Europe

Polish leader hails shift to Christianity 1,050 years ago

  • The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, center, presides a Mass, as part of Poland’s celebration of 1,050 years of the nation’s Catholicism at the 10th-century cathedral in Gniezno, in western Poland, Thursday, 14 April 2016. Poland's bishops on Thursday opened religious and political celebrations that mark 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland with a debate on its significance for the nation.  The church and the conservative government jointly organized the three-day ceremonies that opened Thursday in the western town of Gniezno, considered to be the cradle of Poland's Catholicism.  (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

    The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, center, presides a Mass, as part of Poland’s celebration of 1,050 years of the nation’s Catholicism at the 10th-century cathedral in Gniezno, in western Poland, Thursday, 14 April 2016. Poland's bishops on Thursday opened religious and political celebrations that mark 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland with a debate on its significance for the nation. The church and the conservative government jointly organized the three-day ceremonies that opened Thursday in the western town of Gniezno, considered to be the cradle of Poland's Catholicism. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)  (The Associated Press)

  • Participants sit during a Mass held as part of Poland’s celebration of 1,050 years of the nation’s Catholicism at the 10th-century cathedral in Gniezno, in western Poland, on Thursday, 14 April 2016. Poland's bishops on Thursday opened religious and political celebrations that mark 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland with a debate on its significance for the nation.  The church and the conservative government jointly organized the three-day ceremonies that opened Thursday in the western town of Gniezno, considered to be the cradle of Poland's Catholicism. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

    Participants sit during a Mass held as part of Poland’s celebration of 1,050 years of the nation’s Catholicism at the 10th-century cathedral in Gniezno, in western Poland, on Thursday, 14 April 2016. Poland's bishops on Thursday opened religious and political celebrations that mark 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland with a debate on its significance for the nation. The church and the conservative government jointly organized the three-day ceremonies that opened Thursday in the western town of Gniezno, considered to be the cradle of Poland's Catholicism. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)  (The Associated Press)

  • Poland’s President Andrzej Duda,center, and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda attend a Mass as part of Poland’s celebration of 1,050 years of the nation’s Catholicism at the 10th-century cathedral in Gniezno, in western Poland, Thursday, 14 April 2016. Poland's bishops on Thursday opened religious and political celebrations that mark 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland with a debate on its significance for the nation.  The church and the conservative government jointly organized the three-day ceremonies that opened Thursday in the western town of Gniezno, considered to be the cradle of Poland's Catholicism. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

    Poland’s President Andrzej Duda,center, and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda attend a Mass as part of Poland’s celebration of 1,050 years of the nation’s Catholicism at the 10th-century cathedral in Gniezno, in western Poland, Thursday, 14 April 2016. Poland's bishops on Thursday opened religious and political celebrations that mark 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland with a debate on its significance for the nation. The church and the conservative government jointly organized the three-day ceremonies that opened Thursday in the western town of Gniezno, considered to be the cradle of Poland's Catholicism. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)  (The Associated Press)

Poland's president is leading formal celebrations marking the 1,050th anniversary of Christianity in Poland with a speech declaring the baptism of Poland's first king as the most important historical event in the nation's history.

President Andrzej Duda spoke Friday on the second of three days of fanfare marking the baptism in 966 of Mieszko I, Poland's first king. The event marks the birth of Polish statehood as well as the start of a centuries-long process of Christianization of formerly pagan tribes on Polish lands.

Duda, speaking to a joint gathering of both houses of parliament and bishops in the city of Poznan, says the baptism was a breakthrough for the nation because it brought it into the sphere of Western European civilization.