• October 19, 2012
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Catholic Church in Vilnius: Vilnius bishopric (since 1925 archdiocese)

Fot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

Vilnius Catholic diocese was established from the initiative of  king Jogaila Algirdaitis by pope Urbanus IV (1318-1389) though Romanus pontifex papal edict (12 March 1388) as a bishopric making up the Gniezno Metropoly (until 1798) and then Mogilev Metropoly (until 1925).

The first Vilnius bishop was Andrzej of the Jastrzebiec family (?-1398), also known as Andrzej from Cracow, Andrzej the Pole, Andrzej Wasiło, the Polish Franciscan, the bishop of Siret, a diplomat, Elizabeth the Elbow-high’s confessor. The cathedral church was named after St. Stanislaw; in July 1392 bishop Andrzej crowned Jogaila the Grand Prince of Lithuania.

Initially, the bishopric was really big, as all Lithuanian lands belonged to it; another bishopric in Samogitia was established a bit later, on 27 October 1417, and the establishment was confirmed on 31 May 1421 by Martinus V’s (1368-1431) papal edict.

The Vilnius bishopric, as it has already been mentioned, was under the jurisdiction of the Gniezno Metropoly. Because of the size of the area (from Mazovia to Daugava and Dnieper) soon the bishops appointed three suffragans to help them. Since 1798 there had been four of them: in Vilnius, Trakai, Brest and Courland. In 1764 there was an idea to ask the pope to make Vilnius an archdiocese. Unfortunately, because of unfavourable domestic situation the idea failed. After the first partition of Poland a part of the diocese was taken by Russia.

A Vilnius bishop was the first person in Lithuanian senate, and his diocese was divided into 26 deaneries. Sigismund the Old, in a charter from 1508, decided that the general number of prelates and canons in Vilnius will be 18; there were 440 churches and altars. The chapter had a crest: three crowns; like the Cracow one, it chose as many as two deputies to the Lithuanian tribunal. The city of Vilnius itself had six parishes, and, aside from chapels, there were 22 churches.

When in 1772 a part of the Vilnius bishopric— the Daugava and Dnieper areas— went to Russia, the Czarina Catherine II in an edict from 14 December 1772 made a Belarusian bishopric out of these lands, changed in 1783 into the Mogilev archdiocese. In 1793 the annexed Minsk area was added to the archdiocese. In 1798, by the will of Czar Paul I, the papal nuncio, Laurentius Litta (1756-1820) who came to czar’s crowning ceremony from Rome, organised in the Minsk governorate the Minsk diocese, which existed until 1869. After 1847 the Vilnius diocese consisted of two governorates: the Vilnius one and Gardino one. In Vilnius one, there were 197 parishes; in Gardino one- 127.

The pope Pius XI (1876-1958) by his edict Vixdum Poloniae unitas from 28 October 1925 changed the Vilnius diocese into archdiocese, making Vilnius the seat of the Matropoly and making the Pinskensis and Lomzensis dioceses its subordinate ones. After the World War II, apostolic officials residing in Białystok administrated the Polish part of the diocese. In 1991 the Vilnius archdiocese returned to Lithuania. In Belarus, Gardino diocese was made of the areas once belonging to Vilnius archdiocese. In the same year Białystok diocese was made of the Białystok administrative area.

The Vilnius Curia consisted of the proper curia, which was a chancellery— the church court of justice (consistory)— and of a private court. The curia was an office of particular importance; without it, the bishops would not be able to administrate the diocese properly. It was in the curia where all the important clerical matters of the diocese were managed. In the Vilnius bishop curia of 15th-16th centuries there were the following offices: a chancellor, causarum auditor generali, a vicar general In spiritualibus, an official causarum procurator and a notary.

A chancellor was in charge of all administrative and judicial matters of the curia; therefore, this position demanded knowledge of the law, especially of the canonical law. A chancellor was not only a head of a chancellery, but also an actor and a judicial patron of the whole diocese. Under his jurisdiction there was the whole diocese, without the chapter, which had an exemption since 1520. On the behalf of a bishop, he could appoint incumbencies, call synods, send pastoral letters, give dispensation, confirm consistorial decisions, initiate court cases, inform judges, monitor church funds. A helper of a general chancellor was a general auditor, but usually Vilnius bishop chancellors were both, chancellors and auditors.

The second, after a chancellor, position in the curia belonged to an official, who was a clergyman managing the bishops’ court to judge culprits and appoint church censorships. An official’s jurisdiction was the same as bishop’s one: by a bishop’s decision, from the judicial point of view, a whole diocese was an official’s responsibility. Officials were appointing helpers- surrogatus. A causarum procurator also belonged to the church court. He was a spokesman of a party involved, the one that was questioned by the consistory. Usually such spokesmen were notaries or a priest from the chapter— public or clerical people. A chancellor usually would hire a writer, who would manage the documents.

During the times of the bishop Adalbert Radziwiłł (1478-1519) there appeared a new office in the bishops’ curia: a general vicar. General vicars, as bishops’ trusted men, in the behalf of their bishops and on their responsibility held their offices in dioceses until they were recalled. A general vicar’s powers were all administrative and judicial matters in the diocese, without the ones that a bishop reserved for himself. On the lower level of the chancellery there were notaries and writers, who were writing acts and letters; only clergymen (even those of lower ordination) who were allowed to be public notaries could be notaries in the curia.

Aside from the curia-chancellery, there also was, though without a public official character, the private bishops’ court in Vilnius. The court consisted of both, clergymen and laymen, and the people were chosen by bishops.

Vilnius chapter

The chapter was a council of experienced clergymen of the cathedral church, which was a bishop’s advisory body, and it was established in the middle of 1388 in Vilnius by Poznan bishop Dobrogost with the agreement of king Jogaila Algirdaitis and by pope Urban VI’s edict. It consisted of two levels of dignities: a parson, who was the second person in the office after the bishop, and of a dean, who had the right to appoint priests in the cathedral church. Besides, ten canon priests were supposed to belong to the chapter. The chapter’s notary was responsible for managing office matters, that is for creating documents and reports from the chapter’s meetings, and for writing letters. Chapter notaries appeared when it became popular to keep regular documentation of chapters, in which since 1502 protocols from meetings and decisions were noted down. In the chapter there was one more very important office- the one of a general procurator. His task was to manage the chapter’s real estate and chattel. He was to receive tribute and rent from chapter’s property, punish the ones who refused to or could not pay, and rebuild the chapter’s houses.

A procurator was usually one of the priests, who at the same time was monitoring the chapter’s treasury, opened, apart from sudden unexpected stations, only on the basis of the chapter’s general agreement. A procurator had to relate the state of the treasury to the chapter. The chapter’s archives, established soon after creation of the chapter itself in 1388 and supervised by a custodian prelate, were supposed to be a place of keeping the chapter’s charters. Original charters were kept there, given not only to the chapter, but also to the bishopric and the parish churches.

Bishops Ordinaries of the Vilnius diocese were: Andrzej Wasiło from Cracow (1386-1398), Jakub Plichta (1399-1407), Mikołaj from Gorzkowo (1408-1414), Piotr (1415-1421), Maciej from Trakai (1422-1453), Mikołaj Dzierżkowicz (1453-1467), Jan Łosowicz (468-1481), Andrzej Szeliga (1481-1491), Wojciech Tabor (1492-1507), Wojciech Radziwiłł (1507-1519), Jan of the Lithuanian princes (1519-1536), Paweł Algimunt Holszański (1536-1555), Walerian Protasewicz (1556-1579), Jerzy Radziwiłł (1579-1591), Bernard Maciejowski (1597-1598), Benedykt Woyna (1600-1615), Eustachy Wołłowicz (1616-1630), Abraham Woyna (1631-1649), Jerzy Tyszkiewicz (1649-1656), Jan Karol Dowgiałło (1656-1661), Jerzy Białłozor (1661-1665), Aleksander Sapieha (1667-1671), Mikołaj Stefan Pac (1682-1684), Aleksander Kotowicz (1685-1686), Konstanty Kazimierz Brzostowski (1687-1722), Maciej Józef Ancuta (1722-1723), Karol Piotr Pancerzyński (1724-1729), Mikołaj Jan Zienkowicz (1730-1762), Ignacy Jakub Massalski (1762-1794), Jan Nepomucen Kossakowski (1798-1808), Hieronim Strojnowski (1814-1815), the administrator of the diocese Stanisław Siestrzeńcewicz, the Mogilev metropolitan bishop (1816-1826), Andrzej Benedykt Kłągiewicz (1840-1841), the administrator of diocese Jan Cywiński (1842-1846) the suffragan bishop Wacław Zyliński (1848-1856), Adam Stanisław Krasiński (1858-1863 – on exile 1883), the administrator of the diocese Józef Bowkiewicz (1863-1866), Vilnius prelate; the aministrator of the diocese Piotr Żyliński (1867-1882) the infamous priest; Karol Hryniewiecki (1883-1889), Antoni Franciszek Audziewicz (1889-1895), Stefan Aleksander Zwierowicz (1897-1902), Edward von Ropp (1903-1917, w 1907 removed from the diocese), the administrator of the diocese Kazimierz Mikołaj Michalkiewicz (1908-1917), Jerzy Matulewicz (1918-1925), Jan Cieplak (1925-1926) the first archibishop; Romuald Jałbrzykowski (1925-1955, in Vilnius unti 1945), archibishop.

Source: http://kurierwilenski.lt/2012/10/19/kosciol-katolicki-w-wilnie-biskupstwo-wilenskie-od-1925-r-archidiecezja-1/

Tłumaczenie Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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