government was committed to the Counter-Reformation policy of reuniting all Christians within the Roman church through missions to non-Catholics, both Protestant and Orthodox.
The relation of the eastern Orthodox churches to the Catholic Reformation was ambivalent and complex. On the one hand, like their Roman Catholic counterparts, their leaders struggled to strengthen and purify the practice of the faith. In particular, in both Ukraine and Russia, the members of the hierarchy strove to increase their authority over the lower clergy and laity; to improve the educational standards of the clergy; to standardise and purify liturgical books and their use; and to discipline the devotional practices and behaviour of their flocks.
On the other, adoption of these parts of the Catholic programme of reform meant defending Orthodoxy against the missionary pressure of the Roman Church with the enemy's own weapons. All of the East Slavic Orthodox churches insisted on maintaining the Slavonic liturgy. And, for the most part, they rejected papal hegemony, the cornerstone of Catholic reform. In Russia, the rejection was unequivocal. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the policy of recognising the pope as the leader of Christendom initially appealed to some prominent clergy and laity, but, over time, those who rejected papal authority became as militant as their Muscovite coreligionists.
Several central themes in the history of Orthodoxy in the age of the Counter-Reformation can be traced to pivotal events at the very end of the sixteenth century. Within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, many eastern Orthodox believers, both clergy and laymen, felt the stirrings of renewal that the Protestant and Catholic Reformations had aroused in Europe. Members of the hierarchy and leading laymen began to address the organisational weaknesses and low level of education within their communion and to respond to the pressure of the Catholic hierarchy and missionary orders. Laymen led the way. At the turn of the 1560s and 1570s, prominent Orthodox magnates promoted the publication of biblical and liturgical texts. Kostiatyn Ostrozsky, in particular, made his estate a centre of Orthodox publishing and founded a school. The Ostrih Bible of 1581, the first printed translation of the Old and New Testaments into Church Slavonic, is the best-known result of his initiatives. A few years later, starting in L'viv, Orthodox burghers began to found confraternities with precisely the same programme of defending their faith through education and publishing. The movement then spread to other urban centres of Orthodoxy in the commonwealth, including Vilnius and eventually Kiev.
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