For the first time in the history of Christianity, from August 16 to 19, the Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia Kyrill I will visit Poland. The patriarch has decided to change his travel schedule, that dates back to a century long tradition, in order to first visit Poland and then proceed his visit to many other patriarchates and ecclesial metropolis. In fact, on August 17, Msgr. Jozef Michalik and the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference (KEP) will sign a joint message addressed by the two Churches to the respective Russian and Polish populations.
A brave gesture. Msgr. Jozef Michalik said he looks forward to the historical event “with great hope” since the document “will focus on perspectives of profound brotherhood among Christian faithful belong to our two peoples”. For the president of Polish bishops the document is most of all “a courageous sign of obedience on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Polish Orthodox Church to Jesus’ words on the duty of being brothers”. KEP spokesperson Jozef Kloch, highlighted the exceptional bearing of the message, fruit of three years of work on the part of the representatives of the two Churches. The prelate announced that “it will contain a reflection on the history of the two peoples across the centuries, an appeal to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation” as well as “an appeal to bring forth the dialogue and bear common witness in the light of the challenges of the modern world and of Europe today”.
The media’s opinion. Catholic Polish columnists who are cognizant of the content of the message (that has not yet been made public) point out that today it cannot be compared to the historical letter addressed by Polish bishops in 1965 to Germany’s episcopate “We forgive and ask for forgiveness”. The joint message by Patriarch Kyrill and KEP president, does not include, in their opinion, “a univocal moral evaluation of the events occurred across the centuries”, limiting themselves “to a generical reflection on the complexity of mutual relations”. “By paradox - writes Andrzej Grajewski, vice editor-in chief of “Niedziela” (Sunday), the major Catholic weekly in Poland – the ratification of the message will require a great amount of courage, especially on the part of Patriarch Kyrill, who recently was subjected to widespread attacks. The patriarch must take into account the resistance of a part of Orthodox Catholic hierarchy as well as that of the faithful whose anti-Catholic and anti-Polish sentiments are still very strong”. Grajewski also said that the common message by the head of the Orthodox Church in Moscow and by KEP president “has been the object of consultations with the Kremlin, which despite its support to the idea would have denied its approval if it was linked with a new evaluation of past events, notably those linked to Communism, which are still a cause of divisions”. In Poland Patriarch Kyrill will meet with Metropolitan Sawa, head of the Polish Orthodox Church, and will visit some religious centres taking part in the feast of Transfiguration. The Patriarch will be received by the president of the Republic Bronislaw Komorowski.
A positive example. The President of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Archbishop Major of Kyïv-Halyč Svjatoslav Ševčuk sees in the visit of Patriarch Kyrill to Poland an example for a future reconciliation of the Greek Catholic Church and the Russian Church in Ukraine. While admitting the difficulties also due to a multiplicity of Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, not all of which are recognized by the patriarchate of Moscow, Msgr. Ševčuk hopes that “history’s burdens will be overcome, mutually acknowledging and forgiving reciprocal sins in order to look into each other’s eyes as Christians, as brothers, and build a truly Christian Russia and Ukraine”.
Born in Leningrad in November 1946, Kyrill is the Russian Orthodox Archbishop, the 17th Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Son and nephew of Orthodox priests, he entered the theological seminary of Leningrad in 1954. He undertook his theological studies at the Theological Academy of St. Petersburg. After the ordination in 1969, Kyrill became Archmandrite in 1971 and then was appointed official representative of the Patriarch of Moscow at the Ecumenical council of Churches. In March 1976 he was appointed bishop of Vyborg, and was appointed archbishop the following year. In December 1984, he became archbishop of Smolensk and administrator of the diocese of Kaliningrad. In 1991, Patriarch Alexis II nominated him metropolitan; after his death, occurred on December 5 2008, the Bishops’ Orthodox Church Council elected him Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia.