Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Warmia

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Archdiocese of Warmia

Archidioecesis Varmiensis

Archidiecezja warmińska
Erzdiözese Ermland
Frombork Cathedral, with Vistula Lagoon in background.
Country Poland
Ecclesiastical province Province of Warmia
Area 12,000 km2 (4,600 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
693,000 (97.6%)
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Latin Rite
Established 13th Century
(As Diocese of Warmia)
25 March 1992
(As Archdiocese of Warmia)
Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Frombork
Co-cathedral Basilica of Saint James the Apostle in Olsztyn
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Metropolitan Archbishop Wojciech Ziemba,
Archbishop of Warmia
Coadjutor Józef Górzyński
Emeritus Bishops Edmund Michał Piszcz,
Archbishop Emeritus of Warmia
Julian Andrzej Wojtkowski,
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Warmia

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Warmia (Polish: Archidiecezja warmińska, German: Erzdiözese Ermland) is an archdiocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. About 29.4% of its population went to church at least once per week in 2013.

The Archdiocese contains a population of around 700,000. The archbishop has two seats: one is located in the town of Frombork and the other in the city of Olsztyn.

The current Archbishop is Wojciech Ziemba, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.


Founded as the Diocese of Ermland on 29 July 1243, it was one of the four bishoprics of the State of the Teutonic Order in Prussia. The first bishop Heinrich von Strateich never actually took his office. His successor Anselm of Meissen, officiating between 1250 and 1274, became the first bishop active in Ermland. In 1253, after Albert Suerbeer finally achieved his long disputed investiture with the newly elevated Archbishopric of Riga, Ermland - like a number of other Baltic dioceses - became Riga's suffragan. Ermland's first bishops were appointed by Polish and Teutonic Knights' officials and were mostly Germans, however, unlike the other Prussian bishoprics (Culm, Pomesania, and Samland), Ermland's diocesan chapter, established in 1260, maintained independence. Its members were not simultaneously members of the Teutonic Order, as was the case in the other Prussian chapters since the 1280s. Thus the chapter could repel influencing by outside powers.

In 1356 the Golden Bull of Emperor Charles IV designated the bishop as Prince-Bishop of Ermland, a rank not awarded to the other Prussian bishops with their dependent chapters. By the double function of prince-bishops they officiated as spiritual leader in the diocese and as secular prince in the Prince-Bishopric of Ermland (Warmia), a semi-independent state comprising about a third of the actual diocesan territory, first as part of Teutonic Prussia, since 1466 within Royal Prussia - a personal union with the Polish crown. So when King Casimir IV attempted to reduce the prince-episcopal independence this caused the War of the Priests.

Prince-Bishop Lucas Watzenrode, officiating between 1489 and 1512, aimed at Ermland's exemption (in Polish) from Riga in order to establish a Warmian metropolis, comprising the dioceses within Teutonic Prussia as suffragans. The plans failed, but Watzenrode reclaimed the exemption after ca. 1492. In the Second Treaty of Piotrków Trybunalski (December 7, 1512) Ermland/Warmia conceded to King Alexander Jagiellon a limited right to propose four candidates to the chapter for the election, who however had to be native Prussians.

Under Watzenrode's successors changing suffraganship from Riga to Gniezno did not materialise. The diocese de jure remained a suffragan of Riga until its dissolution in 1566. Thereafter Ermland was an exempt diocese.

In 1569 Royal Prussia joined the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In this period the chapter mostly elected bishops of Polish nationality. The faithful in the northern part of the diocese were by large majority ethnic Germans. Following King Sigismund III's Prussian regency contract (1605) with Joachim Frederick of Brandenburg, and his Prussian enfeoffment contract (1611) with John Sigismund of Brandenburg these two rulers guaranteed free practice of Catholic religion in all of prevailingly Lutheran Ducal Prussia. In practice, however, the ducal government obstructed Catholic exercise in many ways.

But based on these contracts the prince-bishops gradually extended their de facto competence beyond the territory of their proper prince-bishopric of secular rule. As a result the see regained jurisdiction in the two thirds of its diocesan territory outside its secular prince-bishopric and beyond into the diocesan areas of the dissolved former neighbour dioceses such as Samland and Pomesania, and Ermland became the diocese competent for all of Ducal Prussia. This development was recognised by the Holy See in 1617 by de jure extending Ermland's jurisdiction over Samland's former diocesan territory. After the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Warmia (Ermland) was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia, forming part of its region of East Prussia.

By the bull De salute animum (July 16, 1820) the Catholic Church in Prussia was reorganised. However, the diocesan territory was not adapted to the new provincial borders established in 1815. Since most inhabitants of East Prussia had become Lutherans, the diocesan territories of the former bishoprics of Pomesania (partially) and Samland with its few remaining Catholics were part of the Diocese of Ermland, thus territorially comprising all of the Prussian province of East Prussia except the southwestern corner (main part of Pomesania diocese around Marienwerder (Kwidzyn), which had become the Deanery of Pomesania within Culm diocese). In 1901, the total population in the area of the diocese was about 2,000,000, among them 327,567 Catholics.

On 28 October 1925 the Holy See - by the Bull Vixdum Poloniae unitas - seceded the Pomesania deanery from the Diocese of Culm and assigned it to Ermland,[1] while Memelland was dissected from the diocese, so that it territorially comprised all the Prussian province of East Prussia in its altered borders of 1922. In 1930 the diocesan exemption ended and Ermland, then led by Bishop Maximilian Kaller, became part of the Eastern German Ecclesiastical Province (German: Ostdeutsche Kirchenprovinz) under the newly elevated Archdiocese of Breslau (Wrocław).

After the annexation of southern East Prussia, including much of the diocesan territory, by the People's Republic of Poland, Bishop Kaller resigned from jurisdiction in the Polish-held diocesan area, retaining the title bishop, and was expelled by Polish authorities in mid-August 1945. Pope Pius XII then appointed him the "Bishop of the Expellees". The diocese was then claimed by the Polish Catholic Church, supported by the communist state's annexation of the area. August Hlond had appointed Teodor Bensch as Apostolic Administrator superseding the still existing capitular canons, who otherwise could have elected a new bishop candidate. The Holy See, however, regarded the post-war territorial changes not yet contractually confirmed. So the see with its traditional cathedral in Frombork remained vacant after Kaller's death.

In 1972 - in response to West Germany's change in Ostpolitik with the Treaty of Warsaw - the Holy See re-established a new Polish Diocese appointing Józef Drzazga, who was then a suffragan to the Archdiocese of Warsaw. Drzazga relocated the actual see to Olsztyn.

On 25 March 1992 Warmia was elevated to a metropolitan archdiocese and given two new suffragans, the Diocese of Ełk and the Diocese of Elbląg.[2] The Diocese of Ełk comprised territory taken from the dioceses of Warmia and Łomża. The Diocese of Elbląg comprised territory taken from Warmia and the former dioceses of Culm (now Diocese of Pelplin) and Gdańsk (now Archdiocese of Gdańsk).

Today the see comprises an area of 12,000 km² with 703,000 Catholics, 33 deans, 253 church districts, 446 diocese priests, 117 order priests, and 231 order nuns.


The following is a list of the bishops and archbishops since the episcopal see was re-established in 1972. For earlier bishops and prince-bishops, see List of bishops of Warmia.

Bishops of Warmia[3]
Period of office Incumbent Notes
1972 to 1978 Józef Drzazga Formerly an Auxiliary Bishop of Warmia (1967–1972); appointed Diocesan Bishop of Warmia 28 June 1972; died in office 12 September 1978
1979 to 1981 Józef Glemp Appointed Diocesan Bishop of Warmia 4 March 1979 and ordained bishop 21 April 1979; appointed to the archdiocese of Gniezno 7 July 1981
1982 to 1988 Jan Władysław Obłąk Formerly an Auxiliary Bishop of Warmia (1967–1982); appointed Diocesan Bishop of Warmia 13 April 1982; retired in 1988; died 16 December 1988
1988 to 1992 Edmund Michał Piszcz Formerly Apostolic Administrator of Warmia (1985–1988); appointed Diocesan Bishop of Warmia 22 October 1988; appointed Archbishop of Warmia 25 March 1992
Archbishops of Warmia[3]
Period of office Incumbent Notes
1992 to 2006 Edmund Michał Piszcz Hitherto Bishop of Warmia; appointed Archbishop of Warmia 25 March 1992; retired 30 May 2006
2006 to Present Wojciech Ziemba Formerly Archbishop of Białystok (2000–2006); appointed Archbishop of Warmia 30 May 2006 and installed 11 June 2006

See also


  1. Cf. Barbara Wolf-Dahm (1994). "Rosentreter, Augustinus". In Bautz, Traugott (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 8. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 695–698. ISBN 3-88309-053-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  2. Osmańczyk, Edmund Jan (2003). Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-93921-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Archdiocese of Warmia. Catholic Hierarchy. Retrieved on 14 February 2010.

External links

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