Poland

[map of Poland] Republic in Europe. It is thought that there were a few Christians, probably refugees, in Poland when in 966 Mieszko, ruler of Posen, submitted to German authority, embracing Christianity and taking under his protection missionaries from Germany and Bohemia. The first bishopric was founded at Posen in 970. Under the next ruler the Archdiocese of Gnesen was established, freeing the Polish churches from their former dependence on the hierarchy of Germany. However, most of the clergy and monks were still foreigners, and because of the persistence of paganism and the confusion and devastation of much warfare, it was some time before the Faith was established among all the people. By the 13th century a large native Polish clergy had developed and there were many convents. At this time the country was divided into principalities, some occupied by German colonists. The united Church then formed the foundation for a reunited kingdom of Poland in the 14th century. After the marriage of Queen Hedwig to Jagello, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Poland sent missionaries into the latter country, which was still pagan. Gradually the two became one kingdom and enlarged, embracing territory in which there were Orthodox churches. In 1596, at the Union of Brest, the Ruthenian Church, formerly schismatic, was united to Rome, retaining the Slavic liturgy. Churches of the Armenian Rite also were united to Rome. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Poles suffered defeats by Tatars, Turks, Swedes, and Russians, and in 1772 to 1795 Poland was partitioned among Prussia, Russia, and Austria. In Austrian Poland the Church came at first, especially in the reign of Joseph II, under harsh control of the State, and under Russian and Prussian rule Catholics were persecuted. The Russian government attacked especially the Ruthenian Uniats, suppressing their dioceses and compelling them to break their connection with Rome. In some regions all Catholic Church lands and convents were confiscated, the clergy were placed under many restraints and were forbidden communication with Rome, and Polish schools were closed and replaced by Russian schools. The Russian Government attempted to organize a national Polish Church independent of Rome, and prelates who resisted were deported to Russia. In 1838 Archbishop Martin von Dunin was imprisoned for upholding the law of the Church, against new regulations of the Prussian Government, regarding mixed marriages. The Prussian Government, having colonized much Polish territory with Germans, replacing Poles by Germans in official positions, and having made the state schools and courts German, ruled that all religious instruction in Posen be given only in German. For resistance to this demand many teachers were dismissed, and the Archbishop of Gnesen and Posen, Cardinal Mieczyslaw Ledochowski, was imprisoned for two years and then compelled to leave the country. The Prussian Government also confiscated Church lands and convents. The independent Republic of Poland was proclaimed in 1918. It grants equal rights to all denominations. The great majority of the population are Catholic, and many religious societies were reestablished after independence. In 1925 the churches of the Latin Rite were re-organized, some in dioceses of ancient origin but with their boundaries newly adjusted to the territory of the Republic. During the country's occupation by the Nazis and then the Communists, the Church was brutally suppressed, and thousands died for their faith in the concentration camps, and the prisons of the NKVD and KGB. Church leaders were instrumental in the new independence of the country, and the first Polish Pope, John Paul II, was a key figure in the overthrow of Russian Communism.

Ecclesiastically the country governed by the archdioceses of and the dioceses of and the See also
New Catholic Dictionary

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