The Catholic Church in Poland:--1990", Polish Statistical Yearbook 1995
icon of Our Lady of Fatima
Translated by Hanna Husak and Thomas Stadnik from "The Catholic Church in Poland:--1990", Polish Statistical Yearbook 1995, Central Statistical Office, Warsaw, Pages 71-74. Translation Copyright, 1996.
Translators' Note: The following excerpt from the 1995 Polish Statistical Yearbook contains much valuable information and statistical data about the development of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite of the Catholic Church in Eastern Poland and Belarus for the inter-war period. Umfortunately, the text was composed by officials of the Central Statistical Office of Poland ("CSO") in conjunction with limited input from the Polish Roman Catholic hierarchy. Consequently, from the more global viewpoint of Catholic Church history it reflects a somewhat incomplete and perhaps distorted view of the events, the personalities involved, and their motivations. The views expressed in the following excerpt are those of the Polish CSO and contain several inaccurate characterizations as well as being written in a spirit uninformed by the Second Vatican Council and other Church teaching. The views expressed below are NOT those of the translators nor of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church nor of the Ukrainian or Belarussian Byzantine Catholic Churches.
"...Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church
The idea of winning the Orthodox Church over to union with Rome has long occupied both the Latin and the Greek Catholic circles even before the Ist World War. The position of the uniates in Chelm and Podlasie regions during tzarist persecutions encouraged many priests to carry out priestly duties in a clandestine manner in the period when Poland was partitioned. It was thus assumed that under the political conditions existing in the Eastern Border regions of Poland (hereinafter "Eastern Regions") after Poland regained independence there was an actual chance to reactivate the union and to win the Orthodox over to Catholicism. Even more so as on several occasions the local Latin rite ordinary was approached by those Orthodox left without priestly care asking for priests of the Eastern rite.
One of the most ardent supporters of the new union was the Podlasie (Siedlce) ordinary, Rev. Bishop Henryk Przezdziecki. Exploiting the positive position of the Vatican which was considering action on a great scale to win over Orthodox Russia, he was given appropriate authority, in the form of the instruction "Zelum Aplitudinis" authorizing him to carry out a mission throughout his diocese. This action was personally supported by Pius XI who when still Papal Nuncio in Poland (Achilles Ratti) was interested in the above issue and even used to visit Podlasie. In accordance with the adopted terms Bishop Przezdziecki exercised jurisdictional authority over the rite which was being established and over the faithful thereof. Some time later similar authority was given also to other Eastern Regions' bishops, for the Vilnius, Pinsk, Luck and Lublin regions.
The newly created union was designated as the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite, the Eastern Slavonic Rite or finally the Eastern Catholic Rite.
Taking the task of union upon himself, the Siedlce bishop first of all gained support from the Jesuit order of the Eastern rite. They came to Poland in 1924 and settled in Albertyn near Slonim where Count Wladyslaw Puslowski established a special foundation to serve this aim. He donated the monastery house and a part of the garden directly to the monks. Since they were able to gain a group of believers of considerable size in quite a short time, Archbishop Matulewicz of Vilnius established an Eastern parish in Albertyn. Another of the first Byzantine-Slavonic parishes was the one in Hola within the territory of the Podlasie diocese. Other parishes soon followed.
Nevertheless, various mistakes could not be avoided, due to the lack of properly trained priests and the low level religious knowledge of the public. Most of the time the parishes were administered by former Orthodox pastors, some of whom, unfortunately, became the members of the Catholic church due to opportunist considerations. It is thus difficult to specify what was the actual number of the Byzantine-Slavonic parishes in the different years and how many members they had. The church sources inform that in 1927 there were as many as 14 parishes in which 28 priests served about 20 thousand members. The data may be overestimated though the number of Byzantine-Slavonic parishes increased annually, although it was far from the expectations of the bishops who commenced this action.
Table 15. Parishes of the Byzantine - Slavonic Rite in 1939
|Dioceses||Town/Village where the parish is located||Year of establishment of parish|
In 1931 a bishop was ordained to serve the Byzantine-Slavonic rite. The Apostolic See appointed a Ukrainian, father Mykola Czarnecki from the Redemptorist Monks, as the bishop. Unfortunately, he did not receive jurisdiction over the neounion as it was opposed by the Polish government by using the lack of appropriate provisions in the concordat which would consider the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite as one of the rites of the Catholic Church in Poland. Nevertheless, Bishop Czarnecki in his role of the Apostolic Visitator was the actual shepherd of the scattered Byzantine-Slavonic parishes.
In 1937 there were 71 priests serving in the Catholic Byzantine-Slavonic Rite in Poland:
- 1 bishop,
- 39 diocese priests
- 31 monks.
In their work among the neouniates the Jesuits were soon joined by other male and female orders. At that time Eastern branches were formed by the following Latin orders: the Capuchins, the Oblates and the Marianists. Also Greek Catholic monks worked on behalf of the neounion: the Basilians, the Studites and the Redemptorists.
Table 16. Male orders of the Greek Catholic Rite acting on behalf of the neounion in 1937
Table 17. Female orders of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite in 1937
|Diocese||Orders||Number of Houses||nuns|
|Gniezniensko-poznanuska||Daughters of the Most Pure Heart of the Most Holy Virgin Mary||1||8|
|Vilnius||Missionaries of the Most Holy Heart of Jesus||2||12|
|Podlasie||Daughters of the Most Pure Heart of the Most Holy Virgin Mary||4||48|
|Pinsk||Children of Mary||1||15|
|Daughters of the Most Pure Heart of the Most Holy Virgin Mary||2||6|
As one of the most important issues for the proper functioning of the new rite was the education of young priests who would be well prepared to this work, ever since the beginning there were plans for establishing a special seminary. Such seminary was established by Bishop Szekazek who in 1931 transferred it to Albertyn Jesuits and they succeeded in transforming it into the Pontifical Eastern Seminary [Papieskie Seminarium Wschodnie]. To the end of the period between the wars over twenty priests graduated from this seminary. These were newly-ordained priests who were to work in the following Dioceses:
- Siedlce - 7
- Luck - 6
- Vilnius - 3
- Lublin -1
- Apostolic Administration of Lemkowszczyzna - 2
an additional 2 newly-ordained priests were to work in Eastern Galicia and in Canada.
The period of World War II did not support the development of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite. Both the Russian and German invaders tried to use the religious beliefs of the public to start national and religious conflicts. Most of the neouniate parishes vanished or circumstances forced them to return to the Orthodox Church. However, in 1947 within the borders of the Polish State there still existed 4 Byzantine-Slavonic parishes (Bubel, Dokudow, Kostomloty, Poloski). Unfortunately, the following years, and particularly the resettlement action were the result of the fact that only the parish in Kostolmloty has survived. Rev. Aleksander Prylucki worked there with great dedication from 1940. In 1969 he was replaced by the current pastor, Rev. Ryszard Roman Pietka (Marianist). In the recent years the Kostomloty Parish together with the neighbouring sanctuary of Our Lady in Koden and the Orthodox monastery in Jableczna, have become the organizers of annual ecumenical meetings of youth (see Unofficial Listing, towards bottom of page, for information on this parish).
In 1987 two Polish priests who were ordained by Bishop Lotocki in the Greek Catholic rite made attempts at establishing a center of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite in Ujkowice near Przemysl."