Could there be peace between Calvinists, Catholics, and Lutherans? With a struggle tearing Europe apart, King Ladislaus IV of Poland hoped so. The Reformation had invaded his nation, resulting in factions. Religious differences weakened Poland.
Any weakness was dangerous, because Poland in those years fought war after war against the Swedes, the Russians, and the Ottoman Turks. The last thing the country needed was internal strife, too. But that is what it had, and Ladislaus had to struggle with his own people.
On this day, August 28, 1645, the beleaguered king convened a religious conference at Torun (Thorn). The city was historic. Founded by Teutonic Knights in 1231, it became the birthplace of one of Poland's most famous sons (Nicolas Copernicus). At Torun, peace had been signed between the Teutonic Knights and Poland in the fifteenth century, and it became an important city in the Hanseatic league (a military and trade alliance among northern Germanic people).
Now 26 Catholic, 28 Lutheran and 24 Calvinist theologians attended meetings there, meetings which were optimistically called the "Colloquium charitativum" ("brotherly conversation"). Among those who attended were notable men such as the Moravian educator John Amos Comenius and the Lutheran peacemaker George Calixtus. Calixtus had already engaged in dialog with Catholics at Mainz. So strongly did he desire peace, that he was even willing to acknowledge that the pope (whom Luther had called antichrist) was the supreme head of the church, as long as it was understood that his supremacy was the result of human arrangements, not a God-ordained appointment.
Like Calixtus, Ladislaus hoped for reunion of the church, but his wish was doomed to disappointment. Most of the delegates only wanted to show how wrong each of the other doctrinal positions was. Discussion continued until November, but by then it was apparent that no progress could be made. Reconciliation was out. On November 21, 1645, the negotiations ended.
Three years later, Ladislaus died. He had failed in his efforts to control his nobles (who sided with different religious factions). And at the time of his death, Poland was facing yet another woe: the Cossacks of the Ukraine region were in revolt.
- Peterse, Hans. "Irenics and Tolerance in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries ." http://www.lwl.org/westfaelischer-friede/ wfe-t/wfe-txt1-28.htm
- Various encyclopedia and internet articles.
Last updated July, 2007