Poland's Roman Catholic bishops have urged the removal of numerous crosses installed by Catholic nationalists at the former Auschwitz death camp, which have prompted protests by Jewish groups.

The crosses have been set up on a plot of land known as the "Gravel Pit" as a protest against plans to remove an 8-meter-high cross marking the spot where Pope John Paul II prayed in 1979 during a visit to Auschwitz. The Polish government said in March this year that the large cross would be relocated following requests from Jewish representatives.In a statement, the 41-member permanent council of Poland's Catholic Bishops' Conference said that the "arbitrary stationing of crosses at the Gravel Pit bears the marks of a provocation and conflicts with the care which this special place deserves."

It described the cross as "the greatest sign of love and sacrifice for Christians" and said it could never "serve as a tool of struggle against someone."

However, the council also said that the 8-meter "papal cross" marking the Pope's visit to Auschwitz should be allowed to stay close to the camp's former Death Block.