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The Orthodox Church of Poland

When Eastern Poland was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939, most Polish Orthodox again found themselves in the Soviet Union and reincorporated into the Moscow Patriarchate. Thus at the end of World War II, the Polish Orthodox Church was one tenth of its size in 1938.

In 1948, following the communist takeover of Poland, Metropolitan Dionizy was deposed because of alleged cooperation with the Nazis, and the government ordered the Orthodox Church to submit to the Moscow Patriarchate. Later in that year, at the request of the Polish Orthodox bishops, the Moscow Patriarchate simultaneously declared Constantinople’s 1924 proclamation of autocephaly null and void, and issued its own declaration of autocephaly. Nevertheless, the office of Metropolitan of Warsaw remained vacant until 1951, when the Polish Orthodox bishops asked the Russian Orthodox Church to name a new Metropolitan. Moscow appointed Archbishop Makary Oksaniuk of Lviv, Ukraine, who had presided over the dissolution of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1946-1947. Since that time, the Polish Orthodox Church has continued to have a friendly relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate, but its autocephaly is recognized by all the other Orthodox churches.

The large Suprasl monastery complex was at the center of a dispute between the Orthodox and Catholic churches in Poland in the 1990s. Founded in the late 15th century, the monastery changed hands between Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Greek Catholics several times. In 1944 a section of it was given to the Orthodox, and in September 1993 the Polish Council of Ministers decided to return the entire complex to the Orthodox Church. Transfer of the property was delayed because of protests from both the Roman and Greek Catholic churches, but took place in 1996. There are now six Orthodox monasteries in Poland, three for men and three for women.

In recent years, the Polish Orthodox Church has become more integrated into Polish culture, and now uses Polish in the liturgy more frequently. Four church periodicals are published, and the church is becoming increasingly involved in charitable works, sponsoring old age homes and centers for social care. In 2006 the church reported having six dioceses in Poland in addition to one military diocese. There were eight bishops and a total of 263 parishes served by 330 priests. The Polish Orthodox Church also has a presence in Brazil where there are two bishops and six parishes, and it has one parish in Sardinia.

The Polish Orthodox Church sponsors a Chair of Orthodox Theology at the University in Bialystok and an Orthodox theology section at the Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw. Both these schools are state operated. The church also maintains its own seminary in Warsaw, a School of Orthodox Iconography in Bielsk Podlaski, and a School of Orthodox Conductors and Choir Directors in Hajnówka.

Location: Poland
Head: Metropolitan Sawa (born 1938, elected 1998)
Title: Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland
Residence: Warsaw, Poland
Membership: 600,000

Last Modified: 25 Jun 2007

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