Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church
The Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church (UOGCC) is an Eastern Christian religious movement established in 2009 and based in Pidhirtsi in Ukraine. Its seven founding bishops were formerly priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and members of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, from which they separated.
Movement within the Basilian order
Anthony Elias Dohnal, born 1946, was ordained as a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Litoměřice in Czechoslovakia circa 1971. After military service, he served as a parochial vicar in Slušovice and Budišov, promoting spiritual revival. Active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal since 1981, he fought against the tolerance of occultism and promoted prayer groups. In 1986 he was assigned to a "prison for nuns" and kept as a virtual prisoner. From 1987 to 1990 he served at Dvorce, continuing with samizdat writings against liberal theology and occultism. In 1991, together with students R. Spirik and J. Spirik, he resolved to join the Greek-Catholic Order of Saint Basil the Great (OSBM) and entered the novitiate in Warsaw. In 1992, he transferred to the monastery in Trebišov. Spirik and two other former students were ordained priests during 1996-1997. Shortly after, Dohnal applied for permission to found a "contemplative" branch of the OSBM community.
In 1997, Fr. Dionysius Lachovicz OSBM (born in Brazil in 1946), the General Superior of the Basilian order, granted the group permission to be designated as an "experimental community" within the order under his direct supervision. He appointed the group's leader, Elias Dohnal, OSBM, to direct the formation of the novices in the group, men who had been rejected by the order's novitiate in Poland. In May 1998, after complaints and a canonical visitation, he withdrew permission for the community's special status. The group appealed to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches for permission to establish an autonomous monastery within the territory of the Archeparchy of Prešov (Slovakia) against the will of its bishop, Ivan Hirka. Lachovicz confirmed the suppression in December 1998 and the community members were dispersed to other assignments.
In late 1999, at the request of the Greek-Catholic Apostolic Exarch in the Czech Republic Ivan Ljavinec for a Basilian community, and with the agreement of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Vlk, Lachovicz founded a Basilian community in Prague, assigning to it Fr. Cyril Špiřík, his brother Fr. Metoděj R. Špiřík and their former classmate Fr. Markian Hitiuk from Ukraine, to serve at the cathedral parish in Prague. In 2003, the Basilians and their supporters protested against the appointment of a new Greek-Catholic exarch in the Czech Republic, Ladislav Hučko, a non-Ukrainian, by blockading the Greek-Catholic cathedral. As a result, the event was relocated to be held in a Roman Catholic church. In 2004, Lachovicz was not re-elected. His successor closed the Order's community in the Czech Republic, transferring the members to the monastery in Pidhirtsi, Ukraine.
Conflict with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
On March 3, 2008, Dohnal announced to Pope Benedict XVI that he and three other Basilian Fathers had been consecrated as bishops in order to "save" the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) from heresy and apostasy. Dohnal did not identify the bishop or bishops who had performed the consecration. In justification for the act, he wrote that the bishops of the UGCC supported influences of syncretism and occultism, approval of homosexuality, and erroneous ecumenism. As an example of the latter, he cited the Balamand declaration of 1993, which had rejected "uniatism" as a method of seeking Christian unity between Catholics and Orthodox. In his letter, Dohnal denounced statements from Cardinal Husar's book "Conversations with Cardinal Lubomyr Husar: On post-confessional Christianity" as schismatic and apostate.
According to a 2008 article on kreuz.net, the conflict was "foreseeable" and arose from tensions between the Studite and Basilian orders of monks in the UGCC: that the Studites, including the Major Archbishop of Kiev–Galicia, Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, favored closer relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while the Basilians favored the preservation of influences from the Latin Church (Liturgical latinisation).
In June 2008 the tribunal of the Eparchy of Sokal-Zhovkva held an ecclesiastical trial for the four priests. They were convicted of illegal assumption of authority and illegal administration of ministry (violation of can. 1462 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO)), inciting rebellion against the local hierarchy, including Bishop Mykhail Koltun, C.SS.R., Major Archbishop Lubomyr Cardinal Husar (violation of can. 1447 §1 CCEO), and causing injustice and serious harm to the good reputation of the above-mentioned persons and to other hierarchs of the UGCC through slander (violation of can. 1452 CCEO). The penalty imposed was major excommunication. After an appeal, the sentence was upheld by the tribunal of the major archeparchy and announced on September 17, 2008.
On August 15, 2008, Pidhirtsi supporters attempted unsuccessfully to occupy a church administration building in Stryi, Ukraine. Fr. Taras Poshyvak, chancellor of the Stryi eparchy, said that the "regional leadership of the police" was interfering and preventing normal police protection of the building.
Founding of new church
On August 11, 2009, the bishops of the Pidhirtsi movement declared the founding of the irregular Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church as a "new Church structure for the orthodox faithful of the UGCC." In their declaration they professed the Catholic faith, including the primacy of the Roman Pontiff and disassociated themselves from "contemporary heresies which destroy both the Eastern and the Western Church."
The name of the church includes the description Правовірна ("true-believing"). Although the Church's English-language website translates this word as "Orthodox", it is not the same term as that used by the existing Orthodox Churches present in Ukraine, whose names use the term православна ("true-worshiping").
In November 2010, a group of about 70 UOGCC supporters, including leaders Metoděj Richard Špiřík and Markian Vasyl Hitiuk, clashed with parishioners at the UGCC Church of the Transfiguration in Chortkiv in an apparent attempt to occupy the church.
On April 7, 2011, the UOGCC bishops declared the establishment of a Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate, offering to provide an episcopal authority to like-minded believers elsewhere in the world. Archbishop Elias Dohnal was selected as the first Patriarch of the new body.
Conflict with the Catholic Church
On October 7, 2008, the Apostolic Signatura, the highest appeals court of the Catholic Church, including the UGCC from which the UOGCC separated, refused the appeal of the "Pidhirtsi fathers", and left the sentence of major excommunication imposed on June 2008 by the UGCC major-archiepiscopal tribunal intact.
In 2010, the UOGCC declared an excommunication upon 265 professors of the Pontifical Gregorian University, and declared that over 2200 bishops worldwide had excommunicated themselves by failing to respond to demands of the UOGCC. The declaration asserted that the bishops affected would thenceforth be unable to validly ordain priests. It also called for Pope Benedict XVI to purge the hierarchy, institute reforms, and resign. On April 7, 2011 the bishops of the UOGCC declared an excommunication against Pope Benedict XVI on May 1, 2011.
On March 29, 2012 the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a declaration, urged by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and dated February 22, 2012, concerning the main bishops of the UOGCC. It stated that CDF would not recognize the episcopal consecrations of the UOGCC's bishops as valid, and that the bishops of the UOGCC had been excommunicated. The UOGCC bishops wrote a reply.
Patriarch Elijah Anthony Dohnal OSBMr (born 1946 in Hluk) was elected as first Patriarch of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate. He was elected by the Bishops’ Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in an extraordinary assembly of 5 April 2011, on the day of establishment of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate.
On June 22, 2014, the New York Times reported  that Ekspres, a Lviv-based newspaper, conducted a lengthy investigation of Dohnal's church, and concluded that it had discovered an important clue to the group’s pro-Moscow allegiances and advocacy on the side of Moscow during the 2014 pro-European anti-Moscow revolution in Ukraine: Before the 1989 collapse of Communism in his homeland, then still Czechoslovakia, Dohnal worked as an informer for Soviet intelligence services (the infamous KGB). The Ekspress newspaper published what it said was a document from former Czechoslovak archives that identified him as a mole for Soviet intelligence with the code name “Tonek.” The New York Times reported that, as of 2014, Mr. Dohnal, who as a Czech national has gone into hiding to avoid expulsion from Ukraine for visa violations, and his lieutenants never attracted a large number of followers, but made headlines in the local Ukrainian news media for their pro-Russia's views and their brainwashing of vulnerable young recruits.
Elijah was ordained priest in 1972 in the Czech Republic and joined the OSBM Order and changed rite in 1991. He has a doctorate in theology from Charles University, Prague and lectured dogmatics in Prešov, Slovakia.
He was consecrated archbishop in 2009 and held the title of Vicar. He was appointed Byzantine Catholic Patriarch through election and the imposition of hands by the Bishops’ Synod headed by Archbishop Michael Osidach on 5 April 2011.
- Head of the Church: Mychajlo Osidach, Ukrainian: Osidach, a former Russian Orthodox priest, has claimed to have been consecrated as a Catholic bishop clandestinely in September 1989, during the era of Communist rule of Ukraine, by Archbishop Volodymyr Sterniuk (1907-1997) and Bishop Filemon Kurchaba (1913-1995). As of 2014, he is not listed in the Annuario Pontificio as a bishop recognized by the Holy See.
- Secretary: Markian V. Hitiuk, OSBM: Ukrainian, born 1970
- Members of the Synod:
- "History of the Pidhirsti reform". Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. 2010-01-11.
- "In Service to the Church". St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church.
- "Who Laid the Easter Egg?". Per Christum (blog).
- Oleh Polishchuk (April 7, 2011). "Svyatoslav to seek backing in Rome and Kyiv (commentary)". Kyiv Weekly.
- "Ukrainian Greek Catholic Head Denounces "Pseudo-Bishops"". RISU: Religious Information Service of Ukraine. 2008-03-26.
- "Trial of "Pidhirtsi Fathers" Finished". RISU: Religious Information Service of Ukraine. 2008-09-30.
- "Schismatic Priests Try to Take Buildings of Greek Catholic Stryi Eparchy". RISU: Religious Information Service of Ukraine.
- "Decree of establishment of the UOGCC". Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. 2009-08-11.
- "Sectarians Attempt to Seize Church in Ternopil Region". RISU - Religious Information Service of Ukraine. November 15, 2010.
- "Announcement of establishment of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate". UOGCC. April 7, 2011.
- "Vatican Says Excommunication of "Pidhirtsi Fathers" Final". RISU: Religious Information Service of Ukraine. 2008-11-22.
- "Promulgation of excommunication upon 265 theologians of the Gregorian University (5.4.2010)". Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. 2010-04-05.
- "Promulgation of an anathema against 2271 bishops of the Catholic Church". Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. 2010-05-24.
- "II Penal procedure in the matter of offences against the faith and morals (15.4.2010)". Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. 2010-04-16.
- "Declaration of an excommunication upon Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II". UOGCC. May 1, 2011.
- "Vatican confirms condemnation of breakaway Ukrainian clergy". Catholic News Agency. March 29, 2012.
- "Dichiarazione della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede sullo status canonico dei "Sedicenti Vescovi Greco-Cattolici di Pidhirci"". Holy See Press Office. March 29, 2012.
- "Excommunication, anathema, curse /An open letter to Card. W.J. Levada/". UOGCC. April 1, 2012.
- "Memorandum of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate (BCP)". Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- "Announcement and warning to the Catholic and Orthodox Patriarchs". Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- "Ukrainian Church Faces Obscure Pro-Russia Revolt in Its Own Ranks". The New York Times. 2014-06-22.
- Martin Wolters. "Die apostolische Nachfolge". Retrieved 2010-04-29.
- "Brief information about the new bishops". Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. Retrieved 2010-04-29.