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WARSAW (Reuters) - About 15,000 Christian pilgrims and tourists streamed into the western Polish town of Swiebodzin Sunday for the unveiling of what has been billed as the world's tallest statue of Jesus, police said.
Polish television stations showed throngs of worshippers marching in procession with religious banners and placards proclaiming "Christ the King of the Universe."
"This monument is a visible sign of faith in Christ," said Bishop Stefan Regmunt who blessed the statue at a ceremony presided over by Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz.
The brain child of retired local Roman Catholic priest Sylwester Zawadzki, the figure soars to a height of 33 meters (108 ft) which he said symbolized the 33 years Jesus lived on earth.
It is three meters taller than Brazil's statue of Christ the Redeemer which stands on a mountain top overlooking Rio de Janeiro.
The three-meter gold crown gracing the 440-tonne Polish statue, said to symbolize the three years of Christ's ministry on earth, would bring the monument's overall height to 36 meters.
"Christ the King will welcome visitors to Catholic Poland," the 78-year-old Father Zawadzki has repeatedly said of his creation which stands on an artificial 16-meter mound. "The monument has been erected to fulfill a religious mission, not as an attraction."
But tourists have been arriving from Germany wanting to take souvenir photos of the monument about 90 km (55 miles) from the German border, news channel TVN24 reported.
The fiberglass and plaster figure with outstretched arms was financed entirely through donations by parishioners and other advocates of the project.
Writing by Rob Strybel; Editing by David Stamp