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Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), also known as the Ukrainian Catholic Church, is one of the successor Churches to the acceptance of Christianity by Grand Prince Vladimir the Great (Ukrainian Volodymyr) of Kiev (Kyiv), in 988. UGCC is a Catholic Eastern Rite church in full communion with the Roman see and is directly subject to the Roman Pope. By the beginning of the 21st century, this Church was the second-largest church in the Catholic Communion and the largest Catholic Eastern Rite Church. The Primate of the Church, in union with the Pope, holds the office of Archbishop-Major of Kyiv-Halych and All Rus', though the hierarchs of the church have acclaimed their primate "Patriarch" and have requested Papal recognition and elevation. Currently the primate also serves as Metropolitan of Lviv. The Church is now geographically quite widespread, having some 40 hierarchs in over a dozen countries on four continents, including three other Metropolitans, in Poland, the USA, and Canada.

Within Ukraine itself, the UGCC is a minority faith of the religious population, being a distant second to the majority Eastern Orthodox faith. However, since the Ukrainian Orthodox were split into at least three denominations around the onset of independence in the 1990s, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church denomination thereby accidentally became the second largest religious organization in Ukraine in terms of number of communities. In terms of number of faithful, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church ranks third in allegiance among the population of Ukraine, after the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchy, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchy. Currently, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the dominant faith in several western oblasts of Ukraine, and although spread throughout the country, is a small minority elsewhere.

History

Early pre-history

The foundation of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was laid by the communion of the Patriarch of Constantinople with the Popes in Rome throughout most of the first millennium (until 1054) and intermittent communion thereafter. Early inroads of the apostolic Catholic Church included the evangelism of 'first-called' apostle, St. Andrew to the region in the first century AD, and the presence of a representative of the region from the Greek colonies along the Black Sea at the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325. Some three hundred years later, Pope St. Martin of Rome was exiled to the territory of today's Ukraine by the Greek Emperor in Constantinople (654–655 AD).

Two centuries later, the relics of Pope St. Martin were retrieved by the Greek/Slavonic brothers from Macedonia, Saints Cyril and Methodius, while passing through today's Ukraine on their mission to the Khazars of today's Russia. Later, these brothers would lay the foundation of Christianity in today's heartland of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Western Ukraine. Cyril and Methodius were sent from Constantinople at the request of the ruler of Great Moravia, an empire which included the westernmost portions of modern Ukraine. In Vel'ka Morava (Great Moravia) these brothers created an alphabet, known as "Cyrillic" (most likely Glagolitic) which enabled the local population to worship God in Slavonic.

In response to local disputes with clerics of the Latin Church, Sts. Cyril and Methodius appealed in person to the Bishop of Rome in 867, bringing with them the relics of Pope St. Martin. Their labors and request were met with approval from the Bishop of Rome, and their continued efforts planted the Christian faith, at once both Greek and Catholic, into Western Ukraine. Later, their efforts, and those of their apostles, led to the development of the Cyrillic alphabet and the translation of the Christian Scriptures and service (liturgies) of the Greek Church into the "Old Church Slavonic" language (sometimes referred to as "Old Macedonian") in the nation of Bulgaria. Today, most Ukrainian Catholic Churches have moved away from Church Slavonic and use Ukrainian. Many churches also offer liturgies in the official language of the country the Church is in, for example, German in Germany or English in Canada; however, some eparchies continue to recite the liturgy in Slavonic even today.

Old Ruthenian period

These developments in the Roman Empire, Great Moravia, and Bulgaria set the stage for the conception and birth of the Ukrainian Catholic Church at the Baptism of Kyiv ordered by the Prince of Kiev, Volodymyr I at the Dnipro (Dniepr) River in 988. From the beginning, the Metropolitans of this Kyivan church resided at Pereyaslav in Ukraine, then Kyiv (1037). The identity and further separate development of this Ukrainian Church was achieved by the election of Metropolitans, native and/or not confirmed by the Patriarch of Constantinople (Ilarion, 1051-1054; Klym Smolyatich 1147-1154; and, Hryhoriy Tsamblak 1415-1419). The Catholicity of the Ukrainian Church was confirmed by the resistance of the hierarchs of Rus' minora, or Rus' proper (today's Ukraine) to the requests of the Greek Church at Constantinople to break communion with Rome after the Great Schism of 1054.

This Ukrainian Church at Kyiv developed more fully into her particularity with the full separation of the Russian Orthodox Church, 989-1459 AD. The creation of Slavic outposts among the Finno-Ugric majority population of today's 'Russia' in the northeastern borderlands of Rus' led to the worship of the Christian God by non-Slavic Finno-Ugric tribes in the Old Church Slavonic language, fully differentiated into a Russian language by 1200 AD. This provided the linguistic basis for the start of the Muscovite/Russian nation. The political beginnings of the Russian Orthodox Church began with the first mention of a small city with the non-Slavic name of "Moskva" (Moscow) in 1147, under Mongolian political culture. The creation of a separate "Russian Orthodox Church" was stimulated by the resettlement of the Metropolitan of Kyiv to the north in 1299. By 1326, this Metropolitan had settled in Moscow, and by 1328 had abandoned the title of Metropolitan of Kyiv and adopted the title Metropolitan of Moscow. The separate legal tradition of the Russian Church, as differentiated from the church at Kyiv, was codified in the decision of the first properly Russian Church Council of the Hundred Chapters ('Stoglav') in 1448, followed by the separation of the church of Rus' into separate Russian (Muscovite) and Rusian/Ruthenian/Ukrainian (Kievan) Metropoliae in 1453.

The conversion of the Finno-Ugric peoples of the north, the resulting development of the modern Russian Language, the Mongol invasion of 1240, and the loss of the Metropolitan to the relatively foreign northern lands marked the transition of the Kyivan Church from its "Rusyn" Old Ruthenian phase to the second period of its development, the "Middle Ruthenian" or "Ukrainian/Belarusyn" phase.

Middle Ruthenian period

Meanwhile, for the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Kyiv, the loss of the Metropolitan of Kyiv in 1299 was rapidly supplanted by the creation of the Metropolia of Halych for Rus'-Ukraine (Rus' propria) in 1303. In 1352, the Metropolitan of Halych for Ukraine began to relocate back to Kyiv; thereafter, the Kyivan Church was headed by the Metropolitan of Kyiv-Halych and All Rus. The Metropolitan of Moscow opposed the creation and continuation of this Metropolia at Halych/Kyiv. This Kyivan Church governed most of the lands of today's Ukraine and Belarus, often from the city of Navahrudak in Belarus. Between 1054 and 1448, this Ruthenian Church continued to send representatives to the ecumenical councils called by the Pope of Rome, but also succumbed to increasing pressure by her mother church among the Greeks in Constantinople to cease communion with the Bishop (Pope) of Rome. There was partial support in the Ruthenian Church lands of Ukraine and Belarus for the union ratified at the Council of Florence, but no representative was sent to the Catholic Council of Trent in 1545.

The era of Catholic-Orthodox rivalry and separation

The memory of the Council of Florence on the Ruthenian lands of Ukraine and Belarus, which had passed under the control of the states of Lithuania and Poland after the decline of the Ukrainian-centered empire of Rus', bore concrete fruit in the Union of Brest (Berest') in 1596, which united the Ruthenian Church of the Ukrainian and Belarusyn lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the Pope of Rome. This union was not accepted by all the members of the Greek Church in these lands, and marked the beginning of the creation of separate Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches on the lands of Ukraine and Belarus. Due to violence, the Metropolitan of the Kyivan Greek Catholic Church left Kyiv early in the 1600s and settled in Navahrudak and Wilno in Belarus.

The Ukrainian period

The final step of the full particularity of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was then effected by the development of the middle Ruthenian language into separate Ukrainian and Belarusian language around 1600 to 1800. This local church was later persecuted by the absorption of the Orthodox portion of the Ukrainian/Belarusian Churches into the Russian Orthodox Church in 1686, and by the violent repression and dismantling of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in four successive waves (1772, 1795, 1831 and 1865).

The name of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was cemented in the mid to late 1800s. In the mid-1800s, the intellectuals of the descendants of Rus' proper, with their capital at Kyiv, became alarmed by the adoption of the names derived from the state of Rus' by the Finno-Ugric descendants of the Mongolian political culture of the old Russian state from the 1500s to the 1700s. These Kyivan intellectuals proposed that the nation/people of Rus' proper be changed from "Rus'" Ruthenia to "Ukrayina," Ukraine a name which appeared on historical maps as early as 1100, and became widespread among the Rusyns as early as 1600. This national name change was then adopted by most Rusyns/Ukrainians over the next several decades (1850s-1920s).

19th century: West Ukrainian period

Russian Tsarist persecution soon led to the virtual elimination of Ruthenian/Ukrainian Catholics on the territory of the Russian Empire during the 1800s, and the granting by the Pope of Rome of the transfer of the quasi-patriarchal powers of the Major-Archepiscopate of Kyiv/Halych and all Rus' to the Metropolitan of L'viv in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1803. Suffragan sees included Ivano-Frankivs'k (then called Stanisławów) and Przemyśl (Peremyshl). By the end of the century, the faithful of this church began emigrating to the U.S., Canada, and Brazil.

20th century: persecution and internationalization

Ukrainian Catholics found themselves under the governance of the nations of Poland, Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia after World War I. The aftermath of World War II placed Ukrainian Catholics under the rule of the Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc regimes, which attempted the complete destruction of this church. However, the church survived underground, as well as in the diaspora created by the mass emigration to the Western hemisphere, which began in the 1870s. The persecution led to the re-establishment of parishes eastward throughout Ukraine, and the further spread of the Church into Russia (especially Siberia) and Kazakhstan.

In 1990, the Ukrainian Catholic Church emerged from the catacombs some 3 to 5 million strong on her home territory in Ukraine. Worldwide, the faithful now number some 6 to 10 million, forming the largest Catholic Church, after the majority Latin Church. Building has begun for the transfer of the major see of the Ukrainian Catholic Church back to its historic home in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv; however, this move remains controversial for some Ukrainian Catholics, who view Lviv in Western Ukraine as the true stronghold of Ukrainian Catholicism, having supported and protected the Ukrainian Catholic Church through long periods of genocide and persecution. Moving the Ukrainian Catholic Church to Kyiv, therefore, has taken on political overtones in the Church. The move tends to be supported by those people who favor the appointment of a Ukrainian Catholic Patriarch to oversee the Ukrainian Catholic Church. This issue has caused much controversy in the modern Ukrainian Catholic Church.

 

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