Polish Orthodox Church

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Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church
Polski Autokefaliczny Kościół Prawosławny
Coat of arms
ClassificationEastern Orthodox
PrimateArchbishop of Warsaw and Metropolitan of All Poland, Sawa Hrycuniak.
Church Slavonic
HeadquartersWarsaw, Poland
FounderSs. Cyril and Methodius
Independence1924, 1948
RecognitionAutocephaly recognised in 1924 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and in 1948 by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Members504,400 (2016)[1]
Official websitewww.orthodox.pl

The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Polish: Polski Autokefaliczny Kościół Prawosławny), commonly known as the Polish Orthodox Church, or Orthodox Church of Poland, is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches in full communion. The church was established in 1924, to accommodate Orthodox Christians of Polish descent in the eastern part of the country, when Poland regained its independence after the First World War.

In total, it has approximately 500,000 adherents (2016).[1] In the Polish census of 2011, 156,000 citizens declared themselves as members.[2]


Before 1945[edit]

Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene, Warsaw, the main Polish Orthodox Church
Supraśl Orthodox Monastery in Supraśl founded by Aleksander Chodkiewicz

The church was established in 1924 after Poland regained independence, as the Second Polish Republic, following World War I in 1918. After the Polish–Soviet War and the Treaty of Riga of 1921, Poland secured control of a sizeable portion of its former eastern territories previously lost in the late-18th-century Partitions of Poland to the Russian Empire. Eastern Orthodoxy was widespread in the eastern provinces of interwar Poland. The loss of an ecclesiastical link, due to the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union, left the regional clergy in a crisis, and in 1924 the Ecumenical Patriarchate took over, establishing several autonomous churches on territories of the new states that were formerly wholly or partially part of the Russian Empire: Finland, the Baltic states, and Poland.[3] Earlier, in January 1922, the Polish government had issued an order recognizing the Orthodox church and placing it under the authority of the state. At that time a Ukrainian, Yurii Yaroshevsky, was appointed Metropolitan and exarch by the patriarch of Moscow. When Yaroshevsky began to reject the authority of Moscow Patriarchate, he was assassinated by a Russian monk.[4] Nonetheless, his successor, Dionizy (Waledyński), continued to work for the autocephaly of the Polish Orthodox church, which was finally granted by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in his Tomos of 13 November 1924.[5] Most of the parishioners were Ukrainians and Belarusians living in the eastern areas of the newly independent Polish Second Republic. The Patriarch of Constantinople has the only canonical basis to grant the Tomos to new autocephalous churches. Moscow Patriarchate interpretes this otherwise though and considers itself being a successor of the Kyiv Metropolia, the former territory of Kyivan Rus' which Constantinople continued to see as its canonical territory (having agreed to allow Moscow to be its caretaker in 1686).[6] The Russian Orthodox Church at the time did not recognise Constantinople's granting of Polish autocephaly. See History of Christianity in Ukraine#Territories gained by Pereyaslav Rada.

During the interwar period, however, the Polish authorities imposed severe restrictions on the church and its clergy. In the most famous example, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Warsaw was destroyed in the mid-1920s. In Volhynia a total of 190 Eastern Orthodox churches were destroyed and a further 150 converted to Catholicism.[7] Several court hearings against the Pochaiv Lavra also took place.[8]

Since 1945[edit]

After the Second World War, the pre-war eastern territories of Poland were annexed by the Soviet Union and included within the Lithuanian, Byelorussian and Ukrainian SSRs. The annexed territories contained up to 80% of the PAOC's parishes and congregation, which were united with the recently re-instated Moscow Patriarchate. The remaining parishes that were now on the territory of the Polish People's Republic were kept by the PAOC, including most of the mixed easternmost territories such as around Chełm and Białystok. In 1948, after the Soviet Union established political control over Poland, the Russian Orthodox Church recognised the autocephalous status of the Polish Orthodox Church.[4][9]

Although most of the congregation is historically centered in the Eastern borderland regions with considerable Belarusian and Ukrainian minorities, there are now many parishes across the country, as a result of Operation Vistula and other diaspora movements. There are also some adherents in Brazil, resulting from the 1989 canonical union between the hierarchy headed by Metropolitan Gabriel of Lisbon, formerly under the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece, and the Polish Orthodox Church.[10] The European bishops, however, have left the jurisdiction in 2000, which eventually resulted in senior Bishop Chrysostom being raised to archepiscopal dignity. There are now parishes in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Paraíba, plus a mission in Ceará[11] and a monastery in João Pessoa.[10][12]

In 2003, following the decision of the Holy Sobor of Bishops of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the New Martyrs of Chelm and Podlasie suffering persecution during the 1940s were canonized.[13]

Primates of the Church[edit]

The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church was established in 1924. Traditionally the primate of the church has the title Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland.

  • Metropolitan George [pl] (Grzegorz Jaroszewski) – Archbishop of Warsaw (1921–1923) (Predecessor for establishment of the structure of Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church)
  • Metropolitan Dionysius (Konstanty Waledyński) – Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland (1923–1948)
  • Metropolitan Macarius [pl] (Michał Oksijuk) – Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland (1951–1959)
  • Metropolitan Timotheus [pl] (Jerzy Szretter) – Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland (1961–1962)
  • Metropolitan Stephen [pl] (Stepan Rudyk) – Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland (1965–1969)
  • Metropolitan Basil [pl] (Włodzimierz Doroszkiewicz) – Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland (1970–1998)
  • Metropolitan Sabbas (Michał Hrycuniak) – Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland (1998–present)


Polish Orthodox Cathedrals (examples)
Dioceses of the Church before the World War II

The church is headed by the Archbishop of Warsaw and Metropolitan of All Poland: Sawa (Michał) Hrycuniak (1998–). It is divided into the following dioceses:[14]

Archdioceses and archbishops[edit]

Titular dioceses and bishops[edit]

  • Titular Diocese of Supraśl: Gregory (Charkiewicz) (2008–), Vicar Bishop for Białystok and Gdańsk[15]
  • Titular Diocese of Siemiatycze: George (Mariusz) Pańkowski (2007–), Ordinary for the Polish Orthodox Military Ordinariate and Vicar Bishop for Warsaw and Bielsk

Other entities[edit]

  • Polish Orthodox Military Ordinariate

Original dioceses[edit]

Following the Soviet invasion of Poland, most of dioceses except for Warsaw were annexed by the Moscow Patriarchate as so called Western Exarchate centered in Lutsk.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Mały Rocznik Statystyczny Polski 2016, Warszawa 2017, tab. 18(80), s. 115.
  2. ^ Paweł Ciecieląg, Andrzej Datko, Bożena Łazowska, Piotr Łysoń, Paweł Milcarek, Wojciech Sadłoń: 1050 lat chrześcijaństwa w Polsce. Warszawa: GUS, 2016, s. 73. ISBN 978-83-7027-606-5.
  3. ^ M. Papierzyńska-Turek, Między tradycją a rzeczywistością. Państwo wobec prawosławia 1918–1939.
  4. ^ a b Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church, accessed 2 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Tomos". Orthodox Church of America - UAOC - Standing Episcopal Conference of Orthodox Bishops. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
  6. ^ "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: "As the Mother Church, it is reasonable to desire the restoration of unity for the divided ecclesiastical body in Ukraine" - News Releases - The Ecumenical Patriarchate". www.patriarchate.org. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
  7. ^ Healy, R. and Dal Lago, E. The Shadow of Colonialism on Europe’s Modern Past.
  8. ^ (in Ukrainian) ІСТОРИЧНА ВОЛИНЬ: Спроби ревіндикації луцького Свято-Троїцького собору
  9. ^ Russian Orthodox Church Department for External Church Relations (14 September 2018). "Statement of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church concerning the uncanonical intervention of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  10. ^ a b (in Portuguese) Eparquia Ortodoxa do Brasil
  11. ^ "Saint John the Precursor Orthodox Church · CE-040, 39 - Patacas, Aquiraz - CE, 61700-000, Brazil".
  12. ^ (in Portuguese) Mosteiro Ortodoxo da Dormição da Santa Mãe de Deus
  13. ^ J. Charkiewicz, Męczennicy XX wieku. Martyrologia Prawosławia w Polsce w biografiach świętych.
  14. ^ (in Polish) Polish Orthodox Church: Adminstracja
  15. ^ (in Polish) Orthodox Diocese of Białystok and Gdańsk: Abp Jakub i Bp Grzegorz

External links[edit]