Ukraine, The Catholic Church in
UKRAINE, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
Located in southeastern Europe, Ukraine is bordered on the north by Belarus and Hungary, on the east by Russia, on the south by the Black Sea, Moldova and Romania, and on the west by Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. Predominately steppe, the southwest encompasses the Carpathian mountain chain while in the north forests are dotted with a number of lakes. The climate ranges from continental in the central region to Mediterranean near the southern coast. The southernmost region, Crimea, which divides the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, declared independence from Ukraine in 1991 but was restored to the region in 1995. The region's wealth of natural resources include iron ore, coal, natural gas, petroleum, graphite, titanium, magnesium, nickel and mercury. An additional resource is its black soil, and agricultural products consist of grains, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, vegetables, as well as livestock and dairy concerns. During the decades the region was part of the USSR, Ukraine was considered the agricultural heartland of the Soviet sphere.
Known as the Kievan Rus until the 16th century, after 1200 the region fell under the control of Lithuania, then Poland before being subsumed by Russia by the 19th century. A short period of independence after the Russian Revolution ended in 1920 when the Red Army subdued Kiev. As the Ukranian Soviet Socialist Republic it was a part of the USSR until the fall of communism in August of 1991. Devastated by both World War II and by widespread famine, as food stores were taken from the region by the Soviet state, Ukrainians also suffered through the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. Following independence, the government attempted to liberalize the government, although most industries remained under state control. A close relationship with Russia continued, both militarily and economically. By the late 1990s inflation and rising unemployment sparked by Russia's economic woes, caused social instability in the region, although the election of a reformist prime minister in late 1999 was viewed optimistically.
Christianity of the Kievan Rus . Slavic/Rus tribes from the east settled the region by the second half of the 9th century, making Kiev a political and cultural center for much of eastern Europe. Vikings introduced Christianity, and an affiliation with the Byzantine Empire was the result. In 989 St. vladimir (979–1015) made Christianity the state religion, ordering the baptism of his retinue and people. Many missionaries entered the region from the west, their work supplemented by the presences of monasteries such as that of the ascetic monks of the Caves near Kiev, which strongly influenced early Catholics in the practice of their faith. While Orthodoxy grew to encompass the region, because Byzantium was less zealous in teaching its daughter churches than was Rome in educating the West, a cultural lag developed between eastern and western Europe, between Orthodox and Roman Catholic.
The first known metropolitan of Kiev was Theopempt (1039), a Greek as were most of his successors, who were consecrated in Constantinople until the mid-15th century (see constantinople, patriarchate of). The metropolitan of Kiev covered the territory from Galicia (northeast of the Carpathian Mountains, in modern Poland and Ukraine), northeast to the Upper Volga and Oka Rivers (central Russia). With the invasion of the Mongols in 1240, Kiev was destroyed and replaced by new religious centers in Halicz, Novgorod, Vladimir, and later, Moscow and Lithuania. Maximus, metropolitan of Kiev from 1283–1305 left the region and moved to Moscow. Thereafter, Moscow became home of the metropolitan of Kiev, the spiritual heir of the ancient Rus. While Kievan Catholics remained in union with Rome following the schism in 1054, estrangement from the West was growing, and at the Council of florence in 1439 the separation was completed (see eastern schism; orthodox churches).
The Union of Brest and the Return to Rome . From the late 13th century through 1559 Ukraine was under the control of Lithuania and Poland, and its Orthodox were exposed to the Western Church. In 1436 Orthodox metropolitan isidore of kiev—appointed by Constantinople—found acceptance among the Slavs of his region for union with Rome, and this union was supported at Florence. Basil II, the Great Prince of Moscow, rejected the union decreed at Florence and elected his own metropolitan in 1448, thus precipitating the break of the Russian Orthodox Church from Byzantium, the final break from Rome, and the division of the Slavic Church of Eastern Europe into two metropolitan areas: Kiev and Moscow. Kiev, then part of Lithuania, saw its metropolitans continue in union with Rome, although officially dependent on the patriarch of Constantinople, until 1517, after which they renounced the union of Florence. In 1569 the Ukraine became part of Poland, and the Orthodox church was oppressed and the people impoverished.
During the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, many nobles in the region converted to calvinism, while brotherhoods formed in Lvov and set up schools. The Academy of Ostrog, established by the magnate Constantine Ostrozhski (d. 1608), provided higher education, while in that city the first complete Slavonic printed Bible was published in 1581. By 1555 the Jesuit-led counter reformation proved successful even among the nobles. Despite opposition from these nobles, in 1596 the Union of Brest proclaimed the union with Rome, of the ecclesiastical province of Kiev, as a means of preserving and protecting the Slavic traditions of the faith from the aggressions of the Moscow patriarchate and the westernizing influences of the Polish Roman Catholic Church. The Union of brest created the Eastern-rite ukrainian catholic church (later the Ukrainian Greek-rite Catholic Church). The new church found little support among the nobility, most of whom attended Jesuit colleges and adopted the Latin rite. The situation of the Eastern Church deteriorated further in 1620, when the patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophanes reestablished the dissident Ruthenian (Ukranian/Byleorussian) hierarchy under a new metropolitan of Kiev, Job Boretski (1620–33), dependent on the patriarch of Constantinople. The attempts
of the newly consecrated metropolitan to wrest bishoprics from legitimate Catholic prelates led to deplorable events. King Vladyslav's constitution of 1632 legally restored the Eastern Church.
Greek-rite Catholics in the Ukraine were harassed by their Orthodox countrymen as traitors, yet received no help from Latin Catholics. Catholic prelates were excluded from the ecclesiastical class of the kingdom and consequently never obtained seats in the senate. The Union of Brest was in danger of being completely destroyed during the uprising of Bogdan Khmelnitsky and the prolonged Cossack and Swedish wars. However, on the strength of its religious, the Church survived and prospered during the reigns of Koribut Wiśniowetski (1669–73) and John Sobieski (1674–96). The Peace of Andrusovo (1667) ceded the anti-Catholic territory east of the Dnieper to Russia, allowing a renaissance c. 1700, when the last three dissident ordinaries joined the Ukrainian Greek-rite Catholic Church.
Despite its numerical strength, the Greek-rite Church was too weak to create an autonomous Catholic Byzantine-Slavonic culture, and Latin elements infiltrated its ecclesiastical life. The Catholic metropolitan of Kiev resided usually in Novogrudek in Lithuania. After the partition of Poland in the late 18th century (1772, 1793, 1795), the greater part of his ecclesiastical province was incorporated into Russia. With the death of Theodosius Rostotski (1805), the last Catholic metropolitan of Kiev disappeared.
Russian Rule and a Shifting Orthodoxy . In 1654 an agreement was made with russia that, while promising autonomy for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, resulted in the weakening of Kiev as a center of Orthodox power. In 1680 the region was made part of Russia, and within five years the Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev lost
its independence when the patriarch of Moscow, without recourse to Constantinople, appointed the metropolitan of Kiev and assimilated the Ukranian Orthodox Church into the Moscow patriarchate. Where once Kiev's influence had extended through most of eastern Europe, after 1720 while a metropolitan continued to be appointed, his jurisdiction was limited to the city's territorial limits. Meanwhile, through the end of the 17th century, Ukrainian scholars, educated at Mogila Academy in Kiev, continued to exert a strong influence on Russian intellectual life. Among the pioneers were Epiphanius Slavinetski (d.1675), representative of Greek-Slavonic culture; Simeon of Polotsk (d. 1680), familiar with Catholic theological thought; and his disciple Silvester Medvedev (d. 1691).
Following the break-up of Poland, western Ukraine fell under the control of Russia, along with Crimea, which before 1795 had remained under Ottoman rule. Latin-and Greek-rite Catholics living in the region became subjects of the Russian Empire, whereas those in the eastern region of Galicia came under Austrian rule. In 1897 Emperor Francis I of Austria obtained from the Holy See the erection of the ecclesiastical province of Halicz with its seat in Lvov. Ukrainian-rite Catholics in Galicia and the Transcarpathian region of the Ukraine gained from Austria freedom of religion and rite, but were pressured by the patriarch of Budapest until 1918.
The Russian government also tolerated Catholics, but only those of the Latin rite, and those in ethnic groups that traditionally belonged to Catholic nations. Catholics of the Eastern rite were viewed as schismatic Orthodox and remained under heavy pressure from the Moscow patriarchate. The destruction of their union with Rome occurred during the reign of Nicholas I, whose motto "Orthodoxy, Russianism, absolutism" opposed the existence of the Ukranian Greek-rite Catholic Church. The plan to conscript these Eastern-rite Catholics into the official Orthodox Church was prepared by Joseph Semashko, a priest who, like most of his colleagues of both rites, was educated in the seminary at Vilna, where he imbibed the principles of gallicanism. Several legislative measures, and the death of the metropolitan-delegate Josaphat Bulhak (1817–38), a man devoted to the Holy See but too weak to offer resistance, brought about the final blow. In 1839 the Union of Brest was declared nonexistent, and the Greek-rite Catholics were subjected to the Holy Synod of the Moscow patriarchate. Opposition met harsh suppression, and was more easily subdued because many Ukrainian nobles had passed in earlier centuries to the Latin rite, and had aligned themselves with Poland, leaving the common people without leaders.
The Church under Communism . Following the Russian revolution of 1917, Ukraine declared independence on Jan. 28, 1918, but this effort was quickly suppressed by the communist forces now controlling the Soviet Union. In 1922 Ukraine became one of the first socialist republics to form the USSR, and its government began the first phase of communism: to break down the old order. As part of this objective, it encouraged the formation of sects, breakaway churches and the introduction of Protestantism, while attempting to disrupt the powerful Russian Orthodox infrastructure. Out of this atmosphere came the rebirth of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which seceded from the Moscow patriarchate in 1921 with the blessings of the state and by 1924 claimed 3,000 parishes and upwards of four million faithful tended by 30 bishops and 1,500 priests.
In the relaxed atmosphere extended toward religion in the initial phase-in of communism, an effort was made by the Vatican to support Greek-rite Catholics in the region. In 1926 a papal commission set up nine administrative regions, one of which was Odessa, and appointed Bishop Frison as apostolic administrator to tend to the region's large Catholic population. Unfortunately, in 1929 the second phase of communism was enacted: namely the brutal repression of all religion, enforced via a religion law that promoted antireligious propaganda. Continued governmental oppression led to the imprisonment of the bishop, who was later shot. In its first phase, the communist government jailed hundreds of priests between 1929 and 1932, virtually destroying the Catholic Church organization. In 1930 the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church that had been encouraged by the government less than a decade before was outlawed.
On March 15, 1939, the Carpathian Ukraine proclaimed its independence and on the same day elected Greek-rite priest Monsignor Augustine Vološyn as its president. The new country's life span was extremely brief, however; Hungarian troops began to occupy the region on the following day, forcing Vološyn into exile. The Transcarpathian Catholic Church retained a similar sense of independence from the Greek-rite Church in the rest of Ukraine, having its roots in the 1646 Union of Uzhhorod rather than the Union of Brest 50 years earlier.
Between 1946 and the fall of the Soviet state, Ukrainians were subjected to the greatest spiritual prohibitions in the communist sphere, as church properties were confiscated, schools and monasteries closed, and printed materials banned. The 1930s were also rough years for more temporal reasons, as enforced collectivized farming sparked peasant revolts that were put down through the confiscation of most of the region's agricultural production and the death of over five million Ukrainians due to starvation. During World War II the region was occupied by Germans, who turned a blind eye as the Greek-rite Church established a formal hierarchy in eastern Ukraine. While accusations later surfaced that the Greek-rite Catholic Church turned a blind eye to the mass deportation of Jews from the region under German occupation, Greekrite metropolitan Andrei Sheptysts’kyi was arrested for his outspoken opposition to Nazi policies. In 1944, following the war during which seven million Ukrainians were killed, sections of Romania, eastern Poland and Slovakia were joined to the Ukraine, resulting in an increased persecution of Catholics, particularly the three and a half million Greek-rite Catholics living in eastern Poland. In 1945 Ukrainian Greek-rite Metropolitan Joseph Slipyj (1892–1984), four bishops and several priests were imprisoned and charged with collaboration with the Nazis; in March of 1946 a synod, that had no bishops in attendance, met in Lvov and under the "protection" of the Soviet secret police, proclaimed the Union of Brest annulled and the Ukrainian Greek-rite Catholic Church officially extinct. The Church's property was confiscated and given to the Russian Orthodox Church. While forcibly incorporated with the Orthodox Moscow patriarchate, many of the Ukranian Catholic clergy and laity refused to recognize the union. In Transcarpathian Ukraine, Monsignor Romzha, who headed the Church, was removed by a planned automobile accident in October of 1947. His successor, Monsignor Tschira, was imprisoned in 1948 and sent to a concentration camp, thereby forcing all remaining followers of the Greek-rite church underground. After 18 years in prison Slipyj left for the west and was created a cardinal in 1965. By the mid-1960s there were three Catholic churches remaining in Lvov, while Odessa, with several thousand Greek-rite Catholics, was without a priest. Despite the straitened circumstances of the Greek-rite Church, half of all churches still in existence in the USSR by independence were located in Ukraine.
An Independent Ukraine . During the 1980s, the rumblings of insurrection could be heard throughout the Soviet Union, and a growing nationalist movement was felt in the Ukraine and elsewhere. In the region the nationalist RUKH was vocal in its demands for cultural and linguistic traditions by 1989, and thousands of Greek-rite Catholics marched through the streets in Lvov, on September 17, demanding the restoration of their church. On Dec. 1, 1989, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in an effort to stabilize a disintegrating union, promised the pope that legal status would be extended to the Greek-rite Church.
While for Catholics the fall of communism was viewed favorably, the impending break-up of the Soviet Union was seen as a threat by the Moscow patriarchate, which had benefited from its preferential treatment under communist dictator Josef Stalin and its receipt of many properties confiscated from other churches. In January of 1990 the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church granted autonomy to the Ukranian Orthodox Church, which was made an exarchate of the Moscow patriarchate. However, the church demanded greater freedom, with the result that on Oct. 27, 1990 it was given autonomous status, its metropolitan, Major Archbishop Lubachivsky, retaining his membership in the Holy Synod of the Moscow patriarchate. The Soviet Union was officially dissolved on Dec. 25, 1991.
After Ukraine declared its independence on Aug. 24, 1991, multiparty elections were held and the region declared itself a nuclear-free zone in response to the Chernobyl disaster of only a few years ago. At independence, a religious forum was held by the new government, which vowed that there would be no ruling Church in Ukraine. The government also joined with Belarus and Russia in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). While the new government attempted economic reforms, power struggles and disputes over the extent to which the region would remain involved with Russia continued to stall economic development, and violent disputes broke out in eastern Ukraine throughout 1992. On the religious front disputes existed as well, and efforts to create a national Orthodox church quickly fractionalized. In one such effort, recently appointed Metropolitan Filaret Denisenko attempted to seek complete separation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Moscow, which had subjugated Kiev since the late 18th century. Continuing his efforts after his request was refused by the Russian Orthodox Bishop's Council in April of 1992, Filaret provolked matters to such a point that within a month the Moscow patriarchate had deposed him and appointed Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Rostov as new metropolitan of the church. Subsequently, Filaret joined the non-canonical Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, which had been recreated in 1991, and gained a leadership position, ultimately becoming patriarchate. Although his presence caused the Autocephalous Church to fracture into two sections, the Filaret-led faction, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev patriarchate), saw parishes increase by one third due to the many Orthodox loyal to Filaret. Meanwhile, an anti-Filaret faction splintered from the former Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, retaining the old name and led by patriarch Dmytriy Yarema of Lvov.
By 2000 the four churches of historical foundation in Ukraine were the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow patriarchate), the Ukrainian Greek-rite Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kievan patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Smaller Orthodox communities, such as the Old Believers, various Protestant evangelical groups, Lutherans, Jews and Muslims were among the other religious groups active in the country. In an effort to eliminate conflict among the faiths, the 1993 Balamand Accord prohibited Catholics and Orthodox from proselytization between them. As elsewhere across the former Soviet sphere, the issue of Church properties confiscated after 1946 under communist rule also surfaced, particularly with regard to the Greek-rite Church, which had been, at least on the surface, destroyed by the communist government. The Moscow patriarchate, which counted Catholic properties among the bulk of their current holdings, remained reluctant to discuss reparations, although it agreed to participate in a joint Catholic-Orthodox commission formed in December of 1999 to resolve property issues. In 2001 the Orthodox bishops aligned with the Moscow patriarchate, still concerned over competing Orthodox churches in the country, and discouraged Pope John Paul II from a visit to the country, citing his presence as a complication to continuing ecumenical relations in the Ukraine. Indeed, the pope was later criticized by Moscow for recognizing Kievan patriarch Filaret, which action, Russian Orthodox leaders maintained, furthered the efforts of this schismatic church. Following the pope's visit in June, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church and Filaret's Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kieven patriarchate) were reported to have approached the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople for official recognition as a single church.
Into the 21st Century . By 2000, in contrast to the over 10,500 Orthodox parishes in the country, there were approximately 3,400 Greek-and Latin-rite parishes in Ukraine, tended by 1,890 diocesan and 405 religious priests. Other religious included approximately 300 brothers and 925 sisters, who operated six theological schools, as well as Catholic primary and secondary schools in the country. By the late 1990s, due to the economic troubles that visited the area, Catholic leaders concentrated their efforts on dealing with the effects of poverty and homelessness among the faithful. As had been the tradition in the region, eastern and central Ukraine remained predominately Orthodox, while Greekrite and Latin-rite Catholics resided in the eastern regions, where ethnic Poles predominated. While the Moscow patriarchate remained in control of the Orthodox in the region, it was seen as a vestige of Russian overlordship and many anticipated that Ukrainian Orthodox factions would ultimately merge into an independent church. Still others viewed the concept of a national church as inconsistent with a democratic nation comprising a variety of ethnicities and cultures.
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