Mariavite Church
The Mariavite Church is an independent Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

Church Body
A local church is a Christian religious organization that meets in a particular location. Many are formally organized, with constitutions and by-laws, maintain offices, are served by pastors or lay leaders, and, in nations where this is permissible, often seek seek non-profit corporate status...

 that emerged from the Catholic Church of Poland at the turn of the 20th century. Initially, it was an internal movement leading to a reform of the Polish clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

. After a conflict with Polish bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s, it became a separate and independent denomination
Religious denomination
A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name, tradition, and identity.The term describes various Christian denominations...

. Currently the Mariavite denomination has around 28,000 members in Poland and 5,000 in France. Since 2007 Michał Maria Ludwik Jabłoński has been the Prime Bishop of the Old Catholic Mariavite Church, which has the majority of members.

Since division in the 1930s, there are also the groups: the Catholic Church of the Mariavites and the Mariavite Old Catholic Church – Province of North America.

The Mariavite Church is one of few religious movements that developed in Poland or among Polish communities abroad after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

. The other example is the Polish National Catholic Church
Polish National Catholic Church
The Polish National Catholic Church is a Christian church founded and based in the United States by Polish-Americans who were Roman Catholic. The PNCC is a breakaway Catholic Church in dialogue with the Catholic Church; it seeks full communion with the Holy See although it differs theologically...

, which was founded in the United States. The reasons behind the founding of these two churches are quite different. The Mariavite movement was an internal Polish movement for spiritual reform of the clergy and Catholic communities in Poland, which at the time was divided under the rule of three countries (see: partitions of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

). Although in its early years the Mariavite Church had no connection with Protestantism, some commentators see minor commonalities with that branch of Christianity. These are discussed more fully below.

The Polish National Church of the United States grew out of the 19th-century struggle of Polish immigrants for equal treatment in the Catholic Church in the U.S. of that era. The clergy and hierarchy were dominated by the descendants of earlier Irish and German immigrants. The Irish particularly dominated the Catholic Church, schools, seminaries and hierarchy, in many cities.

Situation of the Catholic Church in Poland under Russian Empire

The history of the Mariavite movement dates back to the second half of the 19th century. In 1887 Feliksa Kozłowska
Feliksa Kozlowska
Feliksa Kozlowska was a Polish religious mystic and visionary who founded what eventually became the Old Catholic Mariavite Church, and, by implication, a dissident group which split from it in 1935, the Catholic Mariavite Church...

 established the religious order for women according to the Rule of Saint Clare
Clare of Assisi
Clare of Assisi , born Chiara Offreduccio, is an Italian saint and one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi...

. Later to be called the Order of the Mariavite Sisters, at the time it was one among many Roman Catholic religious communities. Kozłowska had been in another Roman Catholic order since 1883, one established by the Capuchin friar, Blessed (Father) Honorat Koźmiński. According to the laws of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, which upheld the Russian Orthodox Church as the established church, all of these religious
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 organizations were illegal. In this part of Poland, divided among three neighbouring countries, the situation of the Catholic Church was the worst.

After the January Uprising
January Uprising
The January Uprising was an uprising in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Russian Empire...

 in 1863, tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

ist authorities forbade the establishment of Polish-national organisations, including religious ones. Many cloister
A cloister is a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries, with open arcades on the inner side, running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth...

s were dissolved. The Catholic clergy in the Russian-dominated area, in contrast to the priests in regions occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, were not well educated. The only theological
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 academy was in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. The priests were often criticized for their inappropriate behaviour and exploitation of the peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

s. The Mariavite movement emerged in this difficult situation.

Revelation of Feliksa Kozłowska – 1893–1903

In 1893 Kozłowska, also known by her convent name "Maria Franciszka", had her first vision and was said to found the new religious movement of "Mariavitism" on 2 Aug 1893. It developed into a separate denomination. The name "Mariavite" comes from Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 words: Mariae vitam (imitans), "(following/imitating) the life of Mary." Several visions of Kozłowska between 1893 and 1918 were gathered in 1922 in the volume entitled Dzieło Wielkiego Miłosierdzia (The Work of Great Mercy), which is the most important religious source for the Mariavites beside the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

. In her revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

, Kozłowska received an order to fight with the moral decline of the world, especially with the sins of the clergy.

In her first vision, she was told to organize the order of the priests-Mariavites. The aim of this order was to promote the renewal of the spiritual life of the clergy. The most important purpose was to spread the perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the cult of the Perpetual Help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In their everyday life, the clergy returned to the Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 tradition of an ascetic life: fasting, modesty and simplicity in clothes and life. They recommended frequent confession
This article is for the religious practice of confessing one's sins.Confession is the acknowledgment of sin or wrongs...

 and communion
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 for the people. Notably, early adherents represented the elite of Polish clergy of that time – they were young priests who had finished theology studies at the Saint Petersburg Roman Catholic Theological Academy
Saint Petersburg Roman Catholic Theological Academy
The Saint Petersburg Roman Catholic Theological Academy was an institution of higher education preparing Roman Catholic theologians in the Russian Empire. The Academy granted master's and doctorate degrees in theology and was designed to prepare officers for senior positions in the Catholic Church...

; they were often professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

s and lecturers at the seminary
A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...

 schools, and held positions as seminary Rectors or as chancery officials.

Attempt to legalize the movement – 1903–1906

For Kozłowska and the Mariavite priests, the newly established movement was to be a means for an internal reform of the Church in Poland. The initial purpose was not to create a different denomination. Until 1903 the movement was not officially recognised by the Roman Catholic authorities in divided and occupied Poland. It was in that year that the provincials of the Mariavite order presented the texts of the revelations and the history of the movement to the bishops of the dioceses of Płock (where Feliksa Kozłowska lived), Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 and Lublin
Lublin is the ninth largest city in Poland. It is the capital of Lublin Voivodeship with a population of 350,392 . Lublin is also the largest Polish city east of the Vistula river...

. While the bishops of Warsaw and Lublin refused to accept the documents, the bishop of Płock did accept them and started the canonical process for recognition.

The leaders of the movement were interviewed and the documents were sent to the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

. One month later a delegation of Mariavites went to Rome to ask the pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 to recognise the order. They had to wait for the end of the conclave, during which a new pope would be elected. During this time, they chose the Minister Generalis (Minister General) of the order – Jan Maria Michał Kowalski
Jan Kowalski
Jan Maria Michał Kowalski was the first Minister Generalis of the order of the Mariavites. At the time of his selection, he was the most important person in this Christian movement. He was consecrated Bishop in 1909 by the Utrecht Union Old Catholic Archbishop Gerardus Gul...

, who was then the most important person of the movement. They presented their case to the newly elected Pope Pius X
Pope Pius X
Pope Saint Pius X , born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was the 257th Pope of the Catholic Church, serving from 1903 to 1914. He was the first pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized. Pius X rejected modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox...

. In June 1904 another delegation traveled to Rome to express to the Roman Curia
A curia in early Roman times was a subdivision of the people, i.e. more or less a tribe, and with a metonymy it came to mean also the meeting place where the tribe discussed its affairs...

 the importance of their order's mission.

The final decision was taken by the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition (now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition , and after 1904 called the Supreme...

) in August, one month after the second Mariavite audience. The decision, announced in December 1904, was unfavorable to the Mariavites' cause. The Vatican ruled that the revelations of Feliksa Kozłowska were "hallucination
A hallucination, in the broadest sense of the word, is a perception in the absence of a stimulus. In a stricter sense, hallucinations are defined as perceptions in a conscious and awake state in the absence of external stimuli which have qualities of real perception, in that they are vivid,...

s." The Vatican ordered that the movement be dissolved and forbade any further contact between the priests and Kozłowska. Following the decision, the Mariavite community sent another two delegations to the Vatican
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

. The first, including the Mariavite priest Skolimowski, asked the pope to allow them to gather monthly for their spiritual exercises; the second, a delegation of the "Mariavite people" (i.e., people from parishes where the Mariavites served), described the positive value of the Mariavites' work, especially amongst those living in poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...


In time the Mariavites decided to disregard the recommendations of the Holy See. Kozłowska cut herself off from contact with the other nuns and priests of the community and accepted the decision of the Vatican. In February 1906 the group informed the Vatican that it was separating from the jurisdiction of the Polish bishops, but it asked its case to be adjudicated by Rome. During this time, the bishop of Płock called the Mariavites heretics
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

, which led to instances of anti-Mariavite persecution. Many clerical members of the movement were suspended from their positions.

In their last letter to Archbishop of Warsaw, in March 1906, the Mariavites asked for the reversal of the decisions that had been made against them. The final answer came from the Vatican: in April 1906, Pope Pius X issued the encyclical
An encyclical was originally a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Catholic Church. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any bishop...

 Tribus Circiter
Tribus Circiter
Tribus Circiter is an encyclical of Pope Pius X on the Mariavites or mystic priests, a pseudo-monastic Polish society. It was given at Rome, at St. Peter's, the fifth day of April, 1906, in the third year of his Pontificate...

(Around three years ago) which sustained the decision of the Holy Office about Sister Feliksa Kozłowska and the Mariavite community. In December 1906, the Church excommunicated Kozłowska and Jan Maria Michael Kowalski, as well as all those who chose to follow them.

The Mariavite Church – first period (1906–1921)

The Russian authorities recognized the Mariavite movement as a "tolerated sect" in November 1906. Six years later, the Mariavites were officially recognised as a separate and independent church. In 1906 there were about 50–60,000 Mariavites in 16 parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

es. Five years later, historical sources mention the number of 160,000 believers. This increase in the group's numbers may be due to the decision of the bishops to send Mariavites into the villages, rather than retaining them as professors, rectors, or chancery officials in urban centers.

The organization of the Mariavite community somewhat resembles Protestant communities, where each member has a right to speak about problems. Mariavites were not only active on religious grounds, but they operated many cultural, educational and social activities. They were soon organizing schools, kindergartens, libraries, kitchens for the poor, shops, printing houses, poorhouses, orphanage
An orphanage is a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans – children whose parents are deceased or otherwise unable or unwilling to care for them...

s and factories. Quickly their parishes built many new churches, causing suspicion in the Catholic Church.

In 1911 they finished their main church in Płock called the Sanctuary of Mercy and Charity
Temple of Mercy and Charity
The Temple of Mercy and Charity is a Mariavite cathedral in Płock in central Poland. It is located near the Vistula River.-Significance:The Temple is the religious center of the Mariavite Church and contains the tomb of its founder Feliksa Kozłowska, as well as a memorial plaque commemorating its...

. They bought also 5 km² of land near Płock which they named Felicjanów
Felicjanów may refer to the following places:*Felicjanów, Łódź East County in Łódź Voivodeship *Felicjanów, Poddębice County in Łódź Voivodeship *Felicjanów, Płock County in Masovian Voivodeship...

 after Kozłowska. Since 1906, they practiced the liturgy in the vernacular, or Polish, rather than in Latin. Separated from the Catholic Church, they desired reintegration into the historic apostolic succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

 and their own legitimate bishop.

They contacted the Old Catholic Church
Old Catholic Church
The term Old Catholic Church is commonly used to describe a number of Ultrajectine Christian churches that originated with groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, most importantly that of Papal Infallibility...

 in Utrecht
Utrecht (city)
Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 312,634 on 1 Jan 2011.Utrecht's ancient city centre features...

 through the efforts of General Kireev. In 1909 the first Mariavite bishop was consecrated to the episcopate
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 in Utrecht, by the Utrecht Union
Utrecht Union
The Union of Utrecht is a federation of Old Catholic Churches, not in communion with Rome, that seceded from the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of Papal infallibility. The Declaration of Utrecht solidified this movement in 1889...

 Old Catholic Archbishop Gerardus Gul
Gerardus Gul
Gerardus Gul was a bishop of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands. He was consecrated Archbishop of Utrecht 11 May 1892. Many Old Catholics and Independent Catholics trace the lineage of their orders through him....

. In 1919 they officially changed the group's name to the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites.

The death of Feliksa Kowalska in 1921 closed the first era of the Mariavite movement, when the internal reformation movement changed into the development of a new denomination. This period was the most successful time for the Mariavites. They developed many activities for the believers. Gradually the number of the adherents decreased; in 1921 there were officially 43,000 Mariavites. Nevertheless, they created numerous social institutions, built facilities, founded magazines and published books having to do with the movement.

Archbishop Kowalski (1921–1935)

After the death of Kozłowska, the head of the Mariavite Church became Bishop Kowalski (later he called himself the Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

). He had been the closest associate of Kozłowska, staying under her strong influence until her death. The respect for "Mateczka" passed on to Kowalski; quickly he became the only authority of the Mariavites. He initiated several changes within the church to make it more distinct from Roman Catholicism. His innovations were called far-reaching theological and dogmatical Modernism
Modernism (Roman Catholicism)
Modernism refers to theological opinions expressed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but with influence reaching into the 21st century, which are characterized by a break with the past. Catholic modernists form an amorphous group. The term "modernist" appears in Pope Pius X's 1907...


The Mariavites' homepage summarizes Kowalski's reforms and radical innovations::
  • "The possibility for a priest of being married (1922–1924);
  • The communion under the two species (1922);
  • The priesthood of women (introduced in 1929, abolished among Old Catholic-Mariavites in January 1935, retained in the Catholic Mariavite Church
    Catholic Mariavite Church
    The Catholic Mariavite Church is a Polish religious organization begun in 1935 by Archbishop Jan Maria Michal Kowalski.Kowalski had been the leader of the Old Catholic Mariavite Church, since the death of its foundress, Felicja Kozłowska , in 1921...

  • The Protestant concept of the priesthood of the people of God (1930);
  • Immediate Communion of just-born baptized infants (1930);
  • The removal of the ecclesiastical titles (1930); *The suppression of the prerogatives of the clergy (1930);
  • The simplification of the liturgical ceremonies and the rules of Lent (1931–1933); and
  • The reduction of the eucharistic fast."

These innovations were very controversial, not only to the Roman Catholics, but also to many of the Mariavites. The introduction of marriages between priests and nuns (1924) and the priesthood of women (1929) were disputed the most. Kowalski's changes disrupted the connection with the Old Catholics, who were then firmly opposed to the ordination of women
Ordination of women
Ordination in general religious usage is the process by which a person is consecrated . The ordination of women is a regular practice among some major religious groups, as it was of several religions of antiquity...

. In the 1920s and 1930s, Kowalski was searching for an ecumenical
Ecumenism or oecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice...

 dialogue with other churches. He proposed union with the Polish National Catholic Church
Polish National Catholic Church
The Polish National Catholic Church is a Christian church founded and based in the United States by Polish-Americans who were Roman Catholic. The PNCC is a breakaway Catholic Church in dialogue with the Catholic Church; it seeks full communion with the Holy See although it differs theologically...

, then worked to deepen contacts with Eastern Orthodox churches and other Eastern-tradition churches. In the early 1930s, he sent letters to Roman Catholic bishops with proposals of reconciliation. None of these attempts succeeded.

The opposition against "the dictatorship" of Archbishop Kowalski arose in the Mariavite Church in the 1930s. In October 1934, the bishops and priests demanded changes to the teachings and rules of administration in the Church, but Kowalski refused to make any changes. In January 1935 the General Chapter of the Mariavite Priests (Synod) decided to remove Kowalski from his position. With his supporters, the Archbishop refused to accept the decision of the General Chapter. The Church divided, as if to fulfill Kozłowska's prophecy that the Mariavite Church was to experience a schism
Schism (religion)
A schism , from Greek σχίσμα, skhísma , is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization or movement religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body, or to a division within...

 as Christianity had earlier. During this time, nearly 30 percent of believers left the Mariavite Church and converted back to Roman Catholicism.

After the division in 1935

Archbishop Kowalski withdrew from Płock to Felicjanów
Felicjanów may refer to the following places:*Felicjanów, Łódź East County in Łódź Voivodeship *Felicjanów, Poddębice County in Łódź Voivodeship *Felicjanów, Płock County in Masovian Voivodeship...

 with his followers. This village is the headquarters of the Catholic Church of the Mariavites, which has about 3,000 believers. The denomination confirmed all the decisions of Archbishop Kowalski and introduced the public cult of Feliksa Kozłowska, the Mateczka, the Spouse of Christ and new Redemptrix of the world. Its doctrine is removed from the Roman Catholic doctrine which the foundress originally espoused. The church is insular and does not participate in the ecumenical movement. Archbishop Kowalski died during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in the concentration camp at Dachau. His successor was his wife, Bishop Izabela Wiłucka. From 1946-2005, the head of the Church was Bishop Józef Maria Rafael Wojciechowski
Józef Wojciechowski
Józef Wojciechowski - Polish developer, owner of J.W. Construction Holding S.A., and Polonia Warsaw football club.On 28 May 2010 Wojciechowski was reported to be interested in taking over control of English League Championship side Leicester City F.C. from Milan Mandaric.-References:...

. He was succeeded in 2005 by Bishopess Maria Beatrycze Szulgowicz.

Bishop Feldman led an opposition that attracted the majority of Mariavite believers. They decided to reverse most of the innovations which Kowalski had introduced, and to return to the original ideas and rules from before the death of Kozłowska. This branch of the Mariavite Church, called the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites, is the larger one; it has around 25,000 believers in Poland and 5,000 in France (mostly Paris). A major problem shared by both churches is the lack of clergy, as most of the priests are aged and young people have not entered the seminary in sufficient number to replace them. The Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites started many activities in the post-war ecumenical movement. Together with other churches, it has established the Polish Ecumenical Council
Polish Ecumenical Council
Polish Ecumenical Council founded in 1946 to promote interchurch cooperation includes nearly all churches except the Polish Catholic Church. In 1989 member churches included the Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Reformed, and Old Catholic...

. It renewed its contacts with other Old Catholic churches.

Relations between Mariavites and Roman Catholics

Since the 1970s the Roman Catholic and Old Catholic Mariavite churches have worked at reconciliation. The Polish bishops apologized for the problems that had engendered the beginnings of the Mariavite movement. Also their attitude toward Kozłowska changed, and they affirmed she was a woman of great piety and religiosity. In 1972 the Jesuit
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 priest Stanisław Bajko, the secretary of the Polish Episcopate Commission for Ecumenism, did theological research on the revelations of Kozłowska. He did not find any traces of discordance with Roman Catholic doctrine. The Mariavites were pleased that the Holy See recognised as true the revelation of Faustina Kowalska
Mary Faustina Kowalska
Maria Faustina Kowalska, commonly known as Saint Faustina, born Helenka Kowalska was a Polish nun, mystic and visionary...

 about the Lord's Grace. They said nota bene took place in Płock, which was for the Mariavites a clear sign that God has repeated this message to the people.

The influence of Kozłowska was seen to be too strong; this is why she was the victim of harsh attacks (called often the incarnation of a devil
The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

, as in the satiric article "Where the devil cannot go, there he will send a woman" from 1906). Her activities had begun to be criticized by the bishop of Płock as early as 1897. The strongest point of this accusation was that she was treated by many Mariavites as a living saint. She was treated by Mariavites as a very good and pious person before the condemnation of the pope, but this situation was not unique in Christian history. Archbishop Kowalski used a hagiographical
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 style in calling her "the embodyment of the Holy Spirit on earth" in his writings.

In 1903 the Archbishop of the Warsaw diocese forbade laypeople from observing some otherwise approved devotions of the Roman Catholic rite (e.g. the Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Perpetual Help of Our Lady), which were considered most important by the Mariavite faction. He called their devotion to these "excessive" and unnecessary.

As the movement became more visible, it attracted critics. The newspapers were publishing a number of satiric articles and the cabarets were laughing at the Mariavites in their songs and plays. This led to the more violent acts against the Mariavite churches and chapels. The most difficult year was 1906, when in a few places riots and the murder of Mariavites took place. They were generally connected with the problem of ownership, because in many places Mariavite priests with the majority of believers of the parishes wanted to take over the churches, which in many cases the Mariavite believers had built, while according to the law, they were confiscated and claimed to belong to the Catholic Church.

The Church struggled during the inter-war period after Poland regained its independence. Mariavites were discriminated against, and there were "Mariavite pogrom
A pogrom is a form of violent riot, a mob attack directed against a minority group, and characterized by killings and destruction of their homes and properties, businesses, and religious centres...

s". In these days the leaders of the Mariavite Church were very often sued in court. Archbishop Kowalski had to appear in front of the tribunal in 20 cases; he was accused for blasphemies
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

 against God, the Bible, the Church, and the Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

s, betrayal of the country (implicit treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

), of socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

, communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, theft, frauds, lies, etc. In the most important process, he was blamed for sexual abuse
Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is the forcing of undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or molester...

s that had taken place in the Płock cloister. In 1931 he was found guilty and finally sent for two years to prison between 1936 and 1938. The press published articles demanding the criminalization of the Mariavite Church.

Because they had been recognized by the Tsarist authorities, the Mariavites were criticized as pro-Russian and pro-socialist, and suggested as collaborators with the occupiers. The very early Mariavites became aware of the problems among the workers, and they directed many social activities based on their interpretation of Christianity. For many Poles, "Polishness" was strongly connected with the Roman Catholic faith. Rejection of the faith was equivalent with rejection of nationality.

The history of relations between the Mariavites and Roman Catholics could be divided into two periods. The first was when the Mariavite Church was emerging and forming its institutional shape. This period was full of mutual distrust, suspicions and insults. The worst time was between 1906 and 1911, shortly after separation of the Mariavites, and between 1923 and 1937, when Polish nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 was ardent.

The second was the post-World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 period, which was affected by two events: the oppression of all churches under decades of Communist rule in Poland, and the changes introduced by Vatican II. Those circumstances led to the opening of dialogue and closer connections between Christian denominations. The progress in ecumenical reconciliation between the Old Catholic Mariavite Church and Catholic Church in Poland is now underway. (However, the Felicjanów denomination rejects any possibility of the rapprochement with Catholics.)

The papal residence and observatory at Castel Gandolfo
Castel Gandolfo
Castel Gandolfo is a small Italian town or comune in Lazio that occupies a height overlooking Lake Albano about 15 miles south-east of Rome, on the Alban Hills. It is best known as the summer residence of the Pope. It is an Italian town with the population of 8834...

 has been a site of ecumenical activities. In the 1980s observations at Castel Gandolfo were led by Rev. Konrad Maria Pawel Rudnicki, a Polish astronomer who was also a priest and professor of the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites.

Mariavite Old Catholic Church – Province of North America

The third Mariavite group was the Mariavite Old Catholic Church – Province of North America, under the direction of Archbishop Robert R. Zaborowski(1949–2010), based in Wyandotte, Michigan
Wyandotte, Michigan
Wyandotte is a city in Wayne County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 25,883 at the 2010 census, a decrease of 7.6% from 2000. Wyandotte is located in southeastern Michigan, approximately south of Detroit on the Detroit River, and is part of the collection of communities known as...

. The Old Catholic Mariavite Church in Europe contends that it had no official presence in North America. The American branch had existed since 1930. The Church in Poland has had no official contacts with it since the death of Bishop Prochniewski. The Province in North America was an autonomous body. Bishop Zaborowski died in November of 2010.

Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites

  • Jan Maria Michał Kowalski (1907–1935)
  • Klemens Maria Filip Feldmann (1935–1942)
  • Roman Maria Jakub Próchniewski (1945–1953)
  • Wacław Maria Bartłomiej Przysiecki (1953–1957)
  • Jan Maria Michał Sitek (1957–1965)
  • Wacław Maria Innocenty Gołębiowski (1965–1972)
  • Stanisław Maria Tymoteusz Kowalski (1972–1997)
  • Ździsław Maria Włodzimierz Jaworski (1997–2007)
  • Michał Maria Ludwik Jabłoński (2007– )

  • three diocese
    A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

    s with 38 parishes:
    • Warsaw-Płock diocese with bishop in Płock
    • Podlasie-Lublin diocese with bishop in Cegłów near Siedlce
      Siedlce ) is a city in eastern Poland with 77,392 inhabitants . Situated in the Masovian Voivodeship , previously the city was the capital of a separate Siedlce Voivodeship ....

    • Silesia-Łódź diocese with bishop in Łódź
    • the French Province since 1988

Official site

Catholic Church of the Mariavites (Felicjanów Group)

  • Jan Maria Michał Kowalski (1935–1942 died in Dachau)
  • Antonina Maria Izabella Wiłucka-Kowalska (1940–1946)
  • Józef Maria Rafael Joseph Eugen Wojciechowski (04.10.1949–2005)*
Konsekrator Maria Paulus Norbert Maas 25.11.1956 Felicjanow
at the same day Rafael consecrated Maria Natanael Colacik Felicjanow
  • Beatrycze Szulgowicz (2005– )

  • two custodies with 16 parishes

Order of the Mariavite Church in Germany – exterritorial jurisdiction

This jurisdiction is not yet recognized by the contemporary leaders of Płock and Felicjanow in spite of one of its past leader's (Archbishop Maas) efforts to unify all sections into one church again by returning the ashes of church founder Kowalski to Płock – which brought back the church's roots to Płock – and by consecrating bishop Józef Maria Rafael Joseph Eugen Wojciechowski – which brought back the apostolic succession to Felicjanow.

Apostolic succession
  • Maria Marc Paulus Fatome (1938–1951)
consecrated by Jan Maria Michaeł Kowalski 4 September 1938 Felicjanow, Poland
  • Maria Paulus Norbert Maas (1951–1988)
consecrated by Maria Marc Paulus Fatôme 9 October 1949 Mannheim, Germany
  • Norbert Udo Maria Szuwart (1988–
consecrated by Maria Paulus Norbert Maas 31 October 1987 Cologne, Germany
elected as archbishop, coadjutor and successor by Maria Paulus Norbert Maas 8 December 1988

Mariavite Old Catholic Church – Province of North America
  • Francis Ignatius Maria Boryszewski (1930–1975)

Consecrated by Jacob Maria Roman Prochniewski 2, February, 1930
  • Robert Ronald John Maria Zaborowski (1972–2010)

Consecrated by Francis Ignatius Maria Boryszewski 28, January, 1972


  • Peterkiewicz, J. The Third Adam, London: Oxford University Press, 1975. A book which specifically relates to the period following the death of the foundress to the deposition of Kowalski from office in 1935.

  • Pruter, Karl
    Karl Pruter
    Karl Hugo Prüter , was an Old Catholic bishop.Pruter was raised in the Lutheran church, and was a Congregationalist minister under the name of Hugo Rehling Pruter Sr. from 1945 to 1958. In the Congregationalist Church he was one of the leaders in the liturgical movement within the church during the...

    and J. Gordon Melton. The Old Catholic Sourcebook, New York: Garland Publishers, 1983.

External links

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