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Polish Modus vivendi (1950) : Text Polish Modus vivendi (1950) : Text

This was the first agreement between the Vatican and a Communist state. Never published in the official gazette, this pragmatic arrangement was meant to grant secret concessions on both sides in order to set no precedent. In return for supporting the Polish Communists (and preventing disturbances that could bring in Russian tanks), the state permitted the Church to retain more influence than in other Communist countries.

 The Polish government had cause for concern: would the Polish Catholic Church support the country's territorial integrity or take the Vatican line? At stake were the newly-acquired "Recovered Lands" forming Poland's new western border. These had been given to it after World War II in compensation for its eastern territory which had been taken by the USSR. Effectively the Great Powers had shoved whole country westwards and now Poland, still reeling from that, felt threatened again.

On March 1, 1949, Pope Pius XII sent a letter to the German Episcopate announcing that the transfer of German territory in the East to Poland was still an open issue. This again worsened the relations between state and church. The decree of the Holy Office of July 13, 1949, that anathematised Roman Catholics who collaborated with the Communist authorities did not help the situation. The state authorities began to slander the clergy and expelled some bishops from their dioceses. The work of church schools and associations was restricted, and the Catholic press and publications were censored. [...] Monastic hospitals were nationalised, pro-church political groups were dissolved, and the church's ability to administer its institutions was impaired.*

In 1950 this Modus vivendi was signed to try to patch up church-state relations. The Church promised to support the Communist Government: "to teach the faithful [...] respect for the law and state authorities" (§1), "to exhort the faithful to work harder" (§2) and (obliquely) to oppose the pro-German Pope Pius XII's wish to give the "Recovered Lands" back to Germany (§3-5).

The Supplementary Protocol expropriates Polish Church lands, but offers compensation from the "Church Fund". The vague promise to "consider the requirements" of the Polish Church meant in practice allowing it to continue using the churches and elastic clauses (§2.3 and §7.1) let the Church quietly take back some of the property which had been loudly nationalised less than a month before.

* Source: Bernard A. Cook, Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia, 2001, pp. 1011-2

Agreement between Government of the Republic of Poland and Episcopate of Poland  

14 April 1950

[Abrogated on 9 February 1953 by a Government Decree

 In order to guarantee to the Nation, the Republic of Poland and its citizens, the best opportunities to develop and and comprehensive and peaceful work — the Government of the Republic of Poland, based firmly on respect for religious freedom, and the Episcopate of Poland, which takes into account the interest of the Church and the current Polish national interest, regulate their relationship as follows:
1.  The Episcopate will call upon the clergy to teach the faithful, in their pastoral work and in accordance with the Catholic doctrine, respect for the law and state authorities.
2.  The Episcopate will call upon the clergy to exhort the faithful to work harder to rebuild the country and increase the Nation’s prosperity.

3.  The Episcopate of Poland states that economic, historical, cultural, religious laws, as well as historical justice, require that the Recovered Lands shall belong to Poland forever. On the basis that the Recovered Lands are an inherent part of the Republic of Poland, the Episcopate will ask the Holy See to change the status of residual bishoprics into permanent episcopal ordinariates [dioceses].

4.  The Episcopate will, as far as possible, oppose activities hostile to Poland, particularly the anti-Polish and revisionist declarations by some German clergy.

5.  The rule that the Pope is a competent and the highest authority of the Church concerning matters of faith, morality and the Church's jurisdiction. In other matters for the Episcopate, it is guided by the Polish national interest.

6.  On the basis that the Church mission can be carried out in various socio-economic systems, established by the secular authorities, the Episcopate will instruct the clergy not to oppose the development of cooperative movements in the rural regions, because any cooperative movement is, by its very nature, based on the ethical assumption of human nature, striving for the voluntary social solidarity with the aim of the common good.

7.  The Church — in accordance with its principles — whilst condemning all anti-state manifestations, will especially oppose the misuse of religious feelings for anti-state purposes.

8.  The Catholic Church, whilst, in accordance with its principles, condemning every crime, will also oppose the criminal activity of underground resistance groups and will denounce and punish by canonical consequences all clergymen guilty of participating in any clandestine or anti-state activity.

9.  The Episcopate, in accordance with the doctrine of the Church, will support all efforts aimed at securing peace and will oppose, within its limitations, all attempts to provoke war.

10.  Teaching of religion in the schools.

a. The government does not intend to limit the current programme of teaching religion in the schools; programmes for teaching religion will be prepared by school authorities together with representatives of the Episcopate; schools will be equipped with proper textbooks; teachers of religion, both secular and clerical, will be treated equally with teachers of other subjects; school authorities will appoint inspectors for the teaching of religion in cooperation with the Episcopate.

b. The authorities will not put any obstacles in the way of pupils’ participation in religious practices outside of school. Supplement. There will be a Holy Mass conducted for pupils on Sundays and religious holidays and at the beginning and end of the school year; to pupils applying to participate in retreats and Holy Communion, school authorities will grant  —  during the Lenten or Easter season  —  three days free of classes; school authorities will determine the hours for the schoolchildren applying for confirmation during episcopal visitation; school authorities will not put obstacles in the way of pupils wishing to say prayers before and after classes.

c. Existing Catholic schools will be retained, while the Government observes whether they loyally carry out the regulations and programme determined by the state authorities.

d. Schools run by the Catholic Church will be permitted to enjoy the same rights as public-sector schools on the basis of general principles determined by appropriate acts and regulations of education authorities. In case of the founding or alteration of a normal school into a school without religious education Catholic parents, if they so wish, will have the right and opportunity to send their children to schools where religion is taught.

11.  The Catholic University of Lublin will be permitted to retain its present extent.

12.  Catholic associations will enjoy their current rights if they fulfil the requirements of the decree about forming associations. The same rules apply to Marian associations.

13.  The Church will have the right and opportunity to pursue charitable and catechetical initiatives, within the limits of the regulations in force.

14.  The Catholic press and publishing houses will enjoy rights determined by appropriate acts and regulations set by the authorities, similar to other publishing houses.

15.  Public worship, traditional pilgrimages and processions will meet with no obstacles. For the sake of public order, the Church authorities will reach agreement on these events in advance with the administrative authorities.

16.  Military chaplaincies will be regulated by a special statute developed by military authorities in cooperation with representatives of the Episcopate.

17.  Chaplains appointed by the appropriate authorities will, at the request of an Ordinary [bishop], undertake pastoral care in penitentiaries. Supplement. Holy Mass, homily, confession and Holy Communion will take place on Sundays and religious holidays.

18.  Pastoral care of those patients, who so wish, in state and local hospitals, will be assumed by hospital chaplains, paid according to special agreements. Supplement. There will be appointed an appropriate number of chaplains to meet the needs of patients; there will be a duty-room reserved for the chaplain; the chaplain will have the opportunity to visit patients.

19.  Convents and monastic congregations will have complete freedom of activity, within the bounds of their vocation and the laws currently in force.

Protocol of the Common Commission of the Government of the Republic of Poland and the Episopate of Poland concerning the approved agreement

1. In accordance with the agreement between representatives of the Government of the Republic of Poland and the Episcopate of Poland in respect of the activities of Caritas and in order to normalise the relationship between the State and the Church, the Church organisation Caritas is being transformed into the Catholic Association with the mission to provide support for the poor and those in need. The Association, through its activity in divisions corresponding to the administrative division of the country. [Defective in the original.] The Episcopate - in accordance with the charitable principles of the Association - will allow, within the boundaries and the practice of the Catholic Church, the participation of those clergymen who wish to work for that Association. Annex. In regard to the ownership of the Church properties used by Caritas, the Government will consider the possibility of restitution of the loses through compensation from the Church Fund or by granting the ownership [of the properties] to the Church while guaranteeing the right to use them by the Caritas Association.

2. The Government of the Republic of Poland in the implementation of the act [of 20 March 1950] "On takeover by the State of the mortmain properties" in accordance with Article 2.3 and Article 7.1 of that statute, [see endnote] will consider the requirements of the Bishops and Church institutions in order to acknowledge these needs and aid them. 

a.  Ordinaries will retain gardens and agricultural holdings up to 50 hectares and any livestock.

b.  Also the seminaries will retain gardens and agricultural holdings up to 50 hectares and any livestock.

c.  Residential properties with lands up to 5 hectares, adjacent to the premises of monasteries, and livestock, both live and slaughtered, kept for use at these properties, as well as any outbuildings on those holdings, will not be taken over by the State.

The Church Fund will put appropriate sums at the disposal of the Diocesan Ordinaries. In applying the statute on [compulsory] military service, military authorities will use postponements for seminarians in order to let them finish their studies, and priests after the ordination and friars after taking vows, will not be called to active military service, but will be allocated to the reserve to be deployed in the support services.

Public Administration Minister — Wladyslaw Wolski

Deputy Minister of National Defence — Edward Ochab

MP for the enactment of legislation — Franciszek Mazur

Secretary of the Episcopate — Bishop Z. Choromanski

The Plock Diocesian Ordinary — Bp T. Zakrzewski

The Lodz Diocesian Ordinary — Bp Michal Klepacz

Published in 1989 nr 17, s. 28-31. [This is the only attribution given for the Polish original on the website, Non Possumus! which is operated "jointly with the Institute of Primate Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski".]



Note on the Act cited in §2 of the (Supplementary) Protocol:

On the takeover by the State of the mortmain properties, warranty of agricultural holdings for parish priests and establishing the Church Fund

This is from the original (1950) version of the Act at

There were several amendments to this Act, the most significant in 1990 which increased the ability of the Church Fund to endow the Church:

The current (2007) version of the Act is here:


Porozumienie zawarte między przedstawicielami Rządu Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej i Episkopatu Polski, 14 kwietnia 1950 roku, Kraków.
(The text was first published in 1989, after the fall of Communism.)

Translated by Renata Anderson

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