Catholic Mariavite Church

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The Catholic Mariavite Church is a Polish religious organization begun in 1935 by Archbishop Jan Maria Michal Kowalski.

Kowalski had been the leader of the Old Catholic Mariavite Church, since the death of its foundress, Felicja Kozłowska (Sister Maria Franciszka), in 1921. He had been her confidante and the leader of the 1903 - 1906 attempt to reconcile the Mariavite movement to the Vatican and for it to be recognized, or at least tolerated, as an official part of the Roman Catholic Church. When this attempt was rejected by Pope St. Pius X, Kowalski set about codifying the movement's own doctrines and beliefs in concert with Sister Maria Franciszka, and upon her death became her successor.

However, under his leadership the Mariavites began to dwindle somewhat in numbers. This was no doubt in part due to the pressures of Polish nationalism, which was very much caught up in the idea of Roman Catholicism as being an intrinsic part of the Polish national identity and was enjoying a resurgence as Poland had just reemerged as an independent nation-state after over two centuries of distribution among the "great powers" of Prussia, Austria and Russia. Another factor in the decline of the group was persecution of the Mariavites by Roman Catholics with the scarcely veiled support of the new Polish government. But much of the decline could be traced to factors involving Kowalski himself — his generally autocratic rule of the church as Felicja's successor, and innovations that he had introduced which drove him further from the Catholic Church, such as the endorsement of consummated clerical marriages between priests and nuns, and later the ordination of women as priests and bishops, which took him out of fellowship with the Old Catholic movement (at that stage) as well.

By 1935, most of the Mariavite clergy had decided that Kowalski was destroying the movement and any good that it could do, and voted to remove him. Undaunted, he rejected this and moved his headquarters to the village of Felicjanów, named for the foundress. He named his group the Catholic Mariavite Church, despite its by-now considerable departure from traditional Roman Catholicism, and considered himself to continue to be the true leader of all true Mariavites. Freed from the restraining influences of much of the clergy which had formerly been subordinate to him, he declared even more radical pronouncements, the most radical of which was that Felicja had in fact been the incarnation of the Holy Spirit upon the earth.

Concept of God in Catholic Mariavite Church
Mary Jesus Christ
God the Father (Mother of God) God the Son (Jesus Christ) God the Holy Ghost (Feliksa Kozłowska)[citation needed]

Kowalski died in a World War II concentration camp and was succeeded as the church's leader by his wife, who had been consecrated a bishop. This body continues to this day and is still based in Felicjanów. It apparently has no adherents outside of Poland proper, unlike the larger Old Catholic Mariavite body. Never large to begin with (perhaps 3,000 members at its founding). It is now a true church movement, and finds most ecumenism to be both unnecessary and sinful, since all true believers are to be found within its ranks. This insularity, of course, contributes to a general inability for the group to be penetrated by outsiders to learn details such as its actual current size. This group is led by a female bishop. While considering itself the true church, the church is very liberal in its theology, unlike most of the Old Catholic Mariavites, who retain a certainly moderate-conservative view upon liturgy and theology.

Leaders (bishops)[edit]

  • Jan Maria Michał Kowalski (1935–1940)
  • Antonina Maria Izabella Wiłucka-Kowalska (1940–1946)
  • Józef Maria Rafael Wojciechowski (1946–2005)
  • Beatrycze Szulgowicz (2005-present)


  • Two custodies with 16 parishes


The Catholic Mariavite Church stands away from affiliation to ecumenical bodies such as the Polish Ecumenical Council and the World Council of Churches.

The much larger "Old Catholic" Mariavite group, the Old Catholic Mariavite Church of Poland, on the other hand, is affiliated to both the Polish Ecumenical Council and the World Council of Churches.

Related bodies[edit]

The Old Catholic Mariavite Church of Poland is a separate denomination. It is the larger of the two groups that emerged from the bifurcation that took place in circa 1935.

There is also an independent Old Catholic Mariavite Church - Province of North America which derives many of its beliefs from the Old Catholic Mariavites in Poland, but it is not formally affiliated with them.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  • Melton, J. Gordon, ed. The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds. Detroit:Gale Research Company, 1988. ISBN 0-810321-32-7.