczynski. I will never forget you.
Gabriela Chorobik, Krakow, Poland

We are stranded in Krakow on the day of the funeral. We were very impressed by the organisation and scale of the event. The Polish people take great national pride and this outpoured today. I doubt we would witness such grief for a politician in Britain. It was very moving.
Lorna Nee, Hamilton, Scotland

I have to admit that it has been a beautiful ceremony and it was indeed touching to see all these people from different parts of the world gather to pay their respects to the dead. Unfortunately, I did not like the way in which the media (Polish and international ones) created the image of Lech Kaczynski - the national hero, who spent his life fighting for the common good, in the name of God and all Poles. In fact, he was a strongly polarising figure, both in and outside Poland, and since his death everybody seems to forget how questionable a politician he was.
Marta Krupinska, Kraków, Poland

I am a student in Krakow. Today's ceremony is an historic moment. The funeral was wonderful. Lech Kaczynski was buried with highest honours. He was a warrior for freedom and truth.
Albert, Krakow, Poland

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