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2176Polish Orthodox 'face problems of acceptance' in their country

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Dec 4, 2004
      2004.12.03 ENI:
      Ecumenical News International
      Daily News Service / 03 December 2004

      Polish Orthodox 'face problems of acceptance' in their country

      By Jonathan Luxmoore

      Warsaw, 3 December (ENI)--The Orthodox church in Poland says it
      still faces problems of acceptance in this predominantly Roman
      Catholic country, despite celebrating the 80th year of its
      independence this month.

      "Over the past quarter-century, our church has made significant
      progress - using our possibilities to be open to the world, and
      making ourselves known," said Grzegorz Misijuk, spokesman for
      Poland's 570 000-member Autocephalous Orthodox church.

      "Although we are accepted by ordinary people, however, we still
      feel pressured by those on both left and right who've built their
      capital from dividing people and pointing to imaginary enemies,"
      said Misijuk.

      The 61-year-old priest was speaking after a service in Warsaw's
      St Mary Magdalene cathedral to mark the anniversary of the
      church's granting of autocephality, or independence, by the
      Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate in November 1924.

      In an interview, Misijuk said Orthodox Christians had been
      reduced to just 2 per cent of the Polish population by border
      changes after the Second World War, which had also cut Orthodox
      parishes and clergy by nine-tenths.

      However, he added that his church now had six eparchies, or
      dioceses, 230 priests and 320 churches nationwide, as well as
      seven monasteries and convents, its own seminary and a
      flourishing network of youth and charity organizations.

      "Having seen 400 of our churches destroyed or taken over in
      1938-9, the blow was too heavy for us to draw breath," Misijuk
      told Ecumenical News International. "Today, though, we've
      achieved stable conditions. After enjoying the worst position of
      all minority churches here, we are now legally protected."

      The Bialystok-based church, which is one of 14 autocephalous
      Orthodox churches, was recognised under its own law in 1991 and
      began a ministry to the armed forces, with a bishop and 20
      priests, in 1994.

      In May, the church for the first time won the right to reclaim
      properties seized under communist rule without protracted
      administrative procedures. However, Orthodox leaders continue to
      complain of discrimination in the country, where Roman Catholics
      make up 95 per cent of the 39 million population.

      "There've been Orthodox parishes on Polish territory for 900
      years - so instead of celebrating our church's legal existence,
      we should perhaps be asking why it took so long," said Orthodox
      spokesperson Misijuk.
      * * *
      (c) Ecumenical News International
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