In the preparation process of the 10th Gniezno Convention Roman Catholics have been joined by members of 8 other Christian Churches active in Poland. They will also take part in the Convention. Here is an information about these Churches.
Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church
The very first records of the Christian tradition on Polish soil go back to the 9th c. (the mission of the saint brothers Cyril and Methodius). Contemporary historical studies indicate that in the early 10th c. Christian churches were built in Kraków, Przemyśl, Wiślica and multiple other locations.
Upon the division of Christianity in 1054, Orthodoxy was transferred to the territories which belonged to Poland mainly from Kievan Rus’ and the Byzantium. Until the Union of Brest of 1596, despite occasional persecution, it developed peacefully; later it had to fight to survive.
The restoration of the Church along with its acquisition of full ecclesiastical autonomy (autocephalous status) took place between the world wars (1925). However, this was also a time of trials and tribulations when churches were pulled down and Church property seized.
The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of 15 canonical Orthodox Churches; it covers all the Orthodox parishes in Poland as well as few parishes in Brazil.
Divine Revelation, learned through the Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, is the cornerstone of the teaching of the Orthodox Church. The sacraments play a major role in the life of a Christian. The Orthodox spirituality is founded on Sacred Liturgy, which is the experience of the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the real and true presence of Jesus Christ experienced by the faithful in their earthly lives. The Eucharist celebrated in a community both binds the faithful and is the core of the spirituality of the Church (the sacrament of sacraments). Old Church Slavonic is the language of liturgy in nearly all the parishes of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
At present, with ca. 500,000 faithful, the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church is the second largest Church in Poland. Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland Sawa (Michał Hrycuniak) is the leader of the Church. The National Council and the Council of Bishops are the highest authorities of the Church. The Church comprises six dioceses and one Diocese for the Military Services. In Poland there are 11 monasteries and priories of women and men religious. Holy Mount Grabarka is the biggest pilgrimage destination, with tens of thousands of the faithful visiting it every year.
The Orthodox Church in Poland runs e.g. the ELEOS Orthodox Centre of Mercy, involved in charity and care projects, and the Brotherhood of Orthodox Youth.
The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church is a member of the Polish Ecumenical Council, Conference of the European Churches and the World Council of Churches.
Ed. Fr. Doroteusz Sawicki
The Evangelical Church of Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) in the Republic of Poland
The Lutheran Church originates at the time of the Reformation of the 16th c. In October 1517, Augustinian friar Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Church in Wittenberg, where he itemised the abuses of the trade in indulgencies. As a devoted servant of the Church, he called for the removal of these irregularities. His later writings demand a return to the origins of Christianity and the Divine Word alone, retaining only what is not at variance with the Scripture.
Luther’s views and texts were favourably received in the Republic of Poland and in the neighbouring countries. They were especially warmly adopted in Ducal Prussia, in the Cieszyn Silesia, the regions of Małopolska and Wielkopolska.
Lutherans base their faith on four tenets: by Scripture alone, by Christ alone, by faith alone, and by grace alone. The doctrine of justification in the Lutheran Church stresses the role not so much of deeds, but solely of the faith in Christ’s redeeming action on the cross on Golgotha. Deeds, in turn, provide testimony to the faith.
At present the Lutheran Church in Poland has ca. 70,000 faithful and is made up of six dioceses. The Lutheran Church in the Republic of Poland runs 10 pastoral centres for: Young People, Police, Fire Brigades, Prison Service, Military Services, Correspondence, Academic, Evangelisation and Missions, Hard-of-Hearing, and Bikers.
The Church runs a charity known as Diakonia Polska, a Centre for Evangelisation and Missions as well as Augustana and Warto Publishing Houses.
Fr. Jerzy Samiec is the bishop of the Church. The Lutheran Church is a member of such international organisations as the World Council of Churches, World Lutheran Federation, Conference of European Churches, Polish Ecumenical Council.
Famous Lutherans include e.g.: Johann Sebastian Bach, Immanuel Kant, Mikołaj Sęp-Szarzyński, Zygmunt Vogel, Józef Longin Sowiński, Samuel Bogumił Linde, Thomas Mann, Edward Munch, the Wedel family, Jerzy Buzek, Jerzy Pilch, and Adam Małysz.
The Evangelical Reformed Church in the Republic of Poland
The Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland (KER) is one of the Churches originating in the Swiss Reformation of the 16th c. (the activity of Zwingli and Calvin). It bases its faith and religious life on Scripture alone, seeing it as the sole source of faith and a lifestyle standard. The Church recognises the dogma shared by the Universal Church, i.e. the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Athanasian Creed.
The fundamental tenets of the faith in the Reformed Church correspond to the articles of faith of all Christianity: abut the Holy Trinity, about the humanity and divinity of Jesus, about human sin and Christ’s salvific action, about the justification through faith, all of which are enshrined in the Gospel. The Evangelical Reformed Church in the Republic of Poland is part of the Universal Church which Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Head, calls up among the people through the Holy Spirit, gathers, cares for, and leads.
The reformed theology can be summarised as follows:
- Sola gratia – By grace alone
Man, whose nature was tainted by sin, may find salvation only by the grace of God and cannot earn it by himself.
- Sola fide – By faith alone
Salvation can only take place through the faith in Jesus Christ, who laid down His life on the cross to remit the sins of many. We owe Him access to grace through faith.
- Sola Scriptura – By Scripture alone
Scripture alone offers credible news about Divine love and grace shown to us in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Scripture alone indicates the grace and faith we refer to in sections 1 and 2 above.
- Soli Deo gloria – only to God glory
Since glory is due solely to Holy God, religious worship concerns only God the Father, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Jesus’s Mother, Mary, enjoys love and respect, on a par with other human beings worthy of it and called saints, but they are not worshipped.
5. Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda Verbi Divini – The Church is always to be reformed according to the Divine Word
All who respect and believe in the above four tenets make up the community of the Reformed Church in the Republic of Poland. The Evangelical Church, reformed according to the Divine Word, which it attentively absorbs, is continuously being reformed as it operates in earthly circumstances, where all ossifies, withers and passes away. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, the Church is alive and continuously renews herself.
The Evangelical Reformed Church assumes that the exegesis of the Scripture is systematically collected in the Second Swiss Creed (1566), transposed into Poland in the Sandomierz Consensus (1570) and in the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). The form of religious devotions and ministry of the Church is aligned with the Gdańsk Agenda of 1637.
The Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland was informed by three currents: the Polish domestic one, the Czech Brethren and that of the immigrants from Western Europe. The Church follows the Synodal and Presbyterian pattern of organisation, which means that any and all general matters are taken care of by the Synod, a gathering of clergy and elected lay representatives of parishes and the Diaspora. A five-person Consistory elected for a particular term is the executive body of the Church. At the level of individual parishes these capacities are performed, respectively, by the General Gathering of Parish Members and the Church College (a council made up of the Church elders). The clergy do not constitute a separate estate and are equal to one another by virtue of their Holy Orders.
Bishop Marek Izdebski has since 2002 led the Reformed Church in Poland. Through her witness to the faith, the Church lives and acts to multiply the potential of good in the people, strengthening the love for the neighbour among all believers in Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
Ed. Rev. Roman Lipiński
The Evangelical Methodist Church in the Republic of Poland
The Methodist Church harks back to the 1730s. The name derives from a moniker for a movement of spiritual renewal in the Church of England. It was led by two ministers of the Anglican Church, the brothers John and Charles Wesley. “Preaching in the open space” (outside churches) and “the warming of the heart”, the need for penance, conversion, renewal, and sanctification are the principal terms of this Church. The Wesley brothers do not want to alter the doctrine or to isolate the faithful from the structures of the state Church. Therefore, a formal organisation of this movement of renewal took place only after the brothers’ death.
As to its doctrine and practice, the Methodist Church is an intermediate link between the historical Protestant Churches and the free Churches unrelated to particular states. The Methodist tradition has given rise to the Churches of renewal, sanctification, Pentecostal, and Adventist traditions, and even to the renowned and respected Salvation Army.
The doctrine of the Methodist Church is based on the Anglican Articles of the Faith and the Reformation tenets: by Scripture alone, by grace alone, by faith alone, by Christ alone, as well as Wesley’s sermons and biblical commentaries. The Methodists recognise God’s prevenient grace, which applies to all humanity and precedes all the positive experience of human faith. Methodism recognises the following levels of inner transformation: penance, justification/renewal, sanctification. All of them are linked with the agency of God’s prevenient grace, justifying and sanctifying through and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Methodists stress the realisation of Jesus’ greatest commandments and thus pursue “perfection in love”. They believe that spiritual love may transform the human being and the entire world.
At present the Methodist Churches are located in nearly all the countries worldwide and number over 45 million members. Along with children, sympathisers and friends, they constitute a global community of ca. 70 million.
The Methodist Church in the Republic of Poland was set up after the First World War. German-speaking parishes in the Polish state, which regained its independence after the war, actually hark back to the 19th c. By 1990 it was known as the Methodist Church in Poland. At present it has over 50 centres made up of 28 parishes and branches, mission and preaching centres. It has ca. 4,500 believers in Poland.
Fr. Superintendent Andrzej Malicki is the leader of the Church. The Methodist Church is involved in educational, charity, social, and ecumenical projects.
Ed. Rev. Jan Ostryk
The Church of Baptist Christians in the Republic of Poland
The origins of the Baptist movement are tied with the Reformation as a pan-European movement calling for a profound renewal of Christianity. The Baptists rejected the vision of the Church as a community entered automatically, through tradition. They baptise adults, hence their name (Greek baptisma, or Baptism).
The earliest Baptist community was set up ca. 1612 in London by English emigrants returning to their home country. Famous British Baptists include e.g. the writer John Bunyan, the author of the eminent allegorical novel The Pilgrim’s Progress, and the poet John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost. At present most Baptists live in the USA (ca. 33 m believers). Renowned contemporary US Baptists include the preacher Billy Graham. At present, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), gathering unions of Baptist churches, numbers ca. 40 million adult members.
In Poland the origins of the Baptist movement date back to 1858, when a group of Bible readers in Adamów near Warsaw spontaneously decided to accept Baptism and create a community. In the late 1930s Polish Baptists had as many as 100 communities, ran the Kompas Publishing House, Betlejem Hospital in Łódź, a children’s home in Brest, a care facility for the elderly in Narewka, and a Seminary in Łódź.
Today the Church has ca. 8,000 believers in Poland. It is a member of the Polish Ecumenical Council, Conference of European Churches, Evangelical Alliance in the Republic of Poland, European Baptist Federation, and the Baptist World Alliance.
The Church publishes Słowo Prawdy monthly. At present presbyter Dr Mateusz Wichary is the Chairperson of the Church’s Council.
The fundamental forms of the Church’s ministry are evangelisation and education as well as charity and care projects.
Updated by Dawid Breuer
The Greek Catholic Church
The Roots. The roots of the Greek Catholic Church date back to the Baptism of Kievan Rus’. The first Christian ruler on Ukrainian soil was the Kievan Prince Askold, who adopted Baptism in 867. Ca. 954-955 Baptism was adopted by Igor’s widow, Princess Olga. In 988, during the reign of Prince Vladimir the Great, Rus’ adopted Christianity. This took place prior to the disruption of the unity of the Church, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy belonged to the Patriarchate in Constantinople. The unity was disrupted by the so-called Great Schism of 1054 and sealed by the fourth crusade in 1204.
Union of Brest. A yearning for unity and a need for reforms in the Church made some Kievan hierarchy consider the idea of reunification in the late 16th c. In late December 1595, in Rome delegates of the council of the Kievan Orthodox Church hammered out principles which assured that the Church retain the Oriental liturgy and rite with Old Slavonic, the ecclesiastical organisation, own law and the use of the Julian calendar. They recognised the Pope as the leader of the Church, professed the Catholic creed and pledged their allegiance to the Pope. The official approval of the union took place at the Church Synod in Brest on Bug on 9 October 1596; it was approved by Metropolitan Mikhail Rahoza and most of the hierarchy, clergy and noblemen. The Dioceses of Przemyśl and Lviv adopted the union only in the late 17th c. The Uniate Church thrived until the partitions of Poland, the time when the severe persecution of the Church began.
In the territories annexed by the Russian Empire, under tsarist ukases of 1839 and 1875, the Uniate Church was completely dissolved. It survived in the territories annexed by the Austrian Empire and after the First World War developed its activity in the Second Polish Republic, a major factor for shaping the Ukrainians’ religious and national identity. During the Second World War, the Church heroically defended the Holocaust victims. The Yad Vashem Institute awarded medals of the Righteous Among the Nations to many Orthodox laity and clergy, e.g. Bl. Clement Sheptytski.
After World War Two. In 1946 the Church was outlawed in the USSR and in the other states of the Soviet Bloc and barely survived in the People’s Republic of Poland. The Church regained her full rights only in 1989, under a law regulating the relations between the state and the Catholic Church. That year Fr. Jan Martyniak was ordained the first bishop of the Greek Catholic Church after WWII, and in 1991 became ordinary bishop of the re-established Diocese of Przemyśl, covering the territory of the entire country; in 1996 he became the Metropolitan Archbishop. The Greek Catholic Metropolis of Przemyśl and Warsaw founded in 1996 cover all Poland. It is composed of: the Archdiocese of Przemyśl and Warsaw on the right bank of the Vistula River, with Warsaw, Kraków and Toruń, and the Diocese of Wrocław and Gdańsk, covering the area west of the Vistula. At present (December 2015), the Metropolis has 78 priests, including 8 monks (7 from the Order of St. Basil and 1 Augustinian). There is a male Order of St. Basil the Great and 3 congregations of religious sisters: Sisters of St. Basil, Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Sisters of St. Joseph. Archbishop Dr Eugeniusz Popowicz has since November 2015 been the Metropolitan Archbishop of Przemyśl and Warsaw.
The Church carries out a charity agenda focused around Caritas. Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary run an Ecumenical Social Home in Prałkowce n. Przemyśl, providing care for the sick and lonely irrespective of their denomination and nationality. Summer camps for children and young people are run by Sarepta. Old Orthodox churches are being restored and new ones built in the north and west of Poland. The Church publishes books, periodicals and calendars.
Ed. Fr. Piotr Kuszka
The Polish Catholic Church in the Republic of Poland
The Polish Catholic Church in the Republic of Poland, known until 1951 as the Polish National Catholic Church (PNKK), originated in the 1890s. It was then that the faithful among the Polish Diaspora in the USA in Roman Catholic parishes rose in protest against the dominance of clergy of German or Irish origin. Believers of Polish origin demanded in the Memorial the use of the vernacular in liturgy, pastoral care by clergymen of their own ethnicity, and access to parish finances. In 1898 a delegation of the faithful presented their requests in Rome, to no avail. This led to the establishment of a centre in Scranton (Pennsylvania), made up of a series of autonomous Polish parishes. This formally marked the onset of the Polish National Catholic Church (Bishop Franciszek Hodur 1866-1953). Similar centres had already been set up in Chicago (a group of Bishop Antoni Kozłowski,1857-1907) and Buffalo (a group of Bishop Stefan Kamiński, 1859-1911). Bishop Franciszek Hodur’s efforts led to the union of the three centres.
The Polish Catholic Church professes the tenets of the Catholic religion and morality and the principle of the ecclesiastical system as enshrined in the Scripture, formulated in the universal Creeds and provisions of the seven General Councils of the first millennium; it is part and parcel of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church; it has its own hierarchy; it offers pastoral care to the faithful of Polish nationality and believers of other nationalities, provided they have joined the Church; the Church uses the Polish language in liturgy and the Liturgy Books approved by the National Synod of the Synod Council; her ministry takes into account the spiritual and material needs of the Polish Nation and State; it fosters among her faithful the love for the Motherland and respect for human life from the moment of conception to natural death and for the life of every single person.
Candidates to the priesthood study in the Seminary of the Polish Catholic Church in Warsaw and in the Christian Academy of Theology in Warsaw. Since 1995, Bishop Prof. Dr hab. Wiktor Wysoczański has been the leader of the Church.
The Church accepts the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Bishops of 24 September 1889, the core document which summarises the tenets of Old Catholic faith. The Polish Catholic Church is the only Polish Church in the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches, her bishop being a member of the International Conference of Old Catholic Bishops.
The Polish Catholic Church in the Republic of Poland, having an autonomous jurisdiction and separate administration, stays in unity of faith and morality with the Polish National Catholic Church in the USA and Canada; the Church has permanent contacts and collaborates with the PNKK community in the USA and Canada; it fosters the union with the Motherland among the Polish Diaspora and care about the good name of PNKK in the USA and Canada.
The Polish Catholic Church is a member of the World Council of Churches, Conference of European Churches and the Polish Ecumenical Council.
Ed. Rev. Andrzej Gontarek
The Old Catholic Mariavite Church in the Republic of Poland
The Mariavite Church is the only originally Polish denomination, set up at the turn of the 20th c. The genesis of the Mariavite Church is directly linked with the person of St. Maria Franciszka Kozłowska, who as of 2 August 1893, in Płock, experienced religious visions concerning the Work of Great Mercy.
The Mariavite Church broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1906. The secession was due to the lack of approval by the Pope and the Polish Episcopate of the activity of the Congregation of Mariavite Priests, i.e. Roman Catholic clergy who saw the need for a spiritual renewal among clergy and laity.
In 1909 the Mariavite Church established closer ties with the Western Old Catholic Churches gathered in the Union of Utrecht. Old Catholic bishops secured the fullness of apostolic succession to the Mariavite Church.
The visions of the Work of Great Mercy show that veneration of the Blessed Sacrament and the intercession of Mary are the sole rescue of the sinful world. If the humanity taps into this Mercy, the Church will be renewed and the earth will become a reflection of heaven. If this Mercy is discarded, mankind is bound to experience Divine Justice and will be punished for its sinfulness.
As a consequence of the visions, the Mariavite Church promotes the worship of the Eucharist, which is expressed by frequent and respectful taking of Holy Communion administered as Bread and Wine and by developing a personal relation with Christ through the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Church uses the Trent rite, translated into Polish (since 1907).
The name of the Church refers to the ancient principles of the Catholic Church from before her division into the Church in the East and in the West, and indicates the need for the imitation of the life of Mary (Latin Mariae vitae – Mary’s life), which the faithful are bound to do. Following in the footsteps of the Mother of God means a sanctity of life during the performance of daily obligations.
The Mariavite Church recognises seven Holy Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Anointment of the Sick. The clergy of the Church need not be celibate. There are two forms of the sacrament of penance: individual (before a priest) and general, before Christ, with the priest’s absolution. All the ministry is offered free of charge, in line with Christ’s advice: “Freely you have received; freely give”. The clergy may accept but cannot demand money for their ministry.
The Mariavite Church does not recognise the dogma of papal infallibility and rejects all anathemas and excommunications, stressing the need for a personal experience of faith. They try not to impose their views on others, respecting the dignity and freedom of all people. The commandment of love of God and one’s neighbour is the core ethical tenet to which all the other principles of ecclesiastical life are subordinated.
The attitude to ecumenism is aptly summarised by St. Maria Franciszka: “Each Church should preserve the customs, prayers and devotions and should not impose their religious practice on others. Love should be in everything, freedom – in matters unnecessary for salvation, and unity in those indispensable for it”. The Church is committed to projects meant to restore Christian unity seen as unity in diversity. It co-founded the Polish Ecumenical Council and is a member of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches. It cooperates via inter-communion with other Old Catholic Churches worldwide.
The Old Catholic Mariavite Church has at present ca. 25,000 faithful in Poland and 5,000 in France. The Church has her spiritual centre in the Church of Mercy and Love in Płock, the Eucharistic Shrine and the only Cathedral of the Mariavite Church, the see of the Chief Bishop of the Church Marek Maria Karol Babi (since 2015). The Church prepares for the priesthood in the Seminary in Płock and in the Christian Academy of Theology in Warsaw. The Church issues Mariawita quarterly.
Ed. Rev. Mateusz Maria Felicjan Szymkiewicz