Organization of the Roman Catholic Church
Since the Middle Ages, the territory of Greater Poland had belonged to two ancient dioceses: Poznan and Gniezno. In 1821, after Congress of Vienna had resolved the frontiers within the divided Poland, the Pope adjusted the boundaries of the dioceses within the newly established regions. the Pope also adjusted the boundaries of those dioceses to the newly established situation. Two-third of the territory of the Province with around 300 parishes now belonged to the Archdiocese of Poznan (which also included the district of Walcz / Deutsch Krone in West Prussia). Those were in general the Western and Central districts of the Province. The Eastern part with about 200 parishes constituted the Archdiocese of Gniezno, now much smaller in comparison to its historical borders (also two adjacent parishes in West Prussia belonged there, though). Finally, nine parishes from the Northernmost portion of the District of Bydgoszcz belonged to the Diocese of Chelmno (German: Kulm). Those borders didn't change until 1925, when some adjustments were made along the newly set Polish-German frontier and about 25 parishes were cut off from Poznan and included into the Apostolic Prelature in Pila (Schneidemühl) which was subordinated to the Diocese of Berlin. On the other hand, ten parishes were then transfered from the Archdiocese of Wroclaw (Breslau) to Poznan as a small strip of Central Silesia became Polish. Also, two deanaries were exchanged between the Archdioceses of Poznan and Gniezno (in the Krotoszyn area).
The diocesan borders stabilized and the number of Catholic parishes were maintained throughout most of the 19th century. Prussian policies established shortly after 1821 suppressed the reestablishment of smaller parishes and the creation of new parishes in the developing urban areas. Several new parishes were established in the city of Poznan at the turn of the century. New parishes were established throughout the Province after each of the world wars (when the area was Polish). After WWII, the system of dioceses remained relatively unchanged, except that the former German area became part of the diocese of Zielona Góra. The diocese of Kalisz was established in 1992 and comprises the southern districts of the Province. Since most of the records had already been collected in the archives of Poznan and Gniezno prior to that date, the new diocese has not as yet established a separate archive.
Unlike the Roman Catholicism, the Lutheran church was supported by the Prussians as it was the official religion of the Crown - and professed by the majority of the German population of the Province. Due to the relative under-development of the Protestant communities in Greater Poland (Protestantism was during some periods banned or suppressed in the old Polish Commonwealth), many new churches were built and additional communities established during the first half of the 19th century. The number of Lutheran communities in the Province reached 300 at the beginning of World War I. This growth was fueled by the Prussian government's generous support of German (mostly Lutheran) colonization throughout the province which included building new churches.
In 1817, the Prussian King ordered a unification of the Protestant denominations into the 'United Evangelical Church' of which he became the Head. A few communities resisted the unification and were known as the 'Old Lutheran' or 'Reformed' churches. Interestingly, after WWI when the Province became Polish, the United Evangelical Church retained its strong ties to Germany and did not unify with the 'native' Polish Lutheran Church (its faithful being also usually of German descent). By 1920 the number of Lutheran communities in the Province diminished due to emigration to Germany. The 1920 emigration was by choice but the 1945 emigration was enforced - first by the Nazi authorities in Feb. 1945 and then by the victorious Allies and the Polish government. The two branches of the Lutheran church merged after 1945 and only a handful of Lutheran communities are active in Greater Poland today.
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