Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

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Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Ukrainian: Українська греко-католицька церква (УГКЦ)
StGeorgeCathedral Lviv.JPG
St. George's Cathedral in Lviv, mother church of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
TypeParticular church (sui iuris)
ClassificationEastern Catholic
OrientationEastern Christianity
TheologyCatholic Theology, Palamism[1]
GovernanceSynod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church[2]
Major ArchbishopSviatoslav Shevchuk[3]
Parishesc. 3993
RegionMainly: Ukraine
Minority: Canada, the United States, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Poland, Lithuania and Argentina.
LanguageUkrainian, Church Slavonic
LiturgyByzantine Rite
HeadquartersCathedral of the Resurrection, Kyiv, Ukraine
FounderGrand Prince St. Volodymyr the Great (988 as the first who baptized Ruthenia)
Origin1596 Union of Brest
Brest, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Separated fromEcumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (1596 as Ruthenian Uniate Church)
SeparationsUkrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church
Members5.5 million[4]
Other name(s)Ukrainian Catholic Church
Ukrainian Greek Church
Uniate Church
Official Edit this at Wikidata

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC; Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church: Українська Греко-Католицька Церква(УГКЦ), romanizedUkrayins'ka Hreko-Katolic'ka Tserkva; Latin: Ecclesia Graeco-Catholica Ucrainae) is a sui iuris Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the worldwide Catholic Church. It is the second-largest particular church (sui juris) in the Catholic Church, second only to the Latin Church. It is part of the Major Archiepiscopal Churches of the Catholic Church that are not distinguished with a patriarchal title.

The church is one of the successor churches to the acceptance of Christianity by Grand Prince Vladimir the Great of Kyiv, 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.[5] Following the partitions of Poland, in 1808 the eparchies of the original Ruthenian Uniate Church (Latin: Ecclesia Ruthena unita)[6][7] 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. Established in 1807 the Greek Catholic Church in Austria became the only survivor of the original Uniate church of the Brest Union.

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 Kyiv-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 the church title hierarchy. Since March 2011 the head of the church is Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world. Currently it has approximately 4.1 million members.[8] Within Ukraine itself, the UGCC is the second largest religious organization in terms of number of communities within the Catholic church. 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. Today, the Church in the diaspora including the United States and Canada is largely multi-ethnic.


Ruthenian Orthodox Church and previous attempts of Catholic Union[edit]

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 Kyiv in 988 when there was established the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Metropolis of Kyiv and all Ruthenia. Later at the time of the Great Schism (ca 1054) the Ruthenian (Rusyn) Church took sides and remained Orthodox.

Following the devastating Mongol invasion of Ruthenia and sack of Kyiv in 1240, Metropolitan Maximus of Kyiv 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 Kyiv 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 Kyiv 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 Kyiv, 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 Uniate Church[edit]

Religions in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1573:
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.[5] 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.[9] Following that in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth legally existed both churches with Metrolopolitans of Kyiv, one, Josyf Veliamyn Rutsky, Greek Catholic, and another, Peter Mogila, Orthodox.

Partitions of the Commonwealth and the Uniate church in Russia, Prussia, and Austria[edit]

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

Following partitions of Poland, the Habsburg Monarchy established its crown land of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and then West Galicia which in 1803 was merged with Galicia and Lodomeria, which became in 1804 the crownland of the Austrian Empire. The Greek Catholic Church was established on 1807 with metropolitan see based in Lwow and its suffragan dioceses included Chelm and Przemyśl.[10] Following the 1809 Treaty of Schönbrunn the Austrian Empire was forced to cede territory of former West Galicia to Duchy of Warsaw which in 1815 on decision of Congress of Vienna was ceded to the Russian Empire. The Chelm diocese which was located on the territory that for short period time was known as West Galicia ended up under the Russian jurisdiction.

The Russian emperor Pavel I of Russia restored the Uniate church which was reorganized with three eparchies suffragan to metropolitan bishop Joasaphat Bulhak.[11] 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)[12] 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".[13]

The dissolution of the Greek-Catholic Church in Russia was completed in 1875 with the abolition of the Eparchy of Kholm.[14] 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 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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] 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[18]

Soviet annexation of the Eastern Poland and liquidation of the Church[edit]

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
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 Catholic priests, led by their Latin bishops, began missionary work among Greek Catholics; and administrative restrictions were placed on the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.[19]

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,[20] 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.[21] 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.[21]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[22]

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.[21] 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.[21] New secretly ordained priests were often treated more harshly.[21]

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.[21]

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.[21] 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.[21] In 1974, a clandestine convent was uncovered in Lviv.[21]

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[24] ), 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.[21] 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.[21]

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.[21] Conferences were held to discuss how to perfect the methodology in combatting Ukrainian Catholicism in West Ukraine.[21]

At times the Ukrainian Catholics attempted to employ legal channels to have their community recognized by the state. In 1956–1957, 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.[21] 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.[21] His successor, Vasely Kobryn, was arrested and sentenced to three years of exile.[21]

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 Kyiv 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.[21]

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.[20] 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."[25] 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.[26] These tensions led to a rupture of relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican.

Current situation[edit]

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.[27][28][29] In surveys, 18.6-21.3% of believers or religious people in Ukraine were Greek Catholic.[30][31] Worldwide, the faithful now number some 6 to 10 million, forming the second 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:[32]

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 Kyiv. 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."[33] He also advocated greater humanitarian aid to Ukraine and warned the Church's Bishops to show "closeness" to their "faithful."[33] 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.[33]

De-Latinization vs. Traditionalism[edit]


Even before the Second Vatican Council the Holy See declared it important to guard and preserve whole and entire forever the customs and distinct forms for administering the sacraments in use in the Eastern Catholic Churches (Pope Leo XIII, encyclical Orientalium Dignitas).[34] Leo's successor Pope Pius X said that the priests of the newly created Russian Catholic Church should offer the Divine Liturgy Nec Plus, Nec Minus, Nec Aliter ("No more, No Less, No Different") than priests of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Old Believers.[35][36]

In the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, liturgical de-latinization began with the 1930s corrections of the liturgical books by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. According to his biographer Cyril Korolevsky, Metropolitan Andrey opposed use of coercion against those who remained attached to Latin Rite practices, fearing that any attempt to do so would lead to a Greek-Catholic equivalent of the 1666 Schism within the Russian Orthodox Church.[37]

Following the 1964 decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum durinv the Second Vatican Council and several subsequent documents, Latinisations were discarded within the Ukrainian diaspora. Meanwhile, among Byzantine Catholics in Western Ukraine, forced into a persecuted and secret existence following the Soviet ban on the UGCC, the latinizations remained, "an important component of their underground practices",[38] in illegal parishes, seminaries, and religious communities. After proscription of the UGCC was lifted in 1989, priests and hierarchs arrived from the diaspora and began to enforce a liturgical conformity that has been met with considerable opposition.

In response, many priests, nuns, and candidates for the priesthood found themselves, "forced towards the periphery of the church since 1989 because of their wish to 'keep the tradition'." In some eparchies, particularly those of Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil-Zboriv, the bishops would immediately suspend any priest who, "displayed his inclination toward 'traditionalist' practices".[39]

In the February 2003 issue of Patriayarkhat, the official journal of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, an article appeared written by a student at the Ukrainian Catholic University, which since it's 1994 foundation has been, "the strongest progressive voice within the Church". The article named priests and parishes in every eparchy in Ukraine as being involved in "a well-organized movement" and who described themselves as "traditionalists". According to the article, they constituted "a parallel structure" with connections with the Society of St. Pius X and with a charismatic leader in Fr. Basil Kovpak, the Pastor of St. Peter and Paul's Church in the suburb of Lviv-Riasne.[40]

According to Vlad Naumescu, "Religious life in a traditionalist parish followed the model of the 'underground church.' Devotions were more intense, with each priest promoting his parish as a 'place of pilgrimage' for the neighboring areas, thus drawing larger crowds on Sunday than his local parish could provide. On Sundays and feast days, religious services took place three times a day (in Riasne), and the Sunday liturgy lasted for two and a half to three hours. The main religious celebrations took place outside the church in the middle of the neighborhood, and on every occasion traditionalists organized long processions through the entire locality. The community was strongly united by it's common opponent, re-enacting the model of the 'defender of faith' common to times of repression. This model, which presupposes clear-cut attitudes and a firm moral stance, mobilized the community and reproduced the former determination of the 'underground' believers."[41]

Fr. Kovpak and the Society of St. Josaphat[edit]

According to Vlad Naumescu, during the early 1990s, priests of the Society of Saint Pius X began visiting Western Ukraine and made contact with, "a group of Greek Catholic priests and lay members that favored religious practices derived from the Latin Rite (an important component of their underground practices) and helped them organize into an active society."[42]

In 1999, Fr. Basil Kovpak and two other traditionalist UGCC priests asked Society of Saint Pius X Superior General Bishop Bernard Fellay to become their spiritual leader. The reasons for this move were that the three priests hoped to obtain both approval and support from fellow Traditionalist Catholics in the West. In September 2000, Bishop Fellay agreed and the Priestly Society of St. Josaphat was founded.[43]

The Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat extends the SSPX's criticism of indifferentism and Modernism in the Catholic Church to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. They oppose certain decisions of the Second Vatican Council and aspects of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue practised by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Hierarchy and the Holy See.

In addition to opposing the banning of Latin Rite practices and devotions, the Society rejects the drastically shortened Divine Liturgy introduced from the Ukrainian diaspora and the replacement of the traditional Church Slavonic liturgical language with the vernacular Ukrainian language. As an alternative, Fr. Kovpak and his fellow Greek Catholic traditionalists say what they consider the Pravdyvyi ("True") Rite,[44] which often lasts two and a half to three hours.[45]

On February 10, 2004, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar declared Fr. Kovpak excommunicated over his links to the SSPX.[46] Fr. Kovpak announced his plans to appeal to the Holy See.[47] The Sacra Rota Romana accepted his appeal and declared Fr. Kovpak's excommunication null and void for lack of canonical form.[48]

The process was immediately restarted and Fr. Kovpak's second decree of excommunication was confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on November 21, 2007.[49]

While pro-Kovpak Ukrainian traditionalists have often been accused of having links to the SSPX solely for financial reasons, they would not, according to Vlad Naumescu, have been able to survive as a movement without the money donated to them by Roman Rite Traditionalists in the West.[50]

The Society operates a seminary in Lviv, where the seminarians are taught by Fr. Kovpak and by SPPX priests visiting from Poland. The Society also consists of a group of Greek Catholic nuns, who were forced to leave the Basilian Order in 1995, "because of their 'traditionalist' ideas"[51] and who now reside in the house where Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky died following his release from the Gulag. The room in which Kyr Nicholas died is now the convent's chapel.[52]

Unlike the Ukrainian orthodox Greek Catholic Church, Fr. Kovpak and the PSSJK reject both Sedevacantism and Conclavism.

Sedevacantism and Conclavism in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church[edit]

In 2008, a group of Basilian priests from Slovakia, after relocating 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" have claimed they opposed de-latinization, and also further claim that the members of the hierarchy of the Ukrainian Greek catholic church follows liberal theology due to ecumenism.

Because they had consecrated bishops without the authorization of Rome they were as of consequence officially excommunicated in 2008, in 2009 they constituted themselves as the Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church.

Having elected Czech Basilian priest Fr. Anthony Elias Dohnal as "Patriarch Elijah", they declared on 1 May 2011 that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were excommunicated and that the Holy See was vacant (Sedevacantism). They added: "The Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate is now commissioned by God to protect the orthodox doctrine of the Catholic Church, including the Latin Church. Only after an orthodox Catholic hierarchy and an orthodox successor to the Papacy is elected, will the Patriarchate be relieved of this God-given duty."[53][54]

On 14 October 2019, the UOGCC broke with their former policy of Sedevacantism and embraced Conclavism. They announced they had elected Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, as their Pope.[55][56]

In a 2014 article in The New York Times about the UOGCC, Patriarch Elijah and his followers were alleged to be Pro-Russian, anti-Ukrainian, and violently opposed to the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution. In the same article, Kyr Ihor Vozniak, UGCC Archeparch of Lviv, was quoted as saying that the UOGCC is financed and secretly led by the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation in order to introduce anarchy and chaos into the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.[57]

According to the Lviv-based newspaper Ekspres, Fr. Dohnal, alias Patriarch Elijah, was a KGB informer inside the Roman Catholic Diocese of Litoměřice before the Fall of Communism in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. In support of their claims, Ekspres published a document identifying Fr. Dohnal as a KGB mole with the code name “Tonek.” The UOGCC denies the accusation.

Ukrainian diaspora[edit]

The Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States has limited growth opportunities, because in the United States and in other non-Ukrainian jurisdictions, many parishes choose to focus on immigrants from Ukraine and their children (during the time the children are subject to parental control) as opposed to making new converts. They maintains this characteristic by resisting the use of English in liturgies and, in some parishes, insisting on the use of the Julian Calendar to calculate dates of Christmas, Easter, and other religious holidays, thus placing themselves outside the U.S. mainstream. The Ukrainian Catholic Church considers the descendants of those who migrated from Ukraine to be part of a “diaspora.”

By the time the immigrants’ children, and especially the immigrants’ grandchildren, grow up, they have learned English in school, know little to no Ukrainian, and are otherwise fully assimilated into U.S. culture. To the extent that the children maintain any religious affiliation, they are either members of the Latin Church or join some non-Catholic denomination. To the extent that a Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States is able to make progress toward adaptation (e.g. the use of English in its liturgies and in the conducting of parish business), the next group of immigrants arrives from the old country and insists that the church maintain its old world characteristics without change and all former progress is reversed.[citation needed] For this reason, many parishes and Eparchies have begun to focus on producing converts.

In Canada, the wave of immigration from Galicia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to the establishment of a number of Ukrainian Catholic churches in the Prairie provinces.[58] The Ukrainian Catholic Church is also represented in other provinces, for example by the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada, which includes dioceses in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, and the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of New Westminster in British Columbia.


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
St. George's Cathedral in Lviv, mother church of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Ruthenian Uniate (eparchies) and partition of Poland[edit]

  • Vilno archeparchy (Metropolitan of Kyiv) → Russia
  • Polotsk archeparchy (Polotsk) → Russia
  • Smolensk archeparchy (Smolensk) → Russia
  • Lutsk-Ostroh eparchy (Lutsk) → Russia
  • Turow-Pinsk eparchy (Pinsk) → Russia
  • Volodymyr-Brest eparchy (Volodymyr) → Suprasl eparchy in Germany
  • Halych-Kamianets eparchy (Lviv) → Lemberg archeparchy (Metropolitan of Galicia) in Austria
  • Chelm-Belz eparchy (Chelm) → Austria
  • Przemysl-Sanok eparchy (Przemysl) → Austria

Greek Catholic church after the 1839 Synod of Polotsk[edit]

  • Archeparchy of Lemberg (Lviv, Metropolitan of Galicia)
  • Eparchy of Kulm and Belz (Chelm) → territory lost due to Congress of Vienna
  • Eparchy of Premissel and Saanig (Przemysl)
  • added eparchy of Stanislau (Ivano-Frankivsk)
  • added apostolic exarchate of Lemkowszczyna (Sanok)


Ruthenian Uniate Church

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

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

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

Current administrative division[edit]

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

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church moved its administrative center from Western Ukrainian Lviv to a new cathedral in Kyiv 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.[60] A metropolitan bishop, an archbishop of main archeparchy, may gather own metropolitan synod, decisions of which shall be approved by the Major Archbishop.[60]

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

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.[61]

Monastic orders and religious congregations[edit]

List of orders and congregations[62]



Prison ministry of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church[edit]

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[edit]

The interior of St. George's Church in Chervonohrad


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]