The Church of Poland is the autocephalous Orthodox Christian church in the country of Poland. The church has six dioceses and is currently led by Metropolitan Sawa, Archbishop of Warsaw and Metropolitan of All Poland.
While the majority of people in Poland are Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christians have resided in the area that makes up modern-day Poland since the missions of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century. In the 13th century there were two Orthodox dioceses centered around Chełm and Przemyśl. Under the Union of Brest in 1596 the vast majority of these Orthodox believers were brought under the spiritual leadership of the Bishop of Rome (the Roman Catholic pope) as Greek Catholics (Uniates). They were, however, allowed to continue several Eastern practices, including a Slavonic liturgy, married priests, and communion with both wine and bread. Loyalties of the faithful between Orthodoxy and the Unia have varied over the ensuing centuries, and tolerance between the ruling regimes and the people has varied as the borders changed. The martyrdom of Maxim Sandovich (photo) illustrates the tenseness of these relations.
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In an attempt to reduce antagonism in Poland after World War I, the Orthodox leadership in Poland and the Polish government arranged for the Orthodox in Poland to organize as an autocephalous church, which was recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1924. In 1948, the Patriarch of Russia also recognized the autocephaly of the Church of Poland.
Today, the Church of Poland is led by the Archbishop of Warsaw and Metropolitan of All Poland and includes six dioceses/eparchies: Warsaw and Bielsk, Bialystok and Gdansk, Lodz and Poznan, Wroclaw and Szczecin, Lublin and Chelm, and Przemysl and Nowy Sacz. Most Orthodox Christians are located in eastern Poland, where Old Church Slavonic is the liturgical language. There are a few parishes throughout Poland where Polish is used during services. The Holy Synod has translated and published St John Chrysostom's and St Basil's Liturgies, as well as the Presanctified Liturgy of St. Gregory Dialogus. In recent decades Orthodox believers have also returned to the Lemko region, which is part of the Eparchy of Przemysl and Nowy Sacz. Old Church Slavonic is generally used as the liturgical language in the Lemko area. It is estimated that there are about one million Orthodox in Poland.
Poland uncovers its original Orthodoxy
It was reported on 17 August 2009 that Polish archaeologists working in Poznan have uncovered the foundations of a pre-Romanesque chapel, which dates back to the tenth century. The sensational find was made in Ostrov Tumski, the oldest part of Poznan, after ten years of excavations.
Chronicles relate that Christian life in Poland began in Poznan in the tenth century under Prince Mieszko I (+ 992), the father of the Polish State, and his Christian princess Dobrawa (+ 977), who, as a Czech, had strong Orthodox connections. We recall that St Wensceslas (Vaclav or Viacheslav) was probably martyred in 935. It was soon after his wedding with Dobrawa in 965 that Mieszko accepted baptism. Their palace was in Ostrov Tumski, where the royal couple worshipped in a chapel before Christianity became the official religion.
It is the foundations of this chapel, marking the beginning of Christian life in Poland, which archaeologists think that they have now uncovered. So far, ten square meters of the chapel, including the altar area, have been uncovered. Its pre-Romanesque structure shows the Orthodox architectural style of Western Europe before the schism. We should recall that in southern Poland, along the Moravian border which had been ruled by St Rostislav, Slav Orthodox missionaries had begun their task of spiritual enlightenment well before Mieszko’s marriage to Dobrawa.
This discovery will surely lead the spiritually sensitive in Poland to realise that the origins of their country’s Christian faith are in Orthodoxy, and not in late eleventh-century Roman Catholicism. This was imported from Germany and only developed to any great extent in Poland in the twelfth century.
From here: In 2002 following the decision of the Holy Sobor of Bishops of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church canonized the New Martyrs of Chelm and Podlasie suffering a persecution during the Fourth Decade of the Twentieth Century.
Martyrs of Chełm and Podlasie
ΓΙΑ ΤΟΥΣ ΙΔΙΟΥΣ, ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ
Saint priest–martyr Bazyli
Saint martyr Bazyli was born at the end of the 19th c. in Teratyn village in Chełm region. He came from a noble family, his father Aleksander Martysz had been a judge but then he decided to become a priest. Bazyli also attended the Seminary in Chełm. At the turn of centuries, when Bazyli was 26, he became a priest. He was soon afterwards sent to the mission to Alaska. His parish was located at the islands, Afognak and Kodiak, among others, and his work was demanding and difficult. Bazyli was also working in Pennsylvania and Canada, so he spent in total twelve years at the American continent. After returning to Europe, in 1912 he was sent to the parish in Sosnowiec (Silesia region).
When the First World War broke out, he had to escape with his family and went to Moscow to live in St. Andronik Monastery. He also had to work unloading carriages so as to earn for living. Saint Bazyli returned to Sosnowiec after the war had ended. He was given another task, began to organize the Orthodox ministry in the Polish Army in order to take the Orthodox soldiers under spiritual protection. In 1921 the saint was appointed the Orthodox military chaplain and later he became the main chaplain of the Orthodoxy in the Polish Army. Bazyli was also ordained a protopriest (protopresbyter). He was a military chaplain for about fifteen years struggling with many difficulties and solving problems.
Saint Bazyli cooperated closely with first metropolitans of Warsaw and All Poland, Jerzy (George) and Dionizy. He also co-worked on the process of granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Poland. When Bazyli retired, he returned to Hrubieszów region and lived in Teratyn with his wife and daughters. He was living there during the Second World War. On Good Friday in 1945, the year of the war ending, his house was robbed. On that special for Christians day Bazyli sacrificed his life for the Orthodox faith. He was buried on the cemetery in Teratyn. In October, 1963 Bazyli’s remains were transported to Warsaw and buried on the cemetery at Wola district. At the beginning of the year 2003 the relics of Saint Bazyli were exhumed and put in St. John Climacus Church in Warsaw.
Martyrs of Chełm and Podlasie
Polish Orthodox Church (official site)
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