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Poland unveils giant statue of Pope John Paul II

image captionCzestochowa's architects' association says the fibreglass structure lacks quality

Poland has unveiled a giant statue of Pope John Paul II, said to be the tallest of the former pontiff anywhere in the world.

Weighing five tonnes, the 13.8m (45-ft) white fibreglass statue shows the pope standing with outstretched arms.

It stands on a hill above the city of Czestochowa in southern Poland.

The city is home to the country's most important pilgrimage site, the Jasna Gora monastery, and its icon of the Black Madonna.

The ceremony began with an actor reading fragments of texts written by the late pope.

A choir sang and the archbishop of Czestochowa blessed the statue.

Controversial project

Constructed around a steel framework, the statue has been built by a company that manufactures fibreglass statues such as ones of dinosaurs you see in theme parks, says the BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw.

It presents something of a contrast, standing in the grounds of a park displaying miniature models of places of worship, our correspondent says.

The man funding the project, Leszek Lyson, said he wanted to give thanks to John Paul II for the life of his son, whom Mr Lyson saved from drowning during a family holiday in Croatia three years ago.

Poland is one of the most Roman Catholic countries in Europe but the statue has not won universal acclaim, adds our correspondent.

A campaign on the social networking site, Facebook, successfully lobbied to have the statue face the city instead of the other way round as was planned.

And Czestochowa's architects' association says the fibreglass structure lacks quality.

Born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, the 58-year-old Archbishop of Krakow's election as pope in 1978 stunned the Catholic world.

The first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years, he went on to become one of the most familiar faces in the world, visiting more than 120 countries in a 27-year pontificate that earned him a reputation as an international fighter for freedom.

He died aged 84 in 2005 after a long illness. He was beatified - the penultimate step towards sainthood - in 2011.

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