Anyone visiting Centralia, Pennsylvania will notice some unusual crosses around the town. The crosses appear a bit spooky at first. They have an two extra horizontal pieces. The lower of these slants up to the left and down to the right.
The crosses can be seen in a number of locations within Centralia PA, including at Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Cemetery as well as at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church. Both of these sites are affiliated with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic denomination.
Herein lies the answer to the question of unusual crosses. Ukrainian Greek Catholics worship using the Orthodox cross. This cross is a variant of the standard Christian cross and is also known as the Byzantine cross, Russian Orthodox, or Suppedaneum cross.
The Orthodox cross uniquely represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The topmost horizontal piece stands for the board inscribed with INRI, the middle one is the traditional crossbeam which Jesus’s arms were nailed to, and the bottom symbolizes a footrest. The footrest tilts upward to the left and points toward St. Dismas. It slants downward to the right in the direction of Gestas. Both were crucified alongside Jesus.
Before the town was razed, there were a number of practicing Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Centralia, Pennsylvania. Saints Peter and Paul Church was located on East Park Street within the borough. It closed in 1985 and was demolished due to the advancing mine fire. Only the cemetery serves as a reminder that it once existed.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church is still standing, as it happens to be outside of the mine fire burn zone. It is located on Center Street on the hill to the north which overlooks Centralia, PA. You can find Orthodox crosses here and at SS Peter and Paul Orthodox Cemetery.
Um…St. Peter and Paul Church was an ORTHODOX church. Assumption of the BVM (the one that is still open) is a CATHOLIC church. There is a big difference, even if they both use similar-looking crosses. Orthodox Churches are separate from Catholicism and generally do not consider Catholics to be members of their church. That is why there were 2 different churches in the first place (St. Peter and Paul for the Orthodox and Assumption of the BVM for the Ukrainian Catholics…plus St. Ignatius for the Roman Catholics).