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The Margaret O'Gara Ecumenical Dialogue Collection
La collection de dialogues œcuméniques Margaret O'Gara
Online resource centre for Canadian bilateral ecumenical dialogues
Centre de ressources pour les dialogues œcuméniques bilatéraux canadiens
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Polish National Catholic-Roman Catholic

Compiled by Sr. Donna Geernaert, sc

The Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) was founded in 1897 as a result of a series of administrative disputes between Polish-American Catholic parishes and local Catholic (German and Irish) bishops of the time. The PNCC was a member of the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht since 1907 but broke with them in 1996 after Old Catholic Churches in Germany and Austria ordained women priests. In 1998, the Canadian Diocese of the Polish National Catholic Church became an autonomous Church, assuming responsibility for its own administrative affairs.

In November 2000, Msgr. Ante Nikolic, Administrator of the Polish National Catholic Church of Canada, met with the CCCB General Secretary and Director of Ecumenism to discuss the development of a dialogue with the Canadian Bishops’ Conference. This request was discussed by the Ecumenism Commission and it was agreed that a meeting with representatives of the PNCC could be held in June 2001. It was also agreed that the Commission’s letter of invitation would include the text of the profession of faith to assist in identifying the focus of the dialogue.

The PNCC in Canada is seeking corporate reunion. Thus, the question is rightly located with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. This makes the request for dialogue quite unique and a matter to be seriously considered. The PNCC Synod, by formal decision, has voted to begin dialogue with a view to corporate reunion. In addition, the PNCC uses liturgical books approved by the Holy See and follows canonical procedures as far as possible. The Church is small, between five and six thousand members. There are 8 parishes and 4 missions in four provinces. There are 9 priests, 5 of whom are former Roman Catholics. Some of these were ordained in Poland. There may be some canonically irregular situations. Because this is a request for corporate reunion, the Holy See may be willing to accept some temporary canonical anomalies as long as the Constitution makes it clear that these will not continue. Yet, the process is not likely to be easy and the Vatican may wish to make decisions on a case by case basis. Perhaps it could be suggested that once negotiations are initiated, it is important to keep the situation basically unchanged until some canonical resolution has been achieved.

It seemed clear that the issues to be resolved were not matters of faith but of discipline. It was agreed that a letter should be sent to Cardinal Kasper to inform him of the conversation which had taken place and to seek his advice on further action. CCCB staff agreed to draft a letter and check with Msgr. Nikolic before asking CCCB President, Bishop Gerald Wiesner, to sign it.

In January 2002, members of the CCCB’s Ecumenism Commission reviewed the conversation with the PNCC, affirmed that the issues to be resolved are not matters of faith but of discipline, and agreed to continue monitoring the dialogue. While the PNCC of Canada is small, a successful outcome to this request for corporate reunion would be a concrete achievement in the current search for Christian unity.

In its current report on dialogues, the CCCB identifies dialogue with the PNCC as founded in 1984 (probably the US dialogue) and names Rev. Marian Gil, OMI, as its representative. A specific dialogue with the PNCC in Canada does not seem to have been continued.