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Polish Cardinal Franciszek Macharski dies aged 89

Published 02/08/2016

Polish Cardinal Franciszek Macharski has died aged 89 (AP)
Polish Cardinal Franciszek Macharski has died aged 89 (AP)

Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, a popular Polish prelate who served for many years as archbishop of Krakow, inheriting a position opened up by the election of Pope John Paul II, has died aged 89.

Cardinal Macharski held one of the top positions in Poland's Catholic Church in an era when the church played a leading role in opposing the communist system - action that helped to undermine the regime's authority in the eyes of many Poles.

The death of Cardinal Macharski, who had been close to John Paul and was deeply respected, comes five days after Pope Francis stopped at his hospital in Krakow to pray for him during a visit last week to Poland. He was taken to hospital in June and was unconscious at the time of Francis' visit.

The death was reported by the Rev Piotr Studnicki, a spokesman for the archdiocese in Krakow.

President Andrzej Duda tweeted that it was a "huge loss" and called Cardinal Macharski a "great Pole (and) outstanding man of the church".

In Krakow, the Royal Sigismund Bell at Wawel Cathedral tolled for several minutes. The bell is a national symbol that only tolls on certain feast days and national holidays and is otherwise reserved for special occasions.

Cardinal Macharski was appointed Krakow archbishop in 1978 by John Paul, who had held the position himself until he was elected pope earlier that year.

He served as archbishop until 2005, retiring two months after John Paul died after a 27-year pontificate.

Cardinal Macharski was succeeded by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul's longtime aide, who still holds the post.


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