Ruthenian Catholic Church
|Ruthenian Catholic Church|
|Orientation||Eastern Catholic, Byzantine Rite|
|Leader||Metropolitan William C. Skurla|
|Associations||Congregation for the Oriental Churches|
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|Churches by rite|
The Ruthenian Catholic Church is a sui iuris (i.e., self-governing) Eastern Catholic Church (see particular Church), which uses the Divine Liturgy of the Constantinopolitan Byzantine Eastern Rite. Its roots are among the Rusyns who lived in the region called Carpathian Ruthenia, in and around the Carpathian Mountains. This is the area where the borders of present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine meet. The Ruthenian Catholic Church is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome who is spiritual leader of the 23 sui iuris particular churches which are part of the Catholic Church.
The Ruthenian Church developed among the Rusyn people living in Carpathian Ruthenia as a result of the missionary outreach of Saints Cyril and Methodius who brought Christianity and the Byzantine Rite to the Slavic peoples in the ninth century. After the separation of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in 1054, the Ruthenian Church retained its Orthodox ties.
The invasion of the Magyars in the 10th century later brought Catholic missionary influence to the area. With the Union of Uzhhorod in 1646, 63 Ruthenian clergy were received into the Catholic Church, and in 1664 a union reached at Mukachevo brought additional communities into the Catholic communion. The resulting dioceses retained their Byzantine rite and liturgical traditions, and their bishops were elected by a council composed of Basilian monks and eparchial clergy.
The region became, in part, incorporated in Czechoslovakia after World War I. Annexation to the Soviet Union after World War II led to persecution of the Ruthenian Catholic Church. However, since the collapse of Communism the Ruthenian Catholic Church in Eastern Europe has seen a resurgence in numbers of faithful and priests.
The United States
The vast majority of Ruthenian Catholics outside of their European homeland are to be found in North America. In the 19th and 20th centuries, various Byzantine-Rite Catholics arrived in the United States, particularly in coal mining towns. The predominant Latin Church Catholic hierarchy did not always receive them well, being disturbed in particular at what they saw as the innovation, for the United States, of a married Catholic clergy. At their persistent request, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith applied, on 1 May 1897, to the United States rules already set out in a letter of 2 May 1890 to François-Marie-Benjamin Richard, the Archbishop of Paris. These rules stated that only celibates and widowed priests coming without their children should be permitted in the United States. This rule was restated with special reference to Catholics of the Ruthenian Church by the 1 March 1929 decree Cum data fuerit, which was renewed for a further ten years in 1939. Dissatisfaction by many Ruthenian Catholics had already given rise to some groups placing themselves under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America in the 1890s. In 1938 the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese was created when 37 Ruthenian parishes were received into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch (c.f. Archbishop John Ireland, Saint Alexis Toth).
Relations with the Latin Church Catholic hierarchy have improved, especially since the Second Vatican Council, at which the Ruthenian Church influenced decisions regarding using the vernacular (i.e. the language of the people) in the liturgy (Unlike the former custom in the Latin Church, the Ruthenian Church always celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Church Slavonic language, an ancient Slavic language.) In its decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum the Second Vatican Council declared:
"The Catholic Church holds in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches, for in them, distinguished as they are for their venerable antiquity, there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church."
Ruthenian parishes tend to stress the importance of unity with the Bishop of Rome and the whole Catholic Church, albeit with an Eastern expression. The Second Vatican Council urged Eastern Rite Churches to eliminate Liturgical Latinization and to strengthen their Eastern Christian identity. This directive has been met with some success, and the Ruthenian Church is no exception. In June 1999 the Council of Hierarchs of the Byzantine Metropolitan Church Sui Iuris of Pittsburgh U.S.A. promulgated the norms of particular law to govern itself. In January 2007, the Revised Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great were promulgated.
Membership of the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Church is not limited to those who trace their heritage to Eastern Europe.
The Ruthenian Church has four eparchies in the United States of America and one eparchy plus an Apostolic Exarchate in Europe. As of 2010, its membership was estimated at some 646,000 faithful, with seven bishops, 626 parishes, 501 priests, 67 deacons, and 234 men and women religious
Metropolia of Pittsburgh (one archeparchy, three suffragan eparchies):
- Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (established in 1924)
- Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma (1969)
- Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic (1963)
- Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix (founded 1981 at Van Nuys, transferred in 2010)
Immediately subject to the Holy See:
One issue preventing organization of the Ruthenian Catholic Church under a single synod is the desire of some of the priests and faithful of the Eparchy of Mukacheve that it should be part of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
- Blessed Theodore Romzha, bishop and martyr
- Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
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- Union of Brest
- Union of Uzhhorod
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- "Uzhhorod Union of 1646". Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.
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- History of the Ruthenian Catholics in the Carpathian Mountains
- List of Ruthenian Eparchies
- (Ukrainian) Мукачівська греко-католицька єпархія
- Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh
- Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma
- Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic
- (Czech) Apoštolský exarchát řeckokatolické církve v České republice
- Directory of Byzantine-Ruthenian Parish web sites
- St. Melany Byzantine Catholic Church Tucson, AZ USA
- Ss. Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church (Portage, PA, USA)
- Orientales Omnes Ecclesias: Encyclical of Pope Pius XII
- Orientalium Ecclesiarum: Second Vatican Council