Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

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Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Sobor sviatogo Iura, vid s sobora Ol'gi i Elizavety.jpg
St. George's Cathedral in Lviv, mother church of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Classification Eastern Catholic
Polity Episcopal
Pope Francis
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk
Minority:Canada, the United States, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Poland and Argentina.
Language Ukrainian
Church Slavonic
Liturgy Byzantine Rite
Headquarters Cathedral of the Resurrection, Kiev, Ukraine
Founder Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great
Kiev, Ruthenia
Separated from Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Merger of 1596 Union of Brest (Brest, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth)
Separations Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church
Other name(s)Ukrainian Catholic Church, Uniate Church
Official website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC; Ukrainian : Українська греко-католицька церква (УГКЦ), romanized: Ukrajins'ka hreko-katolic'ka cerkva; Latin : Ecclesia Graeco-Catholica Ucrainae) is a Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See. It is the second-largest particular church ( sui juris ) in the Catholic Church (after the Latin, or Roman, Church). It is part of the Major Archiepiscopal Churches of the Catholic Church that are not distinguished with a patriarchal title.

Ukrainian language language member of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages

Ukrainian is an East Slavic language. It is the official state language of Ukraine and one of the three official languages in the unrecognized state of Transnistria, the other two being Romanian and Russian. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic script.

The romanization or Latinization of Ukrainian is the representation of the Ukrainian language using Latin letters. Ukrainian is natively written in its own Ukrainian alphabet, which is based on the Cyrillic script. Romanization may be employed to represent Ukrainian text or pronunciation for non-Ukrainian readers, on computer systems that cannot reproduce Cyrillic characters, or for typists who are not familiar with the Ukrainian keyboard layout. Methods of romanization include transliteration, representing written text, and transcription, representing the spoken word.

Eastern Catholic Churches Autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.3 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.


The church is one of the successor churches to the acceptance of Christianity by Grand Prince Vladimir the Great of Kiev, in 988. It appeared in 1596 with the signing of the Union of Brest between the Ruthenian Orthodox Church (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) led by Michael Rohoza and the Holy See. [1] Following the partitions of Poland, in 1808 the eparchies of the original Ruthenian Uniate Church (Latin : Ecclesia Ruthena unita) [2] [3] were split three ways between the Austrian Empire (3), Prussia (1), and the Russian Empire (5). Those three eparchies under Austrian jurisdiction were reorganized as the Greek Catholic Church soon after liquidation of all five eparchies that ended up in Russia. The Greek Catholic Church in Austria became a survivor of the original uniate church of the Brest Union (the other being the Uzhhorod Union).

Vladimir the Great 10th and 11th-century Grand Prince of Kiev and Novgorod

Vladimir the Great was a prince of Novgorod, grand Prince of Kiev, and ruler of Kievan Rus' from 980 to 1015.

Kiev City with special status in Kiev City Municipality, Ukraine

Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and most populous city of Ukraine, located in the north-central part of the country on the Dnieper. The population in July 2015 was 2,887,974, making Kiev the 7th most populous city in Europe.

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.

In 1963 the church was recognized as Ukrainian through the efforts of Yosyf Slipyi.

The ordinary (or hierarch) of the church holds the title of Major archbishop of Kiev-Halych and All Ruthenia, though the hierarchs and faithful of the church have acclaimed their ordinary as "Patriarch" and have requested Papal recognition of, and elevation to, this title. Major archbishop is a unique title within the Catholic Church that was introduced in 1963 as part of political compromise. Since March 2011 the head of the church is Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

Major archbishop position

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, major archbishop is a title for the chief hierarch of an autonomous particular Church that has not been "endowed with the patriarchal title". Major archbishops generally have the same rights, privileges, and jurisdiction as Eastern Catholic patriarchs, except where expressly provided otherwise, and rank immediately after them in precedence of honor.

Halych Place in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ukraine

Halych is a historic city on the Dniester River in western Ukraine. The city gave its name to the Principality of Halych, the historic province of Galicia (Halychyna), and the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, of which it was the capital until the early 14th century, when the seat of the local rulers moved to Lviv.

Patriarch ecclesiastical title

The highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church, and the Church of the East are termed patriarchs.

Within Ukraine itself, the UGCC is a minority of the religious population, being a distant second to the majority Eastern Orthodox faith. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the second largest religious organization in Ukraine in terms of number of communities. In terms of number of members, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church ranks third in allegiance among the population of Ukraine after the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Currently, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church predominates in three western oblasts of Ukraine, including the majority of the population of Lviv, but constitutes a small minority elsewhere in the country. The church has followed the spread of the Ukrainian diaspora and now has some 40 hierarchs in over a dozen countries on four continents, including three other metropolitan bishops in Poland, the United States, and Canada.

Ukraine Sovereign state in Eastern Europe

Ukraine, sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42.5 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religions in the country are Eastern Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, commonly referred to as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Orthodox Church of Ukraine autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church in Ukraine

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), or Ukrainian Orthodox Church, also known as the Most Holy Church of Ukraine is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church whose canonical territory is Ukraine.


Ruthenian Orthodox Church and previous attempts of Catholic Union

The Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church was created with the Union of Brest in 1595/1596, yet its roots go back to the very beginning of Christianity in the Mediaeval Slavic state of Ruthenia. Byzantine missionaries exercised decisive influence in the area. The 9th-century mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Great Moravia had particular importance as their work allowed the spread of worship in the Old Church Slavonic language. The Byzantine-Greek influence continued, particularly with the official adoption of Byzantine rites by Prince Vladimir I of Kiev in 988 when there was established the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Metropolis of Kiev and all Ruthenia. Later at the time of the Great Schism (ca 1054) the Ruthenian (Rusyn) Church took sides and remained Orthodox.

Christianization of Kievan Rus

The Christianization of Kievan Rus' took place in several stages. In early 867, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople announced to other Orthodox patriarchs that the Rus', baptised by his bishop, took to Christianity with particular enthusiasm. Photius's attempts at Christianizing the country seem to have entailed no lasting consequences, since the Primary Chronicle and other Slavonic sources describe the tenth-century Rus' as firmly entrenched in paganism. Following the Primary Chronicle, the definitive Christianization of Kievan Rus' dates from the year 988, when Vladimir the Great was baptized in Chersonesus and proceeded to baptize his family and people in Kiev. The latter events are traditionally referred to as baptism of Rus' in Russian and Ukrainian literature.

Ruthenia is an exonym, originally used in Medieval Latin as one of several designations for East Slavic regions, and most commonly as a designation for the lands of Rus'. During the early modern period, the term also acquired several specific meanings.

Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Slavic brothers

Saints Cyril and Methodius were two brothers who were Byzantine Christian theologians and Christian missionaries. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they received the title "Apostles to the Slavs". They are credited with devising the Glagolitic alphabet, the first alphabet used to transcribe Old Church Slavonic. After their deaths, their pupils continued their missionary work among other Slavs. Both brothers are venerated in the Orthodox Church as saints with the title of "equal-to-apostles". In 1880, Pope Leo XIII introduced their feast into the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared them co-patron saints of Europe, together with Benedict of Nursia.

Following the devastating Mongol invasion of Ruthenia and sack of Kiev in 1240, Metropolitan Maximus of Kiev moved to the town of Vladimir-on-Klyazma in 1299. In 1303 on petition of Ruthenia kings from the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia (Ruthenia), Patriarch Athanasius I of Constantinople created a separate Metropolis of Halych that included western parishes of the original Metropolis of Kiev and all Ruthenia. The new metropolis did not last for long (inconsistently throughout most of the 14th century) and its new Metropolitan Peter of Moscow was consecrated as the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ruthenia instead of Metropolitan of Halych. Just before his death Peter moved his episcopal see from Vladimir to Moscow. During his reign there was established Metropolitanate of Lithuania in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, while after his death Metropolis of Halych was reestablished as well. In 1445 the Metropolitan Isidore with his see in Moscow joined the Council of Florence and became a papal legate of all Ruthenia and Lithuania. After Isidore suffered prosecutions by local bishops and royalty of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, he was banned away from Muscovy, while the Muscovite princes appointed own Metropolitan Jonah of Moscow without consent of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Because of that Patriarch Gregory III of Constantinople reorganized the Ruthenian Church in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (until 1569 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) and its new primates were titled as Metropolitans of Kiev, Halych and all Ruthenia. He appointed Gregory II Bulgarian as the new Greek Catholic primate who in 1470 rejoined the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople under Dionysius I of Constantinople.

Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church

Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1573:
Calvinist Religie w I Rz-plitej 1573.svg
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1573:
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1750:
Latin Catholic
Greek Catholic Religie w I Rz-plitej 1750.svg
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1750:
 Latin Catholic 
 Greek Catholic 

This situation continued for some time, and in the intervening years what is now Western and Central Ukraine came under the rule of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Polish king Sigismund III Vasa was heavily influenced by the ideals of the Counter-Reformation and wanted to increase the Catholic presence in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the clergy of the Ruthenian lands were ruled from distant Constantinople, and much of the population was loyal to Ruthenian Orthodoxy rather than to the Polish Catholic monarch. Persecution of the Orthodox population grew, and under pressure of Polish authorities the clergy of the Ruthenian Church agreed by the Union of Brest in 1595 to break from the Patriarchate of Constantinopole and unite with the Catholic Church under the authority of the ruler of the Commonwealth, Sigismund III Vasa, in exchange for ending the persecution. In an effort to stop further Polonization processes and recent recognition of the Moscow Patriarchate by Jeremias II of Constantinople, in 1596 the Ruthenian Orthodox Church signed the agreement with the Holy See. [1] The union was not accepted by all the members of the Ruthenian Orthodox Church in these lands, and marked the creation of Greek Catholic Church and separate eparchies that continued to stay Orthodox among which were Lviv eparchy, Peremyshel eparchy, Mukachevo eparchy and Lutsk eparchy that at first accepted the union but later oscillated back and forth.

The conflict between Orthodox and Greek Catholics tried to be extinguished by adopting "Articles for Pacification of Ruthenian people" in 1632. [4] Following that in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth legally existed both churches with Metrolopolitans of Kiev, one, Josyf Veliamyn Rutsky, Greek Catholic, and another, Peter Mogila, Orthodox.

Russian occupation of Poland and the Uniate church in Russia

The Univ Lavra was established in 1400 by the ruler Lubart's son Theodore and remains the holiest monastery of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Univ lavra.jpg
The Univ Lavra was established in 1400 by the ruler Lubart's son Theodore and remains the holiest monastery of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Small wooden church and belfry in the village of Sielec, Drohobych Raion from the 17th century, in the typical architectural style of that region Sielec 007.JPG
Small wooden church and belfry in the village of Sielec, Drohobych Raion from the 17th century, in the typical architectural style of that region

After the partition of Poland, the formerly Ruthenian Uniate Church territory was mostly divided between Russian Empire and Austrian Empire. The portion which came under Russian rule, included Right-bank Ukraine, modern Belarus and eastern Lithuania, while eparchies (dioceses) of Lviv, Kholm, and Peremyshl (as part of Eastern Galicia) came under Austrian rule. In the easternmost areas of Podolia the existing uniate churches reverted to Orthodoxy.

The Russian emperor Pavel I of Russia restored the Uniate church which was reorganized with three eparchies suffragan to metropolitan bishop Joasaphat Bulhak. [5] The church was allowed to function without restraint (calling its adherents Basilians). However the clergy soon split into pro-Catholic and pro-Russian, with the former tending to convert to Latin Rite Catholicism, whilst the latter group, led by Bishop Iosif Semashko (1798–1868) [6] and firmly rejected by the ruling Greek-Catholic synod remained largely controlled by the pro-Polish clergy with the Russian authorities largely refusing to interfere[ citation needed ]. Following the Congress of Vienna, the Russian Empire occupied former Austrian Poland of so called West Galicia and, temporarily, Tarnopol district, where in 1809 was established a separate metropolitan of Galicia. The territory of Kholm eparchy along with Central Polish territories became part of the Congress of Poland. The situation changed abruptly following Russia's successful suppression of the 1831 Polish uprising, aimed at overthrowing Russian control of the Polish territories. As the uprising was actively supported by the Greek-Catholic church, a crackdown on the Church occurred immediately. The pro-Latin members of the Synod were removed; and the Church began to disintegrate, with its parishes in Volhynia reverting to Orthodoxy, including the 1833 transfer of the famous Pochaiv Lavra. In 1839 the Synod of Polotsk (in modern-day Belarus), under the leadership of Bishop Semashko, dissolved the Greek-Catholic church in the Russian Empire, and all its property was transferred to the Orthodox state church. The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia says that in what was then known as 'Little Russia' (now Ukraine), the pressure of the Russian Government "utterly wiped out" Greek Catholicism, and "some 7,000,000 of the Uniats there were compelled, partly by force and partly by deception, to become part of the Greek Orthodox Church". [7]

The dissolution of the Greek-Catholic Church in Russia was completed in 1875 with the abolition of the Eparchy of Kholm. [8]

Reorganization and establishment of Greek Catholic Church under the Habsburg Monarchy

Elimination of Ruthenian Catholicism within the Russian Empire began early in the 19th century. In 1803 the Pope of Rome granted the transfer of the quasi[ clarification needed ]-patriarchal powers of the Major-Archiepiscopate[ citation needed ] of Kiev/Halych and all Rus to the Metropolitan of Lviv (Lemberg) in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Suffragan sees included Ivano-Frankivsk (then called Stanislav) and Przemyśl. By the end of the century, those remaining faithful to this church began emigrating to the U.S., Canada, and Brazil due to persecution by the Orthodox Church and the Russian Empire, e.g. the Pratulin Martyrs.

The territory received by Austria-Hungary in the partition of Poland included Galicia (modern western Ukraine and southern Poland). Here the Greek-Catholic Ruthenian (Ukrainian) peasantry had been largely under Polish Roman Catholic domination. The Austrians granted equal freedom of worship to the Greek-Catholic Church and removed Polish influence. They also mandated that Uniate seminarians receive a formal higher education (previously, priests had been educated informally by their fathers), and organized institutions in Vienna and Lviv that would serve this function. This led to the appearance, for the first time, of a large, educated class within the Ukrainian population in Galicia. [9] It also engendered a fierce sense of loyalty to the Habsburg dynasty. When Polish rebels briefly took control of Lviv in 1809, they demanded that the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Anton Anhelovych, substitute Napoleon's name in the Divine Liturgy for that of Austrian Emperor Francis II. Anhelovych refused, and was imprisoned. When the Austrians retook control over Lviv, Anhelovych was awarded the cross of Leopold by the Emperor. [10]

As a result of the reforms, over the next century the Greek-Catholic Church in Austrian Galicia ceased being a puppet of foreign interests and became the primary cultural force within the Ukrainian community. Most independent native Ukrainian cultural and political trends (such as Rusynophilia, Russophilia and later Ukrainophilia) emerged from within the ranks of the Greek-Catholic Church clergy. The participation of Greek Catholic priests or their children in western Ukrainian cultural and political life was so great that western Ukrainians were accused of wanting to create a theocracy in western Ukraine by their Polish rivals. [11] Among the political trends that emerged, the Christian social movement was particularly linked to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Many people saw the Austrians as having saved the Ukrainians and their Church from the Poles, though it was the Poles who set into motion the Greek-Catholic cast of their church.

St George's Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church built by architect The Very Reverend Philip Ruh, O.M.I. in 1923. Protected Heritage site, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan St Georges.jpg
St George's Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church built by architect The Very Reverend Philip Ruh, O.M.I. in 1923. Protected Heritage site, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Soviet annexation of West Ukraine and liquidation of the Church

Bishops of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. St. George's Cathedral, Lviv, Lviv 12.1927. Sitting: bp.Hryhory Khomyshyn, Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky, bp. Nykyta Budka, bp. Josaphat Kotsylovsky. Biskupi greckokatoliccy 1927 Lwow.jpg
Bishops of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. St. George's Cathedral, Lviv, Lviv 12.1927. Sitting: bp.Hryhory Khomyshyn, Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky, bp. Nykyta Budka, bp. Josaphat Kotsylovsky.
Stryi. The relics of the blessed of Josaphat Kotsylovsky.JPG The relics of the blessed of Josaphat Kotsylovsky.JPG
Stryi. The relics of the blessed of Josaphat Kotsylovsky.JPG
Map of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the province of Lviv in 1939 Greckokatolicka metropolia lwowska 1939.png
Map of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the province of Lviv in 1939

After World War I, Ukrainian Greek Catholics found themselves under the governance of the nations of Poland, Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia. Under the previous century of Austrian rule, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church attained such a strong Ukrainian national character that in interwar Poland, the Greek Catholics of Galicia were seen by the nationalist Polish and Catholic state as even less patriotic than the Orthodox Volhynians. Extending its Polonization policies to its Eastern Territories, the Polish authorities sought to weaken the UGCC. In 1924, following a visit with Ukrainian Catholic believers in North America and western Europe, the head of the UGCC was initially denied reentry to Lwów (the Polish name at the time for Lviv), only being allowed back after a considerable delay. Polish Roman Catholic priests, led by their Latin bishops, began missionary work among Greek Catholics; and administrative restrictions were placed on the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. [13]

After World War II Ukrainian Catholics came under the rule of Communist Poland and the hegemony of the Soviet Union. With only a few clergy invited to attend, a synod was convened in Lviv (Lvov), which revoked the Union of Brest. Officially all of the church property was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, [14] Most of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic clergy went underground. This catacomb church was strongly supported by its diaspora in the Western Hemisphere. Emigration to the U.S. and Canada, which had begun in the 1870s, increased after World War II.

In the winter of 1944–1945, Ukrainian Greek Catholic clergy were summoned to 'reeducation' sessions conducted by the NKVD. Near the end of the war in Europe, the state media began an anti-Ukrainian-Catholic campaign. [15] The creation of the community in 1596 was discredited in publications, which went to great pains to try to prove the Church was conducting activities directed against Ukrainians in the first half of the 20th century. [15]

In 1945 Soviet authorities arrested, deported, and sentenced to forced-labor camps in Siberia and elsewhere the church's metropolitan Yosyf Slipyi and nine other Greek Catholic bishops, as well as hundreds of clergy and leading lay activists. In Lviv alone, 800 priests were imprisoned. [15] All the above-mentioned bishops and significant numbers of clergymen died in prisons, concentration camps, internal exile, or soon after their release during the post-Stalin thaw. [16] The exception was metropolitan Yosyf Slipyi who, after 18 years of imprisonment and persecution, was released thanks to the intervention of Pope John XXIII, Slipyi took refuge in Rome, where he received the title of Major Archbishop of Lviv, and became a cardinal in 1965. [16]

The center dome of St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois St Joseph the Betrothed 080202.jpg
The center dome of St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois
The interior of Greek Catholic Church in Spas, Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Spas, Ukraine.jpg
The interior of Greek Catholic Church in Spas, Ukraine

The clergy who joined the Russian Orthodox Church were spared the large-scale persecution of religion that occurred elsewhere in the country (see Religion in the Soviet Union). In the city of Lviv, only one church was closed (at a time when many cities in the rest of Ukraine did not have a working church). Moreover, the western dioceses of Lviv-Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk were the largest in the USSR and contained the majority of the Russian Orthodox Church's cloisters (particularly convents, of which there were seven in Ukrainian SSR but none in Russia). Orthodox canon law was also relaxed on the clergy allowing them to shave beards (a practice uncommon to Orthodoxy) and conduct liturgy in Ukrainian as opposed to Church Slavonic.

The Ukrainian Catholics continued to exist underground for decades and were the subject of vigorous attacks in the state media. The clergy gave up public exercise of their clerical duties, but secretly provided services for many lay people. [15] Many priests took up civilian professions and celebrated the sacraments in private. The identities of former priests could have been known to the Soviet police who regularly watched them, interrogated them and put fines on them, but stopped short of arrest unless their activities went beyond a small circle of people. [15] New secretly ordained priests were often treated more harshly. [15]

The church even grew during this time, and this was acknowledged by Soviet sources. The first secretary of the Lvov Komsomol, Oleksiy Babiychuk, claimed:

in this oblast, particularly in the rural areas, a large number of the population adheres to religious practices, among them a large proportion of youth. In the last few years, the activity of the Uniates [Ukrainian Catholics] has grown, that of representatives of the Uniates as well as former Uniate priests; there are even reverberations to renew the overt activity of this Church. [15]

After Stalin died, Ukrainian Catholics hoped this would lead to better conditions for themselves, but such hopes were dashed in the late 1950s when the authorities arrested even more priests and unleashed a new wave of anti-Catholic propaganda. [15] Secret ordinations occurred in exile. Secret theological seminaries in Ternopol and Kolomyia were reported in the Soviet press in the 1960s when their organizers were arrested. [15] In 1974 a clandestine convent was uncovered in Lviv. [15]

During the Soviet era, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church did flourish throughout the Ukrainian diaspora. Cardinal Yosyf Slipyi was jailed as a dissident but named in pectore (in secret) a cardinal in 1949; he was freed in 1963 and was the subject of an extensive campaign to have him named as a patriarch, which met with strong support as well as controversy. Pope Paul VI demurred, but compromised with the creation of a new title of major archbishop (assigned to Yosyf Slipyi on 23 December 1963 [18] ), with a jurisdiction roughly equivalent to that of a patriarch in an Eastern church. This title has since passed to Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky in 1984 and thereafter to Lubomyr Husar in 2000 and Sviatoslav Shevchuk in 2011; this title has also been granted to the heads of three other Eastern Catholic Churches.

In 1968, when the Ukrainian Catholic Church was legalized in Czechoslovakia, a large scale campaign was launched to harass recalcitrant clergy who remained illegal. [15] These clergy were subject to interrogations, fines and beatings. In January 1969 the KGB arrested an underground Catholic bishop named Vasyl Velychkovsky and two Catholic priests, and sentenced them to three years of imprisonment for breaking anti-religious legislation. [15]

Activities that could lead to arrest included holding religious services, educating children as Catholics, performing baptisms, conducting weddings or funerals, hearing confessions or giving the last rites, copying religious materials, possessing prayer books, possessing icons, possessing church calendars, possessing religious books or other sacred objects. [15] Conferences were held to discuss how to perfect the methodology in combatting Ukrainian Catholicism in West Ukraine. [15]

At times the Ukrainian Catholics attempted to employ legal channels to have their community recognized by the state. In 19561957 there were petitions to the proper authorities to request for churches to be opened. More petitions were sent in the 60s and 70s, all of which were refused. In 1976, a priest named Volodymyr Prokipov was arrested for presenting such a petition to Moscow. [15] The response to these petitions by the state had been to sharpen attacks against the community.

In 1984 a samizdat Chronicle of the Catholic Church began to be published by Ukrainian Catholics. The founder of the group behind this publication, Yosef Terelya, was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to seven years imprisonment and five years of exile. [15] His successor, Vasely Kobryn, was arrested and sentenced to three years of exile. [15]

The Solidarity movement in Poland and Pope John Paul II supported the Ukrainian Catholics. The state media attacked John Paul II. The antireligious journal Liudyna i Svit (Man and the World) published in Kiev wrote:

Proof that the Church is persistently striving to strengthen its political influence in socialist countries is witnessed by the fact that Pope John Paul II gives his support to the emigre hierarchy of the so-called Ukrainian Catholic Church . . .. The current tactic of Pope John Paul II and the Roman Curia lies in the attempts to strengthen the position of the Church in all socialist countries as they have done in Poland, where the Vatican tried to raise the status of the Catholic Church to a state within a state. In the last few years, the Vatican has paid particular attention to the question of Catholicism of the Slavonic nations. This is poignantly underscored by the Pope when he states that he is not only a Pope of Polish origin, but the first Slavic Pope, and he will pay particular attention to the Christianization of all Slavic nations. [15]

By the late 1980s there was a shift in the Soviet government's attitude towards religion. At the height of Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalization reforms the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was allowed again to function officially in December 1989. [14] But then it found itself largely in disarray with the nearly all of its pre-1946 parishes and property lost to the Orthodox faith. The church, actively supported by nationalist organizations such as Rukh and later the UNA-UNSO, took an uncompromising stance towards the return of its lost property and parishes. According to a Greek-Catholic priest, "even if the whole village is now Orthodox and one person is Greek Catholic, the church [building] belongs to that Catholic because the church was built by his grandparents and great-grandparents." [19] The weakened Soviet authorities were unable to pacify the situation, and most of the parishes in Galicia came under the control of the Greek-Catholics during the events of a large scale inter-confessional rivalry that was often accompanied by violent clashes of the faithful provoked by their religious and political leadership. [20] These tensions led to a rupture of relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican.

Current situation

Bishop Paul Patrick Chomnycky in London. Chomnycky london cathedral.jpg
Bishop Paul Patrick Chomnycky in London.

National surveys conducted since 2000 show that between 5.3% and 9.4% of Ukraine's total population are of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. [21] [22] [23] In surveys, 18.6-21.3% of believers or religious people in Ukraine were Greek Catholic. [24] [25] Worldwide, the faithful now number some 6 to 10 million, forming the largest particular Catholic Church,[ citation needed ] after the majority Latin Rite Church.

According to a 2015 survey, followers of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church make up 8.1% of the total population (excluding Crimea) and form the majority in 3 oblasts: [26]

The Feast of the Transfiguration in Ukraine in 2017 Feast of Transfiguration in Spas village 12.jpg
The Feast of the Transfiguration in Ukraine in 2017

Today, most Ukrainian Catholic Churches have moved away from Church Slavonic and use Ukrainian. Many churches also offer liturgies in a language of the country the Church is in, for example, German in Germany or English in Canada; however, some parishes continue to celebrate the liturgy in Slavonic even today, and services in a mix of languages are not unusual.

In the early first decade of the 21st century, the major see of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was transferred to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. The enthronement of the new head of the church Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk took place there on 27 March 2011 at the cathedral under construction on the left bank. On 18 August 2013, the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ was dedicated and solemnly opened.

On 5 July 2019, Pope Francis declared to the church's leaders during a meeting in the Vatican “I hold you in my heart, and I pray for you, dear Ukrainian brothers." [27] He also advocated greater humanitarian aid to Ukraine and warned the Church's Bishops to show "closeness" to their "faithful." [27] The Pope also told the Church leaders to that "fruitful" unity within the Church can be achieved through three important aspects of synodality: listening; shared responsibility; and the involvement of the laity. [27]

De-Latinization and protest

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church previously embarked on a campaign of de-Latinization reforms. These include the removal of the stations of the cross, the rosary, and the monstrance from their liturgy and parishes. In 2001 a priest, Vasyl Kovpak, and a small group of followers opposed to certain policies (such as de-Latinization) and ecumenism of the UGCC hierarchy, organized themselves as the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat (SSJK). The SSJK possesses close ties with the Latin Rite Traditionalist Catholic Society of Saint Pius X, which rejects and condemns certain actions and policies of both Husar and the Pope. On 21 November 2007 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith excommunicated Kovpak. [28]

Critics claim that the SSJK's liturgical practice favours severely abbreviated services and imported Roman Catholic devotions over the traditional and authentic practices of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Proponents counter that these symbols and rituals, influenced long ago by their Polish Roman Catholic neighbors, have been practiced by Ukrainian Greek Catholics for centuries. To deny them today is to deprive the people of a part of sacred heritage which they have learned to regard as their own.

In 2008, a group of Basilian priests from Slovakia after relocated to the Pidhirtsi monastery declared that four of them had been consecrated bishops without permission of the Pope or the Major Archbishop. The "Pidhirtsi fathers" had opposed de-latinization, liberal theology, and the ecumenical approach of the hierarchy. Excommunicated in 2008, in 2009 they constituted themselves as the Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church calling the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church "heretical".


Administrative divisions of the Ruthenian Uniate (Greek-Catholic) Church in 1772 (before partition of Poland) Administrative divisions of the Greek Catholic Church in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772.PNG
Administrative divisions of the Ruthenian Uniate (Greek-Catholic) Church in 1772 (before partition of Poland)
Cathedral of the Theotokos in Vilnius, mother church of Ruthenian Uniate Church Theotokos vilnius.jpg
Cathedral of the Theotokos in Vilnius, mother church of Ruthenian Uniate Church
St. George's Cathedral in Lviv, mother church of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Lviv - Cathedral of Saint George 01.JPG
St. George's Cathedral in Lviv, mother church of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Ruthenian Uniate (eparchies) and partition of Poland

Greek Catholic church after the 1839 Synod of Polotsk


Ruthenian Uniate Church

(governing title Metropolitan of Kiev, Galicia and all Ruthenia)

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

(governing title Metropolitan of Galicia, since 2005 Major Archbishop of Kiev-Galicia)

Current administrative division

Note: The Eparchy of Mukachevo belongs to the Ruthenian Catholic Church rather than the Ukrainian Greek church.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church moved its administrative center from Western Ukrainian Lviv to a new cathedral in Kiev on 21 August 2005. The title of the head of the UGCC was changed from The Major Archbishop of Lviv to The Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halych.

The Patriarchal Curia of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is an organ of Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the UGCC, Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halych, which coordinates and promotes the common activity of the UGCC in Ukraine to make influence on society in different spheres: education, policy, culture, etc. The Curia develops action of the Church's structures, enables relations and cooperation with other Churches and major public institutions in religious and social areas for implementation of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church through everyday life.

In 2011 the church introduced territorial subdivisions in Ukraine, metropolia. [30] A metropolitan bishop, an archbishop of main archeparchy, may gather own metropolitan synod, decisions of which shall be approved by the Major Archbishop. [30]

The current eparchies and other territorial jurisdictions of the church are:

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Vinnytsia Ukrayina Vinnitsia, Ukrayins'ka greko-katolits'ka tserkva (4).jpg
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Vinnytsia

* Directly subject to the Holy See

As of 2014, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is estimated to have 4,468,630 faithful, 39 bishops, 3993 parishes, 3008 diocesan priests, 399 religious-order priests, 818 men religious, 1459 women religious, 101 deacons, and 671 seminarians. [31]

Monastic orders and religious congregations

List of orders and congregations [32]



Prison ministry of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Prison chaplains of the UGCC, 2008 Capelany.jpg
Prison chaplains of the UGCC, 2008

In contemporary Ukraine prison ministry of chaplains does not exist de jure.[ citation needed ] The prison pastoral care was at the very heart of the spirituality of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church throughout her history. Prison Pastoral of the UGCC was restored in 1990 after the Church, formerly forbidden, emerged from the underground. Pastoral care has grown steadily from several establishments in the Western Part of Ukraine to more than 40 penal institutions in every region of the country. Since 2001 the UGCC is the co-founder of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission "Spiritual and Charitable Care in Prisons" including twelve Churches and Denominations. This Mission is a part of the World Association of Prison Ministry. The most active prison chaplains are the Redemptorist Fathers.

In the year 2006 Lubomyr Husar established in the Patriarchal Curia of the UGCC the Department for Pastoral Care in the Armed Forces and in the Penitentiary System of Ukraine. This structure implements a general management of Prison Ministry. The chief of the Department is Most Rev. Michael Koltun, Bishop of Sokal and Zhovkva. The head of the Unit for penitentiary pastoral care is Rev. Constantin Panteley, who is directly responsible for coordination of activity in this realm. He is in direct contact with 37 priests in 12 eparchies who have been assigned responsibility for prison pastoral care. Those pastors ensure regular attendance of penitentiary facilities, investigatory isolators and prisons.

See also

The interior of St. George's Church in Chervonohrad St. George's Krystynopol.jpg
The interior of St. George's Church in Chervonohrad

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The history of Christianity in Ukraine dates back to the earliest centuries of the history of Christianity, to the Apostolic Age, with mission trips along the Black Sea and a legend of Saint Andrew even ascending the hills of Kiev. It has remained the dominant religion in the country since its acceptance in 988 by Vladimir the Great, who brought it from Byzantine Crimea and instated it as the state religion of medieval Kievan Rus' (Ruthenia), with the metropolitan see in Kiev.

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Further reading