World Prays and Mourns For Polish Crash Victims

Millions around the world prayed and mourned this weekend for the loss of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others who were killed in a plane crash on Saturday.

The tragedy took place over Smolensk, Russia, when a government plane carrying Kaczynski, his wife, the heads of the Polish military, and other senior public officials, crashed in thick fog on the way to a memorial service.

"I had said to our people today that we unite ourselves in prayer, on this day of sadness, but also on this day of faith that Lech Kaczynski was a man of faith of principals and of morals, and we pray that whomever will succeed him will have the same values and qualifications," Father John Mikalajunas of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Utica, New York told WKTV.

Kaczynski, who had held the presidency since 2005, will be buried on Saturday, with his body laying in state at the Presidential Palace prior to the funeral. Elections for his successor must be held within 60 days.

An official day of mourning for the crash is being held today in Russia, whose diplomatic difficulties with Poland have begun to unwind in light of the tragedy.

"This is not only a Polish tragedy and a tragedy for the Polish nation, but it is also our tragedy," said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. "We feel a great pain together with you and we live through it in the same way as you ... We pray along with you."

Putin also declared that he would personally oversee the crash's investigation, which has left many Poles taken aback.

"Russia's behaviour after the tragedy in Smolensk totally contradicts the thesis of those who claim that closer relations between Russia and Poland are impossible," an op-ed in the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborzca said.

Meanwhile, the Pope also offered his "sincere condolences" for the victims of the crash, and assured the Polish people of his "spiritual nearness."

"In this difficult moment I implore for the Polish people a special blessing of almighty God," the Pope's message said.

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