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Kaczynski's Funeral Begins In Krakow


Polish soldiers carry the coffins holding bodies of the late President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria Kaczynska in Krakow.

Polish soldiers carry the coffins holding bodies of the late President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria Kaczynska in Krakow.

Amid the sound of wailing sirens and ringing church bells, the official funeral mass for president Lech Kaczynski and his wife began in Krakow.

Mourners including Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev assembled in the Gothic Basilica of Our Lady in Krakow's central square for the Roman Catholic mass presided by Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.

Tens of thousands of grieving Poles packed the streets to watch the service, which was broadcast live on giant television screens.

Earlier today, coffins holding the bodies of Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, were today flown from Warsaw to Krakow for burial. Mourners applauded, tossed flowers and waved red and white flags as the Kaczynskis' cortege weaved through the city, after their bodies were flown by military aircraft from Warsaw.

The couple, who died with 94 others in a plane crash in Russia on April 10, were driven slowly through Warsaw for the last time. The bodies were then delivered to Krakow by a military transport plane, which flew below the volcanic ash plume now paralyzing air travel in Europe.

The funeral marks the climax of a week of mourning over the April 10 air crash near the Russian city of Smolensk that killed the presidential couple and 94 other Poles, mostly top military and civilian officials.

Many world leaders are being forced to miss Kaczynski's funeral because of the ash cloud. U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain's Prince Charles, and Turkish President Abdullah Gul are among leaders who have announced they will not be able to attend.

Others, including Medvedev and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich were able to make the trip and attend.

After High Mass, Kaczynski and his spouse were to be laid to rest in the cathedral crypt of Krakow's Wawel castle, alongside Poland's monarchs, national heroes, saints and poets.

compiled from agency reports
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