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The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, commonly known as the Polish Orthodox Church ("Polish: Polski Autokefaliczny Kościół Prawosławny), or (Orthodox) Church of Poland is one of the autocephalous "Eastern Orthodox Churches in full communion. The church was established in 1924, to accommodate Orthodox Christians of "Polish descent in the eastern part of the country, when Poland regained its independence after the "First World War.
In total, it has approximately 800,000 adherents.
The establishment of the church was undertaken after the "Treaty of Riga left a large amount of territory previously under the control of the "Russian Empire, as part of the "Second Polish Republic. Eastern Orthodoxy was widespread in the Belarusian "Western Belarus regions and the Ukrainian "Volhynia. The loss of ecclesiastical link due to the persecution of the "Russian Orthodox Church in the "Soviet Union, left the regional clergy in a crisis moment, and in 1924, the "Ecumenical Patriarchate took over establishing several autonomous churches on territories of the new states that were formerly wholly or partially part of the Russian Empire (Finland, the Baltic States, and Poland).
During the "interwar period, however, the Polish authorities imposed severe restrictions on the church and its clergy. The most famous example, the "Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Warsaw was destroyed. In Volyhnia a total of 190 Orthodox Churches were destroyed and a further 150 converted to "Roman Catholicism. Several court hearings against the "Pochayiv Lavra also took place.
After the "Second World War most of the ethnically Ukrainian and Belarusian territories were annexed by the "Soviet Union, holding up to 80% of the PAOC's parishes and congregation, which were united with the recently re-instated "Moscow Patriarchate. The remaining parishes that were now on the territory of the "Polish People's Republic were kept by the PAOC, including most of the mixed easternmost territories such as around Chełm and Białystok. In 1948, under pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate granted the PAOC "autocephalous status.
Although most of the congregation is historically centered in the Eastern borderland regions with considerable Belarusian and Ukrainian minorities, there are now many parishes across the country, as a result of "Operation Vistula and other diaspora movements. There are also some adherents in "Brazil, resulted from the 1989 canonical union between the hierarchy headed by Metropolitan Gabriel of "Lisbon, formerly under the "Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece, and the Polish Orthodox Church. The European bishops, however, have left the jurisdiction on 2000, which eventually resulted on senior Bishop "Chrysostom being raised to archepiscopal dignity. There are now parishes in the states of "Rio de Janeiro, "Pernambuco and "Paraíba, plus a monastery in "João Pessoa.
In 2003, following the decision of the Holy Sobor of Bishops of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the "New Martyrs of Chelm and Podlasie suffering persecution during the 1940s were canonized.
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