The History of Orthodoxy on the Polish land

 Christianity on Polish territory has a much richer tradition than solely the Latin stream. Omitting of the existence of traditions connected with Methodian, Byzantine and Rus rites did not enrich Polish cultural heritage. Rather, to the contrary, it impoverished it.

The development of Orthodox Church in Poland is based on the three aforementioned traditions, especially the Methodian-Rus variety of the Byzantine rite. Byzantine Christianity influenced Orthodoxy on the Polish territory, but it was grounded in Methodian-Rus rite. This form of Christianity was accepted by citizens of Czerwieńsk fortified towns, the country of a Vistulan tribe as well as settlers living between rivers Wieprz and Bug. Therefore, Eastern Christianity was a constant element of spiritual life in over a housand-year long history of the Polish country. Raising awareness about religious history and traditions of Orthodox believers plays a fundamental role in learning about and understanding Polish history. Only through this we will be able to get a broader perspective on the beginning and development of Christianity on Polish territory. We are not doing it in the name of the humanist ecumenism. We are doing it in order to learn about the past and to acknowledge the common religious roots of the former and present-day citizens of the Republic of Poland.

Orthodoxy in the country of the Piast Dynasty

The process of Christianization of the Slavic territories started with its encounter with the Byzantine culture. It was initiated by a mission of SS Cyril and Methodius. Written sources reveal pieces of information about the existence of the Slavic Rite on a Polish territory. Archeological excavations confirmed the existence of Christian churches dating back to 10th from the second and third quarters of 10th Traces of the Slavic rite were found in Ostrów Lednicki, Cracow, Wiślica, Przemyśl and many more cities. Those religious centers were not under the influence of the Latin Christianity. They were affected by the Byzantine civilization with its Slavic liturgy and the Old Church Slavonic language. Apparently, the first bishop of Cracow was the bishop who settled there in 970 and was under the jurisdiction of a Bulgarian Patriarch. In Poland, just like in Moravia at the beginning of the 10th century, the western version of Christianity won over. Consequently, the Methodian Christianity that had previously functioned in the south of Poland became rather vestigial under the rule of Bolesław Chrobry. Poland joined the Latin civilization through the acceptance of Christianity from the Czech country in 966. At the same time Poland was situated at the periphery of Christian Europe. Chronicles hold record of numerous marriages of the first rulers from Piast Dynasty with Orthodox Russ duchesses. Family ties strengthened Orthodox Church and introduced the richness of Eastern Christianity to the dominating in Poland Latin Rite. In the East of Poland Christianization was introduced through two dioceses: initially, the diocese of Kiev and Białogrod, later, the Wlodzimierz diocese founded before 1085. The latter spread its influence to the territories of Wołyń, Polesie, Czerwieńsk fortified cities, Halicz, Przemyśl, Bełz and what was later known as Lviv.

In 14th century, the Polish Kingdom lost a large part of its ethnic territory on the West. The Eastern border of the country moved to the river basins of the rivers Dniestr and Prypeć. The incorporation of Ruś Halicka into Poland under the Rule of Kazimierz the Great resulted in a change of the ethnic and religious structure of the country. Poland lost its religious and national homogeneity when the last representative of the Piast dynasty incorporated the non-Polish territories with their Orthodox dwellers.

Roman Catholicism occupied a superior position over Orthodox Church. The privileges and rite of the Orthodox Church were preserved at the beginning of Kazimierz the Great’s rule and his policy for the Rus. The death of Kazimierz the Great was followed by a major change in the position of Orthodox Church. Louis I of Hungary had a rather negative approach towards Eastern Christianity. The most important events depicting the role of Orthodox Church in Poland followed the Krew Union of 1385. At that moment precisely, the Latin tendency met the Byzantine-Rus at the territories of Poland and Lithuania. For a long time now the two countries had led a far-flung expansion into the territories of Ruś Halicka and Wołyń. However, at the moment of Union, Rus people became citizens of the aforementioned countries. In some regions they were even in majority then. Old Belarus language was an official language in Lithuania. Rus culture was readily accepted by Lithuanian dukes and boyars. As a result of the Rus influence some Lithuanians were Christianized by Eastern Church.

Orthodoxy in the Jagiellon’s Country

 The political union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a Catholic Poland had a great impact on religious relations in the area. It stopped the harmonious development of Orthodoxy making way for the Latin Church with all its political and cultural repercussions. Orthodoxy was no longer a dominating religion, it became a tolerated one. Roman Catholic Church was granted all of the state-awarded privileges and quickly developed its organizational structures. Under the rule of Władysław Jagiełło and Duke Witold Orthodox Church became practically deprived of all of the new monarch’s endowments. Władysław Jagiełło limited the rights of Orthodox Church in several different ways. He forbade an erection of new Orthodox churches and renovation of the old ones. He also prohibited intermarriages. At the same time, Catholic Church was awarded a privileged position in the country. The 1413 Horodelsk Privilege granted Roman Catholics priority in the access to high positions. Jagiełło kept limiting rights of Orthodox people despite the fact that his mother, Duchess Julianna, raised him in the Byzantine-Rus cultural tradition. Even though the aforementioned limitations had not always been followed, they were formally in force until the rule of Sigismund II Augustus. The last member of the Jagiellon Dynasty annulled them with edicts from 1549 and 1551.

The future of the Polish-Lithuanian political union was uncertain until 1569. Its stability was preserved through standing against the common enemy – the Latin country of Teutonic Knights. Against the multi-religious federation were also the Orthodox Moscow and Muhammad’s Turkey. Jagiellons understood that Orthodox citizens actually lived on ethnic territory of their own. The greatness of the Jagiellon Dynasty resulted from the fact that Orthodox dwellers of the Crown and the Great Duchy of Lithuania believed them to be their fatherland. The influence of religion on the conflict between the Moscow country and the Polish-Lithuanian is by far the most intriguing one. The most recent research proves that the loyalty of Orthodox subjects to their Catholic ruler stemmed from their relationship with the Great Duchy of Lithuania. It was a result of the attachment of Rus people to the Jagiellon Dynasty. Orthodox hierarchy was rather skeptical when it came to the Moscow’s idea of a unification of all territories of the former Kiev Duchy. The loyalty of Orthodox subjects towards Orthodox rulers was proved by other facts as well. None of the three Orthodox senators from the Great Duchy of Lithuania (castellan of Vilnus Hrehory Chodkiewicz, castellan of Nowogrod Hrehory Wołłowicz and voivode of Brest and Lithuania Jerzy Tyszkiewicz) supported Ivanth 4th's candidacy at the regional diet in Rudniki (September 1572). Interestingly, Lithuanian magnates supported the Czar, therefore an Orthodox magnate Jerzy Olelkowicz of Słuck accused them of treason. The conduct of Duke Konstanty Ostrogski at the battle of Orsza (1514) or the resistance of Belarus Orthodox nobility and peasantry against Swedish and Moscow raids in 17th worth noticing. The resistance of Orthodox citizens was much greater than that of other citizens of the Crown. Orthodox Lithuanian-Rus dignitaries were the ones who created and implemented the Eastern policy of the Commonwealth. Many highly acclaimed families like, for instance, Chodkiewicze, Sanguszkowie, Sapiehowie, Olelkowicze or Wiśniowieccy, have Orthodox roots. Unlike Angevins or Valois, Jagiellons built their greatness on a multireligious structure of the Great Duchy of Lithuania. That is why they could consider Orthodox people to be dedicated subjects. Jagiellons knew not the western pattern of the Catholic country based on one religion only and the dominating Latin culture. However, they succumbed to the pressure from Roman Catholic Church. As early as in 15th century people ceased to notice the Christian universalism. Latinists labeled Orthodoxy as a “schismatic” religion. This way of thinking was evident in the chronicles of Jan Długosz, who described Poland as the “Antemurale Christianitatis”. In fact, the ethnic territory of Poland bordered pagan tribes only in the North. Orthodox Church had a great impact on religiosity and customs of the Commonwealth’s subjects. It is evident in the cult of miracle-working icons, for instance, an icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa. Another example is the chapel of the castle in Lublin. With its byzantine frescoes it proves to be a perfect example of a fusion of cultures in the Jagiellons era. Orthodox Church made byzantine art widespread at the Rus territory. Orthodoxy was an heir to the byzantine culture which enriched the cultural and religious heritage of the Commonwealth.

Orthodoxy at the time of the Union of Brest

 The Union of Brest (1596) proved to be a great blow to Orthodoxy which was struggling to preserve tradition. The union divided Orthodox Church into two sides: an Orthodox one (with the majority of clergy, the believers and bishops of Lviv and Przemyśl) and a Uniat one with the rest of the clergy and a support from the King and the Roman Catholic Church. Orthodox community never accepted banning of their church. With death of Sigmund 3rd Orthodox people regained their hope for the change of status of their church. At the elective sejm of 1632 a young king Władysław declared his readiness to legalize the “Greek Church”. The diploma of Władysław 4th from March 15th 1633 officially re-activated the hierarchy of Orthodox Church. Piotr Mohyła, the Archimandrite of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, became a metropolitan of Kiev. Mohyła was one of acclaimed personae in the Commonwealth, descended from a family of Moldovian Hospodar. That great personality is almost like a symbol because he united in himself deep European humanism and byzantine traditions. The Mohylanska Academy founded by him became an academic center for cultural elites of Rus territories of the Crown and neighbouring areas. Thanks to Mohyla’s deft diplomacy Orthodox Church under his rule (1632-1647) gained legal regulation and regained its good position in the country. Orthodoxy dominated central and South-Eastern part of Rus lands in the Crown. Uniat Church was prevalent in North-West of the Crown and in the great Duchy of Lithuania. Orthodox people lived in Uniat dioceses whereas Uniats lived in Orthodox ones. The Commonwealth was surviving when it maintained a relative religious tolerance and its Rus, Lithuanian and Polish citizens had equal rights. At that time the Commonwealth was a European superpower. The tradition of tolerance that was created at the time of noblemen’s democracy proclaimed equality of the nobility regardless of religion. The abandonment of this tradition had to lead to internal division and a fall of the country.

The position of Orthodox Church was interrelated with foreign policy. In religion-related matters, the last member of Vasa dynasty was advised by papal nuncios. He paid no attention to political consequences of his decisions. Instead of integrating Orthodox community with the rest of the Republic he pushed Orthodox elites towards Moscow and Istanbul. Finally, in 1685 Russia officially incorporated the Kiev Metropolie and subjected it with its Metropolitan Gedeon Czeterwiński to the Patriarchate of Moscow. The following year the Patriarchate of Constantinopole renounced its control over Kiev Metropolie and handed it over to the Patriarchate of Moscow. In 1686 Poland and Russia signed the Grzymołtowski Treaty. The 9th article of the document gave the Metropolitan of Kiev, who lived outside of Poland, the right to interfere with internal matters of Orthodox Church in Poland. Polish rulers did not see the situation as a threat as they had already planned to root out Orthodox Church in Poland by the end of 17th century. In 1676 John 3rd Sobieski forbade Orthodox believers to maintain connection with the Patriarchate of Constantinopole. In 1699 he forbade Orthodox subjects from occupying any high or clerk positions. To sum up, the change of jurisdiction over Kiev’s metropolie was a result of the irrational policy of the Polish rulers towards Orthodox Church. The decision was taken under the influence of the global situation, especially the war with Turkey. It was feared that Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of Czar’s cities would be a political tool in hands of the Khan. In fact there had never been any danger of this sort before, until the Grzymołtowski treaty, which made this danger real.

A decisive intervention regarding matters of Orthodox Church took place under the rule of Catherine 2nd of Russia. The Russian empress, indifferent to religion herself, used discrimination against Orthodox people in Poland as an excuse to get involved in Polish internal affairs. On a sejm in 1766 ambassadors of Russia and Prussia demanded that a ban from 1733 (forbidding non-catholic people from holding clerk positions) is lifted. Although the sejm did not agree to do that, it agreed to be a little bit less restrictive towards Orthodox people. Orthodox citizens were allowed to perform religious services in already-existing churches. They were also granted the right to restore churches which had been built before 1717. However, sejm influenced by Latin bishops and a papal nuncio Eugeniusz Visconti (1760-1767) did not agree to introduce political equality of non-catholic citizens. In fact, Russians were not concerned about religious equality. However, they used the sejm’s negative approach to people of different religions as an excuse to support, together with Prussia, a Protestant-Orthodox confederacy in Słuck and a Protestant confederacy in Toruń. Polish sejm of 1768, terrorized by the Russian army through the two aforementioned interventions, passed a bill which involved lots of concessions for dissidents. Orthodox believers received confirmation of their right to have a Belarus diocese. They were also granted freedom of worship and print as well as the right to perform religious services. Permission was given to build new churches. Cases regarding churches and monasteries unlawfully taken away from Orthodox Church were to be decided in the so-called mixed courts of law which comprised people nominated by the king. Finally, Orthodox people were granted an access to holding offices and performing public duties. A different religion was no longer an obstacle to receiving full civil rights and nobility. However, at the same time the sejm’s constitution stated that Roman Catholic was an official religion of Poland and converting from it was a criminal offence.

Orthodoxy at the time of Partitions

 As a result of the First Partition of Poland half of Polish Orthodox believers with Belarus diocese found themselves on a Russian territory. In a post-partition treaty of 1773 Russia guaranteed freedom of worship to Catholics and Uniats who lived on territories incorporated to Russia. St Petersburg ensured its right to enforce law and keep order taking care of Orthodox citizens in Poland. The post-partition treaty gave Russia the right to keep interfering with internal affairs of Poland. The need to regulate matters connected with Orthodox Church in Poland was only noticed at the Four Years’ Sejm. At the time of introducing reforms of the political system in Poland an attempt was made to regulate the status of the citizens of “Greek Faith” and to integrate them with the rest of the country. A special commission was called to review the situation of Orthodox Church in Poland. On the 1st of March 1791 a tragic condition of Orthodox Church was revealed. The church was deprived of the head after incarceration of a bishop Wiktor Sadkowski. That year, on 5th of March, on the basis of the commission’s proposal, the sejm passed a bill regarding “The Greek-Oriental religion”. The bill acknowledged the need to call for a permanent church board for the Orthodox Church and the need to re-activated permanent church hierarchy. Sejm demanded to call for representatives of Orthodox Church in order to organize general congregation. The congregation took place in Pińsk, on 3rd of July 1791. A countrywide synod was appointed as the general administrative body of the Church. It comprised an archbishop and three bishops presiding over four dioceses which were to be created in the country. Bishops received full right to decide on administrative matters in church. When it came to deciding about dogmas they were under jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinopole.

Resolutions of the Pińsk congregation introduced countrywide rules regarding synod and appointment of offices in Orthodox Church. Temporary administration of Orthodox Church was re-activated and it was diplomatically subject to Czarogrod. The aforementioned decisions made agreements of previous Polish-Russian treatise invalid. In fact, the Pińsk Congregation established the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church. However, the decisions of the congregation were not received with an equal amount of enthusiasm from critics. Enthusiasts of reforms in the spirit of the Constitution of May 3rd described the decisions as “truly sensible and not against the main religion or the law of the country in any way”. The National and Foreign Gazette wrote: “If only had Poland treated those people the same way before. If instead of persecution and yoke they had received from the government property rights and care, then the fertile lands of Ukraine and havens of Podole wouldn’t have been drenched with our blood so many times. Neither would have foreign intrigues been so easily accepted in hearts of people so happy in their beloved fatherland”. In addition, the press reminded that all the misfortunes of Poland stemmed from religious intolerance. They were a punishment for persecution of “non-Uniats and dissidents”. All of those statements were substantiated with numerous historical events. Because of a disapproval of a papal nuncio as well as Catholic and Uniat clergy the case of Orthodox Church was discussed at a sejm as late as on 10th of May 1792. Eventually, on 21st May, after discussion, sejm passed a law regarding “The Organization of its hierarchy of the Greek-Oriental rite, non-Uniat, in the territory of the Republic of Poland”. The constitution did not guarantee an Orthodox metropolitan a seat in the senate, however, even though the Uniat metropolitan had been granted one. Despite its shortcomings and regardless of the fact that the constitution was passed at the time Russia declared a war with Poland, Orthodox community received the new law with a great hope. Even the fact that the constitution was supported by a majority of 123 votes against 13 proved the development of great religious tolerance to offset the negative approach to Orthodox people prevalent in mid 18th century.

At the time of the Kościuszko Insurrection one more attempt at solving problems of the status of Orthodox Church was made. The Highest Council of the Lithuanian Nation was operating in Vilnius and presided over by Jakub Jasiński. On 8th of May 1794 the council published “The call to Uniats and Orthodox”. The document promised an introduction of law guarantees and freedom to both Eastern religious denominations. The Council took Orthodox Church and its believers in the country under protection. As a result of the publishing of this document a large group of Orthodox and Uniat people participated in the Insurrection.

A fall of the Kościuszko Insurrection and the subsequent Third Partition of Poland meant the end of hopes and ideas for a creation of an independent Orthodox Church in the Great Duchy of Lithuania. Orthodox parishes in the country were under the supervision of Russian bishops. Russian rulers imposed on Orthodox Church the synod-consistorial organization and annulled its administrative and law independence. Lay people were excluded from church administration. The Orthodox Church in the former Commonwealth territory lost its synod organization and identity. It became a part of the Russian Orthodox Church. The policy of assimilation led to changes in local customs and traditions typical for territories of Belarus and Lithuania. At the end of 18th and beginning of 19th century 11 monasteries were closed down. In 1807, after the incorporation of Bialystok province to Russia, 3 more monasteries were closed.

The 2nd decade of 19th century brought on the process of returning of Uniat parishes into Orthodoxy. Uniat bishops introduced reforms (1818-1834) which annihilated the differences between Orthodox and Uniat rites. Iconostases and canonical liturgical texts in compliance with Orthodox teachings were re-introduced into Uniat churches. Before synod of Połock (1839) Uniat priesthood had to face a decision – either to be completely assimilated into Roman Catholic Church or join Orthodox Church. The first option meant fast latinization and polonization whereas the second one was a chance to preserve the Eastern Church tradition. On the 12th of February 1839 the Uniat synod, influenced by Józef Siemaszko, decided to write a formal request to the Synod of Russian Orthodox Church and Czar Nicholas 1st asking for their church to become incorporated into the Orthodox Church. The request met with the following reply from 25th of March 1839: “According to an example of our Church Fathers we accept in our Orthodox-Catholic, Eastern and All-Russian Church all bishops, clergy and believers from the Uniat Church.”.The Greek-Uniat Colegio was named Lithuanian-Belarus and became subordinate to the Synod. Józef Siemaszko became an archbishop and the head of the Greek-Uniat Church. Although the return of Uniats to Orthodox Church was rather voluntary, there had been cases of Czar’s attempts to influence Uniat parishioners and priests. Under Russian rule the return of Uniats to Orthodoxy led to a multiplication of the number of Orthodox believers, priests and parishes. To cater for religious needs of citizens, the government had to establish an annual fund for construction of new churches. Since 1839 Orthodoxy in Polish and Belarus territories is becoming similar to Russian Orthodoxy (the development of cult of Russian saints, customs and sacred architecture). The situation was a lot different under Austrian rule where Uniat religion kept developing, similarly in the Polish Kingdom, where in 1815-1830 Uniats were dominating. Latinization of the Uniat rite was particularly strong there and all the decisions from Zamojski Synod of 1720 had been put in practice. Latinization of the liturgy and customs was introduced through celebrating silent masses, saying the Rosary or using organs and bells during services. Iconostases started disappearing from Uniat churches and new elements of interior such as side altars, confessionals, pews etc. appeared. Latinization was also connected with an introduction of Polish language as a liturgical one. Uniat priesthood comprised mainly graduates from Latin schools, very often ones that belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. It is particularly difficult to assess the role of Orthodox Church in the former Republic of Poland. The one-sided opinion that Orthodox Church was a tool of Russification is very unfair. Orthodox Church shared the plight of Poland. The administrative structures and traditions of Orthodox Church in Poland have been destroyed even sooner.

Polish Orthodoxy in 20th century

 In 1863-1915 the net of Orthodox parishes was fully developed. A young bishop of Chełm Diocese (future patriarch of Moscow, Tichon) rendered great service to the development of spiritual life in the diocese. He was the head of the diocese in 1897-1898. Czar Nicholas 2nd’s ukase of tolerance of 1905 introduced some changes into religious structure in the area. Some of the former Uniats, mainly from Siedlecka and Lubelska dioceses, left Orthodoxy and joined Roman Catholic Church. Another disorder in organization of Orthodox Church took place during the Great War. The majority of Orthodox believers from eastern Poland fled into central Russia. The clergy fled together with their parishioners, leaving behind churches, which fell prey to burglars. “Bieżeńcy” (people who fled from Poland to Russia in 1915-1922) witnessed the fall of two authorities: Czar and the Church. When they came back from their wandering they saw new reality. Polish government started to treat Orthodoxy as a vestige of the Russian partitioner and showed a very negative approach to Orthodox believers. The faithful Orthodox people faced times of a great trial: repossession of church properties and fighting for rights to get them back. In 1938, in an attempt to strengthen Polish national feelings, people started demolishing Orthodox sacred buildings in Chełm and Podlasie provinces. People of Belarus and Ukrainian descent, after all those horrible experiences, were still able to protect Poland with great loyalty. How great must have been their attachment to traditions of Poland, if they were able to act like this.
World War 2nd introduced changes in the placement and administration of Orthodox Church in Poland. During Nazi occupation there were three Orthodox dioceses: Warsaw, Chełm and Cracow dioceses. The territories of Poland which were incorporated into the Soviet Union were a part of the Minsk diocese from 1939. After 17th of September 1939 Białystok and Grodno provinces were incorporated into the Soviet Union and soviet administration limited rights to perform religious services. Soviet government did not care for the development of Orthodox Church, but, on the contrary, it wanted to limit the influence of church. Orthodox believers and their clergy were deported and relocated into depths of the Soviet Union. More changes in religious life were to come under Nazi occupation. Fascists, in an attempt to destroy communist ideology, allowed for a re-creation of numerous parishes of the Belarus Orthodox Church. Consequently, starting from 1941, on Belarus and Ukrainian territories, autocephalous churches were created. Their creation was inspired by German occupiers but not accepted by the Patriarchate of Moscow. After World War 2nd, within borders of Poland, church was administered by the Temporary Colegio of Polish Orthodox Church supervised by a bishop Tymoteusz (Szretter). On 22nd of June 1948, with a decree of the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, Orthodox Church of Poland became completely autocephalous. The first superior of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church was now archbishop Tymoteusz, followed by archbishop Makary (since 1951). In 1949 three dioceses were created, however, migration from eastern provinces to central Poland required a new diocese division. Therefore, in 1952, four dioceses were created: Warsaw-Bielsk, Białystok-Gdańsk, Łódź-Poznań and Wrocław-Szczecin dioceses. In 1983 Przemysko-Nowosądecka diocese was re-activated and in 1989 Chełm diocese. Since 1994 Orthodox military Ordynariate was re-activated as a diocese.

Presently, Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church consists of 7 dioceses, 250 parishes, 410 churches, 8 bishops, 259 clergymen and 600 thousand believers. The majority of Orthodox believers live in eastern part of Podlasie, Lublin and Lesser Poland provinces. The head of Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church is Metropolitan Sawa.

Monasteries play an important role in Poland. Female monasteries are in Grabarka, Dojlidy, Wojnowo, Turkowice and Zaleszany. Male monasteries are in Supraśl, Jabłeczna, Ujkowice, Saki, Wysowa, Kostomłoty and Odrynki. There is also Orthodox press which publishes Cerkiewny Wiestnik, Wiadomości PAKP, Żołnierz Prawosławny etc. From 1991 a sejm bill regulates the activity of Orthodox Military Ordynariate as well as religious education in private and public schools.

To sum up, Orthodox Church in Poland is not an alien, foreign vestige. It is a religion which has been in the territory of Poland for centuries and it is inextricably linked with the history of Poland. That is why Polish Orthodox Church has its own traditions and a great impact on the development of the past, present and future Poland.

(After Antonii Mironowicz “Orthodox Church in the History of Poland”:

Polish Orthodoxy in 21st century

 Orthodox Church in Poland under leadership of his Great Holiness Metropolitan Sawa is flourishing. New churches and monasteries are being built. Presently, there are 11 monasteries in Poland, 6 male monasteries and 5 female monasteries. Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church comprises 7 dioceses including a military ordynariate. Clergymen from the ordynariate fulfill their duties in all divisions of the armed and uniformed forces. There are over 100 monks and nuns in Poland, nearly 500 clergymen and around 300 thousand believers. Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church has also two dioceses abroad (in Brazil). Polish Orthodox Church runs schools, charity centers, and pensioners’ houses. The Fellowship of Orthodox Youth is a youth organization actively representing Polish Orthodoxy in the country and abroad.


The primate of the Polish Orthodox Church is His Beatitude Sawa, the Metropolitan of Warsaw and All of Poland. The Polish Orthodox Church has seven dioceses in Poland, including one diocese providing chaplaincy for the Polish Military Services. There are eleven Orthodox monasteries (6 male and 5 female) in Polish with over a hundred monks and nuns. Furthermore, the Polish Orthodox Church maintains two dioceses and several parishes and monasteries outside of Poland, in Brazil.

The structure of Polish Orthodox Church is very developed with schools, many centers of social care and old age homes, as well as, Centers of Orthodox Culture and Fellowship of Orthodox Youth with complex organizational structure.

Dialogue with different confessions

Situated at the cultural frontier, the Polish Orthodox Church, has constantly carried on a dialogue with different confessions and proved that variety is enriching. Today it is an active participant of ecumenical and international initiatives as a member of the World Council of Churches, the European Council of Churches, the Polish Council of Churches, Theobalt, the Baltic Ecumenical Council, and the Theological Dialogue Commissions with the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran and other churches. 

source: Anna Radziukiewicz "Prawosławie w Polsce"