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The Warsaw Voice » Society » August 29, 2012
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From the Editor
August 29, 2012   
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If it didn’t sound ironic, you could say it was a miracle. The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia—the pope of the Russian Orthodox Church—has visited Poland for the first time in history. Kirill I has been to Poland a few times before, but that was before he became head of the Russian Orthodox Church, when he was the bishop of Smolensk and a kind of foreign minister for the Russian episcopate.

A seemingly insurmountable obstacle was overcome. Previously, the Russian Orthodox Church showed so much mistrust toward the Roman Catholic Church and had so many grievances that even Pope John Paul II’s effort to visit Moscow came to nothing. And now the Patriarch arrives on a five-day visit, a historic event.

Kirill I was invited by Polish Archbishop Józef Michalik to jointly finalize the two churches’ negotiations on an appeal for reconciliation, talks that took several years. These two centers of Christianity, perhaps the strongest in Europe, feel an obligation to speak out in defense of religion and the values it champions. The Russian Orthodox Church sought an ally in the Polish church, and the Roman Catholic Church in Poland sought one in Russia’s Orthodox Church. They both found the ally they wanted; the price was mutual reconciliation.

Their unprecedented appeal is of great religious and moral magnitude. But it also has a political dimension. Polish-Russian relations are tainted by a grim historical legacy that hinders their modern development. These historical problems are a burden on relations between people, between the two countries, and are always easy ammunition for certain types of politicians on both sides of the border. The churches’ appeal for reconciliation between the two nations partially defuses the explosive charge of such ammunition. Or, at least, it heralds the start of such a process. In the case of Polish-German relations, a similar process was initiated by a famous letter from Polish bishops to their German counterparts in 1965 saying, “We forgive and ask for forgiveness.” The process took a quarter of a century. It was worth it.
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