President Lech Kaczyński, who died in a plane crash last Saturday, during his term of office has attended many events connected with Orthodox Church and had an impact on the situation of Polish Orthodox believers. Let us recount some of them.
On 26th April2006 at the 20th Anniversary of a nuclear accident in Chernobyl a religious service commemorating the victims took place in St. Mary Magdalene’s Cathedral. It was president’s initiative and he attended this service in person along with representatives of other authorities of Poland and diplomacy.
On 27th April 2007 at the 60th Anniversary of “Vistula” action a prayer meeting took place in the Presidential Palace’s chapel. The meeting was to pray for bilateral understanding and cooperation of Poland and Ukraine. President Kaczynski, president of Ukraine Wiktor Juszczenko and many representatives of Ukrainian minority in Poland and persons who rendered great service to Polish and Ukrainian agreement attended this meeting. Archbishop of Lublin and Chełm Abel was the representative of the Orthodox Church.
In May 2007 a delegation of Greek Orthodox Church stayed in Poland with the late Archbishop Christodulos as its head. President Kaczynski with the head of the Presidential’s Cabinet of the time Elżbieta Jakubiak were the first to receive representatives of Greek Orthodoxy. The representative of Catholic Church was President’s chaplain Fr. Roman Indrzejczyk, who also tragically died in the crash near Smolensk. During the meeting issues of relations between the Polish state and Orthodox Churches in Poland and Greece were discussed. The delegation also visited Polish seminary. During the visit of the late hierarch consecration of the church in Kodeń took place. In January 2008 President Kaczynski extended his condolences to the Greek President in connection with the death of Archbishop Christodulos.
The President of Poland’s Office took under his wing the Caucasian conference of St. Grigol Peradze organised by University of Warsaw’s Centre for East European Studies and the Faculty of Oriental Studies. In 2007 it took place on 6-8th December to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of martyr’s death of St. Grigol.
An exhibition of Greek icons in the National Museum in Krakow was organised at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008. It was under the honourable patronage of President Kaczynski and president of Greece Karolos Papulias.
On the 14th April 2008 a meeting of Polish and Ukrainian presidents took place, which got a lot of publicity due to a diplomatic gaffe. Archbishop Abel and bishop Jerzy left this meeting as the high-ranked representatives of Polish Orthodox Church were not included in the diplomatic protocol. In a statement of Presidential Office a great regret has been expressed due to the situation which has occurred in the Presidential Palace. According to the officials not mentioning the names and functions of the Polish Orthodox Church’s dignitaries was unintentional. At the same time a letter has been sent to the hierarchs of Polish Orthodox Church (its author was Anna Fotyga, the then chief of the office). The letter has stressed “the unique rank of the relations between the Republic of Poland and Polish Orthodox Church” and the fact of “deep ties linking President Kaczyński and Orthodox Christians”. Meetings of the President during the Week of prays of Christians’ unity and the visit of Archbishop Christodulos in May 2007 have also been mentioned in the letter.
On 10th June 2008 President Kaczynski granted nominations for a professorship to the academics and research and art workers. Fr. Marian Szczepan Bendza from Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw has been among the persons who received the nominations.
“In Poland regrettable incidents have happened. In 1938 a natural asylum, which is any house of God, has not been respected. Incidents which should never have occurred, unfortunately occurred on the lands of religious and ethnical mix” – President Kaczyński wrote in an introduction to a book of dr. Grzegorz Kuprianowicz, a historian from Maria Curie-Sklodowska’s University of Lublin. The book entitled “1938. Action of demolishing Orthodox Churches on the Chełm and South Podlasie regions” is devoted to the 70th Anniversary of this Action. It has been presented in October 2008 in Lublin. President Kaczyński also wrote that “fundamental rights and values cannot be omitted or ignored in activities of any state’s authorities. Discovering and promoting the truth is an obligation of historians. Memory of tragic pages in the history of Polish Orthodoxy is the obligation of all. Regret should be expressed over the wrong which has been done”. Lech Kaczynski appealed to build good relations and strengthening the unity, because “the past should not cast a shadow over the present and the future” – he stressed.
On 8th November 2008 on the 80th Anniversary of Regaining Independence a Divine Liturgy and molebien for the Fatherland have been celebrated in St. Mary Magdalene’s Cathedral. Representatives of state authorities with President Kaczynski as the head took part in the Liturgy. During the celebration a memorial of Fedorenko family has been unveiled and consecrated. The stone commemorates Fr. Lt Col Szymon Fedorenko (head Orthodox chaplain of Polish Army murdered in 1940 in Katyń by the NKVD), his wife Wiera and their three sons: Aleksander (pilot of bomb squadron 300 of Royal Air Force in Great Britain, who died in 1944), Orest and Wiaczesław, Home Army soldiers, who fought and died in the Warsaw Uprising.
In August 2009 due to the death of Belarusian pilots during the Air Show event in Radom president Kaczyński has extended his condolences to the president of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenka and the family’s of the officers. A similar gesture has been made by the Minister of Defence Bogdan Klich.
On the beginning of September 2009 a consecration of a memorial commemorating Ukrainians murdered in Sakhryń with the participation of Presidents Kaczynski and Juszczenko has been planned. However it has been cancelled.
On November 2009 at the 90th Anniversary of Regaining Independence a CD with several patriotic songs has been funded under the patronage of President Kaczynski. The songs were sung by choir of Orthodox Ordinary of Polish Army “Oktoich” and Instrumental Band of Representative Orchestra of Silesian Military District. “Patriotic and military songs are usually performed during official ceremonies. However Poles also sing it with pleasure during family and social gatherings. That is how an idea of recording the CD entitled “As freedom is measured by crosses” has come out. Apart from the recordings of popular songs you can also find their lyrics. I really recommend singing and listening to the songs, which have become an inherent part of our Fatherland’s history” – Lech Kaczyński wrote in a short announcement concerning the edition of the CD.
On 4th January 2010 President Kaczyński has signed the act of the regulation of legal status of some properties under the jurisdiction of Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The act, which has been discussed for many months, has finally clarified the controversial issues between Orthodox Church, Greek Catholic Church and Polish state. Those issues were the reason of Polish Orthodox Church’s appeal to the European Tribunal of human Rights in June 2003.
Pictures in the source.