Diocese of Lublin-Chełm

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The Diocese of Lublin-Chełm is a diocese of the Church of Poland, located in the eastern part of Poland. The diocese traces its origins to the times of the baptism of the Rus in the tenth century. The present day diocese was established in the last decades of the twentieth century as the Church of Poland reorganized after the chaos of World War II and communist domination. The patron saint of the Diocese is St. Athanasius of Bretsk.

Early history

By tradition the area, of which of the Diocese of Lublin-Chełm is a part, was an Orthodox bishopric in Włodzimierz Wołyński, present day Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Ukraine, in the late tenth century. In 1072, a Bishop John of Chełm is mentioned. By 1205, a diocese existed in Uhrusk-upon-Bug under Bishop Joasaf. During this period the area was in a state of flux as rulers and their domains changed. During the early thirteenth century, Prince Daniel of Galicia established the town of Chełm and moved the bishopric of Uhrusk to Chełm. As the area of the diocese included the Belsk region, the bishops were titled Bishops of Chełm and Bełsk. During these year the diocese was part of the Metropolis of Kiev.

As the fourteenth century began, Roman Catholic Poles began to settle in the area which gave rise to the establishment of Catholic bishoprics in the same areas as existing Orthodox sees. With the rise of Polish power under the Polish king Wladislaw Jagiełło the Orthodox Church began to lose its rights and importance as building and renovating Orthodox churches was prohibited and access by Orthodox people to administrative posts in the local governments became limited. However, at that time Chełm-Bełsk Diocese was quite well developed and the Orthodox Church was able to function as not all restrictions on it were enforced.

The Union of Brest, in 1596, however, change the situation greatly as most of the Orthodox bishops of Volhynia-Galicia accepted the Roman Catholic faith and papal authority. While Dionizy Zbirujski, Bishop of Chełm, was among those who signed the Union the majority of the people did not want to accept it. The churches and properties of the Orthodox were confiscated, even if the Orthodox believers were the majority of the inhabitants of the towns. All though most of the Orthodox people in Chełm resisted the Union, they did not have any churches as all of them were taken by the Uniates. Only in towns that were owned by Orthodox noblemen were there functioning Orthodox churches. The Orthodox people, in general, were persecuted, their churches robbed, and priests forced out of their parishes. The martyr, St. Athanasius (Atanazy) of Brest became a symbol of resistance to the Union.

Having lost their bishop to the Union, the Orthodox believers of the Diocese of Chełm-Belsk came under the protection of Bishop Gedeon (Balaban) of Lvov, representative of the Church of Constantinople, as the king did not allow the consecration of a new bishop. The Orthodox monasteries, however, remained firmly against the Union. In 1620, Patriarch Theophanes of Jerusalem consecrated in Kiev a new metropolitan of Kiev, Job (Boretsky), Bishop Paisjusz of Chełm, and other bishops. However, the Polish authorities would not allow them to use any of the churches as they all belonged to the Uniates.

In 1633, while king Vladislav allowed, against the opposition of the Uniate bishops, some rights for the Orthodox, including the consecration of Peter Mogila as metropolitan of Kiev and return of some churches, he did not agree to reestablish the Diocese of Chełm.

As a result of Cossack uprisings during the seventeenth century, which included demands for return of Orthodox churches, agreements were reached, in addition to return of churches, for the reestablishment of Diocese of Chełm-Belsk. This occurred in August 1649 after the Battle of Zboriv. Bishop Dionizy (Bałaban) was installed in the see of Chełm-Belsk in early 1650. After a temporary loss of the use of churches in 1651, their use was restored in 1654 as imperial Russia gained control of the area after the Treaty of Pereyaslav.

During the following centuries, the status of the diocese changed as the political winds between the Catholic west and Orthodox east changed. For the Orthodox in Poland, the loss of Cossack protection after Ukraine on the left bank of the Bug River was incorporated into Russia resulted in many churches and monasteries during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries accepting the Union. By 1800, there were very few places west of the Bug river that remained Orthodox. St. Onufry Monastery in Jabłeczna was one of them.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the partition of Poland resulted in the western part of the diocese of Chełm and Podlasie becoming part of the Austrian empire and the eastern part that of Russia. Thus, the Orthodox believers of the old Chełm and Podlasie diocese came under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Bukovina.

Last two hundred years

Following the Congress of Vienna of 1815, these eastern parts of the Kingdom of Poland were ruled by imperial Russia. By the 1840s, Orthodox churches were restored and built for the Orthodox believers and, in areas of western Lublin, to serve the Russian officials and military. Jurisdiction over these parishes, first fell under the bishop of Minsk and, after 1834, under the bishop of Warsaw.

During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a split began among the Uniates between those who looked to further polonization and latinization and those who wanted to maintain eastern traditions. In the 1840s, a few villages in the southern Chełm region reverted to the Orthodox faith, with support of the Russian authorities. By the 1860s, delatinization efforts against the Uniate church caused Uniate resistance and casualties. In 1875, the Uniate Diocese of Chełm became part of the Orthodox Church with the Russian authorities using force on recalcitrant Uniates. With this move the Diocese of Chełm was merged with the Diocese of Warsaw, although the resident bishop-curates in Chełm retained the title of Bishop of Lublin.

In 1905, following the religious reforms of Tsar Nicholas II almost 200,000 Uniates were permitted to convert to Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Diocese of Chełm was reestablished, with Eulogius as bishop. On the eve of World War I, the diocese included 282 parishes, five monasteries, and a seminary.

During the war, the area of the diocese came under German and Austrian occupation. The Russian authorities and many Orthodox faithful moved to Russia. The southern part of the diocese was controlled by Austrians who gave control of the churches to Roman Catholic authorities, placing the Orthodox believers in difficult circumstances. Following the fall of the tsarist Russian government, and under the various peace agreements, the Diocese of Chełm became part of the reestablished nation of Poland.

In a Roman Catholic dominated Poland the position of the Orthodox believers and their church was limited. By 1925, there were only 57 parishes and one monastery and the Diocese of Chełm was closed. A polonization program was put in place. In 1938, the persecutions of the Orthodox Church in the Chełm and Podlasie region peaked with the destruction of more than 150 churches. During the German occupation of World War II, the Germans permitted the reestablishment of the Diocese of Chełm and Podlasie under a Ukrainian professor Ivan Ohijenko who had been consecrated Archbishop Ilarion. As the Germans retreated from eastern Poland in the later part of the war, the communist Polish authorities, who took control, expelled Orthodox Ukrainians and moved other Orthodox believers to northern and western Poland. Few Orthodox people remained in the Chełm region with only a few parishes and a monastery in Jableczna. The diocese of Chełm was again closed.

Recent decades

After 1956, exiled Orthodox believers from the Chełm region began to return, and life among the Orthodox faithful was partly restored. By 1989, the Orthodox presence had grown such that the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Poland reestablished, by a resolution of March 25, 1989, the diocese in the Chełm region with the title of Lublin-Chełm Diocese with Bishop Abel (Poplavsky) as the ruling hierarch. His residence was established in Lublin.

At the time of its reestablishment the diocese included the central-eastern Polish voivodeships of Biała Podlaska, Chełm, Lublin, Siedlce, Tarnobrzeg, Zamość, and part of Rzeszów. At the time there were sixteen parishes grouped in two deaneries. St. Onufry Monastery in Jabłeczna, under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland, and the Orthodox Theological Seminary were also within the territory of the reestablished diocese.

The last decades of the twentieth century saw the building of churches to replace the many that were destroyed in 1938. Renovation of many historic churches, cemeteries, and properties have been on going, of which churches in Lublin, Hola, Włodawa, Kobylany, Chełm, Wojsławice, Hrubieszów, Dubienka, Sosnowica and monastery in Jabłeczna have been already renovated. Also, eight temples were consecrated, in the villages of Biała Podlaska, Kijowiec, Holeszów, Zahorów, Zamość, Siedlce, Kodeń, Dobratycze. As funds within the diocese are scarce, further renovation, construction, and restoration of churches and diocesan property has depended upon outside financial help.


The diocese consists of 28 parishes, organized into five deaneries:

  • Lublin
  • Zamosc
  • Chelm
  • Biala Podlaska
  • Terespol

Additionally, the diocese includes two monasteries[1]:

  • St. Seraphim of Sarov in Kostomłoty for men
  • The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in Turkowice for Women

Modern day hierarchs


External links