Patriarch Kirill in Warsaw
THE visit of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church to Poland last week was historic. It came after three years of negotiations propelled by the hope that it would improve relations between the two branches of Christianity as well as the two nations.
Nominally, it was a religious visit. At a grand ceremony held at the Royal Castle, Patriarch Kirill and representatives of the Catholic Church signed a joint appeal for reconciliation after past wrongdoings. Some compared it to the letter sent by Polish bishops to their German counterparts in 1965: “We forgive and ask for forgiveness”. He also travelled to the Podlasie region, in eastern Poland, which is home to most of Poland’s small Orthodox minority of about half a million people. In between his religious duties, the Patriarch met with leaders of the political establishment, including Bronisław Komorowski, the president.
The four days passed smoothly. No topless woman jumped out with “Kill Kirill!” painted on her back – as a member of FEMEN, a feminist group, had done on his latest visit to Ukraine. The coverage was positive, though nobody expects a miracle. Only the right-wing Law and Justice party was making grumpy noises, torn between its Catholic allegiances and its pathological suspicion towards Russia. It still thinks that Russia was involved in the aeroplane accident in Smolensk, western Russia, in April 2010. Among the plane crash’s 96 victims was then-president Lech Kaczyński, the twin brother of the party’s leader, Jarosław Kaczyński.