The document signals “a new stage and a common perspective on a difficult, common history,” Polish bishops' spokesman Father Jozef Kloch said of the document on reconciliation, due to be signed by the Moscow Patriarch along with Polish Bishops' Conference President Archbishop Jozef Michalik.
Russia's top church leader will be in Warsaw for the first two days of his visit, meeting with Polish state officials and Catholic bishops. He will sign the joint Catholic-Orthodox statement on his second day in the capital, at the city's Royal Castle, Fr. Kloch said during a July 16 press conference.
A commission with representatives of both churches has been working for three years to develop the statement.
“We hope it will gradually lead to reconciliation between our nations,” said Fr. Kloch, explaining that the document was a step toward resolving “the painful history of Poland and Russia” on the basis of shared Christian faith.
“We have the same sacraments, similar challenges,” the Polish bishops' spokesman told reporters. “As brothers in Christianity we want to take common positions.”
Leaders of the churches will take a “very important” first step toward that goal as they “forgive and ask for forgiveness.” Fr. Kloch expects Polish and Russian church leaders to build on this progress and sign similar declarations in the future.
Political and religious conflicts between the countries date back centuries, involving the 11th century rift between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy as well as a series of territorial struggles. More recent tensions have involved the legacy of World War II and geopolitics of the post-Cold War era.
While the declaration is a historic step for the churches in Poland and Russia, Polish Orthodox representative Father Henryk Paprocki said it was unlikely to have any direct effect on the larger continuing ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy.
During his Aug. 16-19 visit to Poland, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow plans to join the country's Catholic leaders in signing a statement appealing for mutual forgiveness.