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MOSCOW, August 16 (Itar-Tass) —— Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill on Thursday arrives in the Polish capital Warsaw, the first destination of his four-day visit to Poland.
This is the first-ever visit a Russian Patriarch pays to Catholic Poland.
The visit is expected to culminate in signing with the Catholics of a message to the peoples of Poland and Russia. “The document will call for the development of brotherly relations between Russians and Poles, the two peoples whos mentality is based on Christian views,” Patriarch’s press secretary Deacon Alexander Volkov told Itar-Tass.
Along with Patriarch Kirill, the message will be signed by Archbishop Jozef Michalik, the President of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
It took three years to coordinate this document, which, according to experts, is on a par with the famous letter written by Polish bishops in 1965. The latter paved the way for reconciliation between Poles and Germans.
Patriarch Kirill was invited to pay a visit to Poland by head of the Polish Orthodox Church Metropolitan Savva of Warsaw and All Poland. In line with the Orthodox tradition, after accession of the office, a patriarch visits co-believers in other countries. “We are the thirteenth,” Metropolitan Savva told Itar-Tass and added that this visit is to be a milestone event for the two peoples. “The Russian Patriarch’s visit will have a great significance for the Church and society,” he said.
On Thursday, Patriarch Kirill will take park in a service at Warsaw’s Church of St. Maria Magdalene and lay wreaths at the military memorial cemetery. He will visit the city of Bialystok, the Suprasl Orthodox Monastery, and a church in the town of Hajnowka, the venue of an annual church music festival. The Patriarch is also expected to meet with top-ranking secular officials, including President Bronislaw Komorowski and parliament speaker Bogdan Borusewicz.
On August 19, the Transfiguration of Christ Day, and in the evening on August 18, the Russian and Polish Patriarch will administer the divine service at the Holy Mount of Grabarka (Holy Hill of Grabarka), a sanctuary for Orthodox Christians in Poland. The message to the peoples of Poland and Russia will be signed here.
Orthodoxy id professed by about two percent of Poles, or about 600,000 people. The majority of Orthodox believers live in Poland’s eastern and southeastern provinces. Autocephaly (the status of a hierarchical Christian church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop) was granted to the Polish Orthodox Church by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1924.
Patriarch Kirill will end his Polish visit on August 19.