Basilians (Byzantine)

views updated


Within the Eastern Catholic Churches, there are five branches of the order of St. Basil the Great (OSBM, Official Catholic Directory #0180): Grottaferrata, in the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church; St. Josaphat, in the Ukrainian and Romanian Eastern Catholic Churches; and St. Saviour, St. John Baptist, and Aleppo, in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Each of these groups follows basically the rule of St. basil the Great.

Basil, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (modern Turkey), was the great legislator of Eastern monasticism. Beginning in 358, he composed a rule in two forms (a longer and a shorter series of articles) through which he became the founder of cenobitic monasticism. Although his teachings had their greater impact in the East, Basil exercised some influence also over the benedictine rule in the West. Characteristic of Basil's rule (or rules) was cenobitism (common life) in the strict sense, in contrast to the earlier eremitism of St. anthony of egypt and the mitigated cenobitism of St. pachomius. Another characteristic was the addition of social activity to the customary monastic prayer and work. Specifically, Basil recommended the founding of schools for boys. Basil's rule was further determined, in the late 8th century, by the typikon (constitutions) of (St.) theodore the stu dite at studion, the famous monastery in Constantinople. In this later form the rule was adopted by the monasteries of the Byzantine Empire, including the great laura on Mount athos founded in the 10th century by (St.) athanasius the athonite.

Basilian Order of Grottaferrata. In the 7th and 8th centuries monasteries following the Basilian rule were founded in southern Italy and Sicily by Greek monks who fled from their native countries during the persecutions arising out of iconoclasm. In the 10th century (St.) nilus of rossano established the Greek monastery of grot taferrata outside Rome. Many other monasteries were erected in Italy in the 11th century under the Norman regime. The rule of St. Basil was adopted also in Spain in the 16th century at a monastery in the Diocese of Jaén, upon the advice of Bp. Diego Tavera. The man designated to be the first superior, Bernardo de la Cruz, went to Grottaferrata where he made his profession. Pius IV then created (1561) the Spanish congregation, a Basilian group in the Latin Church. Not long afterward Gregory XIII first united all the Greek monasteries in Italy into one congregation and then, by the bull Benedictus Dominus (Nov. 1, 1579), erected the Italo-Spanish Basilian Congregation under one archimandrite. Over the subsequent years the Italian branch tended to adopt the Latin rite, a move that was opposed by the Holy See. Both branches of the congregation later went out of existence, the Spanish in 1855, and the Italian in 1866. Grottaferrata, however, was restored in its Greek tradition in 1880 under the leadership of its abbot, Giuseppe Cozza-Luzi (d. 1905). New constitutions were approved in 1900, and in 1937 Pius XI elevated the monastery to the exarchal rank. Grottaferrata has several dependent foundations in southern Italy and Sicily, including the ancient monastery of Mezzoiusso (Calabria).

Basilian Order of St. Josaphat. In 1072 the rule of St. Basil was introduced in the monastery Pecherska Lavra in Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, by (St.) Theodosius (d. 1074). Subsequently the rule became the model for other monasteries in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Following the union of the See of Kiev with Rome (1596) some monasteries of the Ukraine and Belarus formed in 1617 the Basilian Congregation of the Holy Trinity (also called the Lithuanian Congregation). Approval was given by Urban VIII in the brief Exponi nobis, Aug. 20, 1631. The initiators of this reorganization were the archbishop of Kiev, Velamin Rutski (15741637), and (St.) jo saphat kuncevyČ. Gradually other monasteries joined the congregation, but some remained independent until, by order of the synod of Zamosc (1720), the Congregation of the Protection of the Holy Virgin (also called the Ruthenian Congregation) was formed in 1739. By decree of Benedict XIV (1742) both groups were joined in one order of St. Basil the Great, and in the general chapter at Dubno in 1743 two provinces were created, Lithuanian and Ruthenian. In 1780 the order was divided into four provinces because of the partition of Poland (1772).

In the 17th and 18th centuries the Basilians were engaged in various missionary, pastoral, and educational activities, especially for the promotion of the union of the Ukrainian Church with Rome. In the beginning their novitiate was at Wilno (Lithuania) under the direction of Josaphat; later it was moved to Byten (Belarus) in the care first of the Jesuits, and later, of the Basilians themselves. The young clerical students, after their novitiate and religious profession, usually pursued their philosophical studies at the monastery of Zhytrovytsi, a renowned place of pilgrimage. For theology they went to Western Europe where Urban VIII had established 22 scholarships for them in the pontifical schools of the following cities: four in Rome, two in Vienna, two in Prague, two in Olmütz (Moravia), six in Braunsberg (Prussia), and six in Graz (Austria). Basilians staffed the diocesan seminary at Minsk (Belarus), and many colleges for boys, among which the most notable was that of Vladimir-Volynski, the birthplace of Josaphat.

All the metropolitans of Kiev in the 17th and 18th centuries were Basilians. Velamin Rutski and his four immediate successors in the metropolitan see were also the superiors general of the order of St. Basil. Each of them held that office (protoarchimandrite) until death. After 1675 the two offices were separated and the protoarchimandrite (now simply a monk) was elected to a term of four years, later extended to eight in 1751. He made his residence in one of the order's monasteries, while the procurator general resided in Rome. Provinces were ruled by protohegumeni (provincials); monasteries, by either archimandrites constituted for life, or by hegumeni (local superiors) in office for four years. By 1772 Basilian monasteries in the Ukraine and Belarus numbered 144 with 1,225 religious (944 priests, 190 clerical students, and 91 lay brothers).

The work of the Basilians for the union of the Eastern Churches with Rome was almost totally destroyed by the further partition of Poland, the hostility toward union in the Russian empire, and the suppression of Basilian monasteries. Toward the end of the 19th century only one province remained, that of Galicia in the Austrian empire. Here too the Basilians suffered, along with other religious orders, from josephinism. Leo XIII, in 1882, reorganized the remaining 14 monasteries of Galicia by placing them under the direction of the Jesuits in Dobromil. The members of the Dobromil reform gradually extended their activity among the following peoples: the Ukrainians in Galicia and, later, in the Carpathian Ukraine (Ruthenia); the Hungarians of the Eastern Christians; the Ukrainians, Croatians, and Macedonians in Yugoslavia; and the Romanians. The Basilians also followed the emigrants of these peoples to the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. The reform begun at Dobromil was brought to completion when a general chapter was held there in 1931. The superior general elected at that chapter, Dionysius Tkachuk (18671944), took up residence in Rome for the first time. Pius XI, on Feb. 24, 1932, approved the present name of the order, the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat.

Before the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe the Basilians were organized in four provinces: Galicia, the Carpathian Ukraine, Hungary, and Romania. Their activity, as in the past, was diversified. They continued their traditional life, a combination of monastic prayer and active apostolate. In Galicia they conducted for a time three diocesan seminaries at Lvov, Peremyshl, and Stanislav; a boys' high school in Buchach; and a publications center in Zhovkva. In the Carpathian Ukraine there was a high school and publications' center at Uzhgorod. In Hungary the Basilians had charge of a pilgrimage church at Mariapocs, and in Romania they had a publications' center at Bixad. Two other seminaries were under their direction: a minor seminary at Zagreb, Yugoslavia, and the pontifical Ukrainian College of St. Josaphat in Rome. With the coming of the Communist governments many Basilians were arrested and sent to labor camps; some, however, continued to work in secret. The collapse of communism gave rise to a modest revival of the Basilians.

Outside of Europe the order of St. Basil has carried on its ministry among Eastern Catholic emigres peoples. In 1897 the Basilians established a presence in South America, where they have a province in Brazil and a vice province in Argentina, both erected in 1948. In 1902 they came to Canada where a province was created in 1932. The novitiate and house of studies were located in Mundare, Alberta, and a publications' center in Toronto, Ontario, where they conduct a school for boys. The U.S. branch began in 1926 and became a province separate from Canada in 1948.

Basilian Orders of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The Basilian Order of St. Saviour was founded by the archbishop of Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon), Euthymios Saifi, in 1684. Benedict XIV placed it under the rule of St. Basil in 1743. Before the occupation of Syria by the Egyptians in 1832, the Basilians were engaged in parochial ministry in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, and the city of Damascus.

The Basilian Order of St. John Baptist, also known as the order of Suwayr, or the Baladites, was begun in 1712 by two Syrian monks, Gerasim and Solomon, who had established themselves at the church of St. John Baptist in a valley near the village of Suwayr in Lebanon. The first superior of the group, Nicephore Karmi, prescribed four vows for the community in 1722. The vow of humility was added to the usual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Efforts toward uniting this group with the Basilian Order of St. Saviour were not successful, and in 1743 Benedict XIV imposed the rule of St. Basil. The constitutions, approved by the same pope in 1757, were developed from those of the Maronite monks of St. Anthony. As in the case of order of St. Saviour, the canonical status of the Baladites was fixed by the Holy See in 1955. The motherhouse of the order is in Khonchara in Lebanon.

The Basilian Order of Aleppo is an offshoot of the preceding group; the separation took place in 1829 and was approved by the Holy See in 1832. Its canonical development was the same as that indicated for the aforementioned orders. The headquarters of the order is at the monastery of St. Saviour in Sarba, Djunieh, Lebanon. Acacius coussa, the Oriental canonist, was a member of this Basilian group.

Bibliography: Analecta Ordinis S. Basilii Magni, Ser. 1 (Zhovkva 192435) Ser. 2 (Rome 1949 ). m. wojnar, De regimine Basilianorum Ruthenorum a Metropolita J. V. Rutskyj instauratorum (Rome 1949); De capitulis Basilianorum (Rome 1954); De Protoarchimandrita Basilianorum (Rome 1958). c. pujol, De religiosis orientalibus ad normam vigentis iuris (Rome 1957). m. karovetz, Velyka Revorma Chyna Sv. Vasyliia Velykoho, 4 v. (Zhovkva 193338). a. sheptyckyj, Pravyla dla monakhiv (Zhovkva 1911); Asketychni tvory Sv. O. N. Vasyliia V. (Lvov 1929).

[m. m. wojnar/eds.]