Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue in Poland
Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, Poland, greets Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Cathedral in Warsaw 16 Aug. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church made a historic visit to Poland with a message of reconciliation. (Photo: CNS/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)
21 Aug 2012 By Catholic News Service
WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — The head of the
Russian Orthodox Church and the president of the Polish
Catholic bishops’ conference signed a joint message Aug. 17 urging Poles and Russians to set aside centuries of
anger and prejudice and work together to maintain their
countries’ Christian identities.
The signing of the reconciliation “Message to the
Nations of Poland and Russia” was the key moment of the
first-ever visit of a Russian Orthodox patriarch to modern
“We enter a path of honest dialogue in the hope
that it will heal the wounds of the past, facilitate our
overcoming mutual prejudice and misunderstanding and
strengthen us in our pursuit of reconciliation,” said the
message signed by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and
Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl, president of the
Polish bishops’ conference.
The signing ceremony was broadcast live on
Polish Catholic and Russian Orthodox officials
had been preparing the statement for more than two years
in an effort to overcome historical grudges between the
two nations and long-standing tensions between the
faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Polish
A long history of battles over territory became
more complicated during World War II when Poland was
invaded by both Germany and Russia. After the war,
Poland came under the influence of the Soviet Union.
Under communism, the Catholic and Orthodox churches
were subject to government pressure, with the minority
Orthodox in Poland and minority Catholics in Russia
suffering particularly harsh treatment.
The reconciliation message said, “Sin, which is
the principal source of all divisions, human frailty,
individual and collective egoism as well as political
pressure, led to mutual alienation, overt hostility and even
struggle between our nations.
“Similar circumstances had earlier led to the
dissolution of the original Christian unity. Division and
schism, alien to Christ’s will, were a major scandal;
therefore we redouble efforts to bring our churches and
nations closer to each other and to become more credible
witnesses to the Gospel in the contemporary world,” it
With the religious and political freedom that came
with the fall of communism in the early 1990s, Patriarch
Kirill and Archbishop Michalik said, the churches set out
on a path of renewal, but still must face the effects of
decades of official atheism and the growing secularism of
Christianity “exerted a decisive impact on the
identity, spirituality and culture of our peoples and of the
entire Europe,” the two leaders said, and maintaining the
Christian faith is essential for the countries’ future.
The churches and their faithful must make “every
effort so that the social life and culture of our nations not
be stripped of principal moral values, the cornerstone of a
viable peaceful future,” the message said.
The patriarch and the archbishop expressed
particular concern about “the promotion of abortion,
euthanasia and same-sex relations,” as well as attempts to
remove religious symbols from public places.
Tags: Ecumenism Catholic-Orthodox relations Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill Poland