Belarusian Greek Catholic Church

Last updated
Belarusian Greek Catholic Church
Classification Eastern Catholic
Governance Apostolic visitor
Pope Francis
LeaderMitred Archpriest Sergiusz Gajek
Associations Congregation for the Oriental Churches
Region Belarus
Liturgy Byzantine Rite
HeadquartersMarian House, Finchley, England, UK
Origin1596 (first), 1990 (second)
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (first), Belarus (second)
Separated from Ruthenian Orthodox Church (first)
Merger of Union of Brest and Ruthenian Uniate Church (first)
Defunct1839 (first)
Membersc. 7000
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1573:
Catholic
Orthodox
Calvinist Religie w I Rz-plitej 1573.svg
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1573:
 Catholic 
 Orthodox 
 Calvinist 
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1750:
Latin Catholic
Greek Catholic
Orthodox Religie w I Rz-plitej 1750.svg
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1750:
 Latin Catholic 
 Greek Catholic 
 Orthodox 

The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church (Belarusian : Беларуская грэка-каталіцкая царква, BHKC), sometimes called, in reference to its Byzantine Rite, the Belarusian Byzantine Catholic Church, is the heir within Belarus of the Union of Brest and Ruthenian Uniate Church. It is listed in the Annuario Pontificio as a sui iuris Church, an Eastern rite particular Church in full union with the Catholic Church.

Belarusian is an East Slavic language spoken by Belarusians. It is the official language of Belarus, along with Russian. It is additionally spoken in parts of Russia, Poland and Ukraine by Belarusian minorities in those countries.

Byzantine Rite liturgical rite of most Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches

The Byzantine Rite, also known as the Greek Rite or Constantinopolitan Rite, is the liturgical rite used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Greek/Byzantine Catholic churches, and in a modified form, Byzantine Rite Lutheranism. Its development began during the fourth century in Constantinople and it is now the second most-used ecclesiastical rite in Christendom after the Roman Rite.

The Union of Brest, or Union of Brześć, was the 1595-96 decision of the Ruthenian Orthodox Church eparchies (dioceses) in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to break relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church and to enter into communion with, and place itself under the authority of the Pope of Rome. The Eparchy of Mukachevo that was located in the Kingdom of Hungary was left out of the process.

Contents

History

The Christians who, through the Union of Brest (1595–96), entered full communion with the See of Rome while keeping their Byzantine liturgy in the Church Slavonic language, were at first mainly Belarusian (Litvin). Even after further Ukrainians joined the Union around 1700, Belarusians still formed about half of the group. According to the historian Anatol Taras, by 1795, around 80% of Christians in Belarus were Greek Catholics, with 14% being Latin Catholics and 8% being Orthodox. [1]

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.

Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication or repentance. It forms a basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, as well as with other participants in the liturgy.

In historical contexts, Litvin is a word of Polish descent, which in Polish language means "Lithuanian", in reference to citizens of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The ethnographic or cultural studies about the ethnic group are poorly noted and are traced to the beginning of 18th century. The poet-monk Klymentiy Zinoviyiv who published several works about cultural studies noted that Litvins, perhaps after the older pagan tradition worked on Sundays and rested on Fridays. More notes about Litvins were provided at the end of 18th century by historians of the Russian Empire Afanasiy (Opanas) Shafonsky and Yakov Markovych. According to Markovych, Litvins are a special regional group such as Gascoigne in France or Swabians in Germany.

The partition of Poland and the incorporation of the whole of Belarus into Russia led, according to the Russian Orthodox Church, [2] many Belarusians (1,553 priests, 2,603 parishes and 1,483,111 people) to unite, by March 1795, with the Russian Orthodox Church. Another source [3] seems to contradict this, since it gives the number of parishes that came under Russian rule in 1772 only as "over 800", meaning that many priests and people remained in communion with Rome.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is, by a considerable margin, the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Russian Orthodox Church autocephalous Orthodox Christian church, headquartered in Moscow, Russia

The Russian Orthodox Church, alternatively legally known as the Moscow Patriarchate, is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Christian churches. The primate of the ROC is the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'. The ROC, as well as its primate, officially ranks fifth in the Orthodox order of precedence, immediately below the four ancient patriarchates of the Greek Orthodox Church; the Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Since 15 October 2018, the ROC is not in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, having unilaterally severed ties in reaction to the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was finalised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 5 January 2019.

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After the unsuccessful 1830-1831 November Uprising against Russian rule and the subsequent removal of the predominantly Catholic local nobility from influence in Belarusian society, the three bishops of the Church, along with 21 priests, [3] [4] convoked in February 1839 a synod that was held in Polatsk on 25 March 1839. This officially brought 1,600,000 Christians and either 1,305 [2] or some 2,500 [3] priests to join the Russian Orthodox Church.

November Uprising Polish uprising against occupying Russian Empire in 1830-1831

The November Uprising (1830–31), also known as the Polish–Russian War 1830–31 or as the Cadet Revolution, was an armed rebellion in the heartland of partitioned Poland against the Russian Empire. The uprising began on 29 November 1830 in Warsaw when the young Polish officers from the local Army of the Congress Poland's military academy revolted, led by lieutenant Piotr Wysocki. Large segments of the peoples of Lithuania, Belarus, and the Right-bank Ukraine soon joined the uprising. Although the insurgents achived local successes, a numerically superior Imperial Russian Army under Ivan Paskevich eventually crushed the uprising. The Russian Emperor Nicholas I decreed that henceforth Poland would become an integral part of Russia. With Warsaw little more than a military garrison, its university closed.

However, some priests and faithful still refused to join. The Russian state assigned most of the property to the Orthodox Church in the 1840s, and some priests emigrated to Austrian Galicia, while others chose to practise in secret the now-forbidden religion.

When, in 1905, Tsar Nicholas II published a decree granting freedom of religion, as many as 230,000 [4] Belarusians wanted union with Rome. However, since the government refused to allow them to form a Byzantine-Rite community, they adopted the Latin Rite, to which most Belarusian Catholics now belong.

After the First World War, the western part of Belarus was included in the reconstituted Polish state, and some 30,000 descendants of those who, less than a century before, had joined the Russian Orthodox Church joined the Catholic Church, while keeping their Byzantine liturgy. In 1931, the Holy See sent them a bishop as Apostolic Visitator. After the Soviet Union annexed West Belarus in 1939, an exarch for the Belarusian Byzantine-Rite faithful was appointed in May 1940, but, a mere two years later, he was arrested and taken to a Soviet concentration camp, where he died.

While from then on very little information about the Byzantine Catholics in Belarus could reach Rome, refugees from among them founded centres in western Europe (Paris, London and Louvain) and in parts of the United States of America, especially in Chicago. From 1947, Father Leo Haroshka initiated in Paris a pastoral and cultural periodical called Bozhym Shliakham (Божым Шляхам), which was published from 1960 to the end of 1980 in London. In London also, Father Alexander Nadson began translating the Byzantine liturgical texts into the Belarusian language in the 1970s. Thanks to this work, when in 1990 the first Greek-Catholic parishes could be organized in Belarus, they were able immediately to use these texts in their national language. [5]

In 1960, the Holy See appointed Cheslau Sipovich as Apostolic Visitator for the Belarusian faithful abroad. He was the first Belarusian Catholic bishop since the Synod of Polatsk. A successor, Father Uladzimir Tarasevich, was appointed in 1983. After his death in 1986, Father Alexander Nadson was appointed Apostolic Visitator, but not, at his own request, raised to episcopal rank.

The 1980s saw a gradual increase in interest among Minsk intellectuals in the Greek-Catholic Church. Articles by Anatol Sidarevich and Jury Khadyka about its history appeared in the 1987-1988 issues of Litaratura i Mastastva . And in the autumn of 1989 some young intellectuals of Minsk decided to publish the periodical Unija intended to promote the rebirth of the Greek-Catholic Church. [5]

In early 1990, Father Nadson brought humanitarian aid from Belarusians abroad to their compatriots at home still suffering as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He was surprised to meet young Belarusians who said they were Greek Catholics. On 11 March, he celebrated Minsk's first Divine Liturgy in the national language, and, two days later, had a meeting with the editors of Unija, the first issue of which was then printed in Latvia. [5]

September 1990 saw the registration of the first Greek-Catholic parish since the Second World War, and in early 1991 Father Jan Matusevich began to celebrate the liturgy in his Minsk apartment. He was later put in charge of all the Greek-Catholic parishes in Belarus, and died in 1998.

By 1992, three priests and two deacons in Belarus were celebrating the Byzantine liturgy in Belarusian. The same year, a survey by Belarus State University found that 10,000 people in Minsk identified themselves as Greek Catholics. [6] Extrapolated to the country as a whole, this was interpreted to mean that, especially among the intelligentsia and nationally conscious youth, some 120,000 Belarusians were in favour of a rebirth of the Greek-Catholic Church. Because of the lack of priests and churches this interest did not lead to membership. [5]

Present situation

At the beginning of 2005, the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church had 20 parishes, of which 13 had obtained state recognition. As of 2003, there have been two Belarusian Greek Catholic parishes in each of the following cities - Minsk, Polatsk and Vitsebsk; and only one in Brest, Hrodna, Mahiliou, Maladziechna and Lida. The faithful permanently attached to these came to about 3,000, while some 4,000 others lived outside the pastoral range of the parishes. Today there are 16 priests, and 9 seminarians. There was a small Studite monastery at Polatsk. The parishes are organized into two deaneries, each headed by a protopresbyter or archpriest.

Two of the parishes had small churches. Some of the others had pastoral centres with an oratory.

Belarusian Greek Catholics abroad, numbering about 2,000, were under the care of Mitred Protopresbyter Alexander Nadson as Apostolic Visitator until his death in 2015. The chief centres are the Church of St Cyril of Turau and All the Patron Saints of the Belarusian People in London and Antwerp (constituted in 2003). [5]

A parish in Chicago, that of Christ the Redeemer, existed from 1955 to 2003. It was founded by Father John Chrysostom Tarasevich and was later the home parish of Bishop Uladzimir (Vladimir) Tarasevich until his death, after which it was administered by the local Latin Catholic ordinary, who appointed first Father Joseph Cirou and then Father John Mcdonnell as administrators. On 7 September 1996, the parish had seen the ordination of Prince Michael Huskey, EOHS as the first Belarusian deacon in the United States. Father Deacon Michael served in the parish until it was closed by Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, on 20 July 2003.

See also

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Sergiusz Gajek Belarusian priest

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ArchpriestAndrei Pavlovich Ablameyko is a Belarusian Greek Catholic priest.

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References

  1. "Каталіцтва, аб якім мы не ведаем". Archived from the original on 2013-07-30. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  2. 1 2 Воссоединение Униатов и Исторические Судьбы Белорусского Народа
  3. 1 2 3 Siarhiej Hajek: The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church Yesterday and Today in Καθολική of 25 July 2006
  4. 1 2 Oriente Cattolico (1974), page 176
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Siarhiej Hajek: The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church Yesterday and Today in Καθολική of 22 August 2006
  6. Servizio Informazioni Chiese Orientali (2005), page 165

Sources