Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

'Ukrainian Catholic' came into use in the 1950s outside of Ukraine, replacing 'Ruthe-nian Greek Catholic.' 'Ruthenian' derives from the Latin form of 'Rus', the name of the mediaeval territory centred at Kiev (Kyiv), capital of present-day Ukraine. In Ukraine, the Church was known simply as the 'Greek Catholic', a term applied in the 1770s by the Hapsburgs to foster parity with Roman Catholics. Prior to this, it was called 'Uniate', a name that was retained outside the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian Catholics are of Ukrainian ethnicity, though at the time of the Union of Brest (1596), and until the liquidation of the 'Uniate' Church in the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century, an equal number was Belarusan. In Ukraine, almost 10 per cent of the population belongs to this Church, which continues to be centred in the part of western Ukraine once controlled by the Hapsburgs.

History In 1596 the Metropolitan of Kiev (Kyiv) and most of his suffragan bishops renewed union with Rome at the Synod of Brest (in present-day Belarus). (A previous primate of the Church, Isidore, had supported the Union of Florence.) The Metropolia of Kiev was entirely within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and as the latter's support - and size - waned, so did the union. Ukrainian Cossacks, followed by the tsarist government, consistently opposed the union in favour of Orthodoxy. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Church was restricted to the Austro-Hungarian realm, having been banned in the Russian Empire. Owing in part to the benign treatment of Greek Catholics by the Hapsburgs, who provided, for example, university education for the clergy, a sincere commitment to Catholicism developed, reaching its height in the twentieth century. When the Soviets took control of western Ukraine after World War II and declared the Church united to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow (the Pseudo-Synod of Lviv, 1946), most Greek Catholics retained their commitment to Rome and re-emerged in 1989 as Communism collapsed. This forced an announcement of the Church's de-criminalization on 1 December, during a visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to Rome. During the Soviet period, the most contentious issue was the Vatican's willingness to sacrifice this Church in the interests of dialogue with Moscow. Today, this is no longer an issue. However, the Vatican refuses to recognize a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate, a cause championed by Cardinal Josyf Slipyj (a former primate, d. 1984) after his release in 1963 from eighteen years in Siberia. This refusal is partially a remnant of the Vatican's former Ostpolitik, though the more important factor is the desire to avoid perceptions of 'Catholic expansionism' in the former USSR.

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