Prior to 1996 most of the people in our Parish would never of heard of, or ever thought about, the nation of Ukraine. That was until Fr Francis Marsden was appointed to be our Parish Priest, in that year, upon his return from Ukraine where he had been lecturing at Lvivska Seminaria Svyatoho Duha - the Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv-Rudno.
Since that time we have been supporting the Holy Spirit Seminary in its efforts to re kindle the Word of God in a Country which had been under the Communist yoke for many years.
Each year a group of Seminarians have been visiting our Parish to spend time with us and to celebrate the Liturgy with us and in return they have enriched us with the beautiful Eastern Rite Liturgy which is practiced in Ukraine.
During this summer period each week at St Joseph's people have the unusual opportunity of participating in the Eastern Rite Mass in English, a very rare event in the United Kingdom. We also occasionally have services like Akathist, Moleben and Panakhyda.
We have also been able to help the Brotherhood of the Presentation of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the Lviv seminary, with arranging seminarians' travel to missionary work and parish placements in central Ukraine and Russia, even as far as Omsk in Siberia
Students who have visited us:
Fr Taras Borovets (L'viv)
Fr Yaroslav Kupchinskiy (Archeparchy of L'viv)
Fr Oleh Iszczuk (Eparchy of Ternopil)
Fr Vitaliy Sidoruk (Zhitomir, Eparchy of Kyiv-Vyshorod)
Fr Hrihoriy Komar (Eparchy of Sambir-Drohobych, Vice-rector of Drohobych Seminary))
Fr Igor Chikita (Sevastopil, Krim UAOC)
Deacon Ihor Boyko
Deacon Roman Sidorovich (now Stamford USA)
Serhiy Olijniczuk (L'viv, Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski, doctoral studies in psychology) due to be ordained deacon and priest 2004
Mykola Fediuk (L'viv)
Fr Viktor Kotsemira (Eparchy of Sambir-Drohobych)
Fr Ihor Chervinskiy (Archeparchy of L'viv) -
Deacon Yevhen Stanishevskiy (L'viv, now teaching Biblical Studies) - due to be ordained priest May 2004
Fr Ivan Dufanets (Ivano-Frankivsk, presently undertaking doctoral studies in canon law and looking after Ukrainian emigre community in Naples-Pompeii)
Fr Andriy Zhyburskyy (Ivano-Frankivsk, undertaking doctoral studies at Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome)
Yuriy Khamulyak (Drohobych eparchy, student for the Licentiate in Missiology at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, living at the Collegium Russicum)
Stepan Sus (4th year student at the Rudno Seminary, Lviv)
From the Lviv Theological Academy, teachers of English language
Pani Svitlana Korolyova
Pani Halina Solohub
Foundation of the Church in Ukraine 888 and 988
The Ukrainian Catholic Church dates back both to the founding of the see of Przemysl in 888, after the missionary journeys of Saints Cyril and Methodius, but more distinctively to the baptism of Prince Volodymyr of Kyiv in 988 AD. The people of his nation of Kyivan Rus' accepted Christianity in the Greek rite. The Metropolitan Archbishops of Kyiv were often Greek monks from Constantinople.
Although in 1054 AD there was officially a schism between Constantinople and Rome, this had little effect at first in Kyiv. In 1230 the Mongol hordes destroyed Kyiv. The western princes of Galicia (Halych) offered some resistance. In 1260 Prince Danylo requested Papal assistance for a crusade against the Mongol invaders. The Pope begged for support from western Europe, but this was not forthcoming.
Attempts to heal the schism between East and West in 1274 and 1439
The Metropolitan of Kyiv was present at the Council of Lyon in 1274 which tried unsuccessfully to re-establish unity between east and west. Kyiv was in ruins, and unprotected from Mongol attack. The Metropolitan moved his see 800 miles north-east to Vladimir-on-the-Klyasma, and in 1326 to the newer city of Moskva.
He was now too far away to exercise pastoral care of the Slavic lands of Kyiv, Galicia and the new Grand Duchy of Lithuania which was driving back the Mongols. Constantinople therefore erected a separate Metropolitanate for these lands, despite Moscow's opposition.
In 1439 Metropolitan Isidore attended the Council of Florence which achieved the re-union of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. However when he returned to Moscow he was imprisoned by the Tsar of Muscovy, who refused to accept the Union with Rome. Isidore escaped, returned to Rome, where as Cardinal Bessarion he was also appointed legate to Constantinople.
Sadly, in the east, Archbishop Mark of Ephesus led the opposition to church unity. Nevertheless the final Liturgies in Haghia Sophia took place with full communion between Latins and Greeks, Catholics and Orthodox, Emperor, Patriarch and Papal legates. A few days later the city fell to the furious siege and onslaught of the Ottoman Turks. Under Turkish domination, the eastern Orthodox separation from Catholic Christianity was renewed, encouraged and re-inforced.
The Re-Union of Brest-Litovsk 1596
The Kyivan Church had never formally declared its separation from Rome, and in 1596 it renewed its unity with the Apostolic See by the the Act of Re-Union of Brest-Litovsk. The Orthodox sees of Kyiv, most of Ukraine and what is now Belarus returned into full union with Rome. This development was encouraged by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By this agreement the Kyivan Church was to retain all her eastern rites and customs - the Byzantine liturgy, iconostases, use of leavened bread for the Eucharist, married clergy - while enjoying full communion with Rome.
However some of the orthodox and their brotherhoods refused to accept the Union. The Orthodox schism was renewed in Kyiv in 1620 when the Patriarch of Jerusalem consecrated a new Orthodox Metropolitan for the city. Uzhorod and Zakarpattya (Transcarpathia) - the Ruthenian Church - came into full union with Rome in 1646, but not until 1700 did Lviv and Przemysl eparchies come into full union.
The Muscovite Tsar gains control of the Kyivan Church 1686
1654 was a fateful year for the Kyivan lands. Hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky led the great Cossack revolt against the Polish landlords, driving the Polish King back almost to Warszawa. However his Tatar allies betrayed him, and he had to beg support from the Muscovite Tsar. The result was the Act of Union between Muscovy and Kyiv, which Moscow thereafter re-interpreted to mean full and total control over the Ukrainian lands.
In 1686 the Tsar of Muscovy obtained full control over the Kyivan Church by devious means. Firstly, he asked the Patriarch of Constantinople to transfer the Metropolitanate of Kyiv to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow (established 1589). When Constantinople refused, the Tsar bribed the Turkish Sultan with 200 golden roubles and 100 sable furs, that he might pressurise the Patriarch until he acceded to the Tsar's demand for Kyiv.
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church the following year deposed and condemned the Patriarch of Constantinople for his surrender to this pressure.
Liquidation of the Greek-Catholic Church in Tsarist Ukraine
Tsar Peter I renamed Muscovy as Russia, claiming it as the legitimate successor to the ancient state of Kyivan Rus'. In Russia he is called Peter the Great, but not in Ukraine, because he forcibly transported thousands of Ukrainians as slave labourers to build his new capital of St Petersburg. This beautiful city is built upon the bones of tens of thousands of Ukrainians, Finns and Swedes who died during its construction. During the reigns of Catherine II and Nicholas I, as the Muscovite territories expanded in Belarus and Ukraine, the Uniate Greek-Catholic Church was liquidated, and the priests and laity were forced to accept the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate rather than Rome. Ultimately the Church survived only on those west Ukrainian lands which were under Hapsburg control - the oblasts of Lviv, Volhynia, Ivano-Frankivsk (Stanislawow), Ternopil, Bukhovina and Transcarpathia. Ukraine (Kyivan Rus') was reduced to the level of a Tsarist colony of "Malorossiya," "little Russia". Catherine II is another Empress who in Russia is titled "the Great", but not in Ukraine where she closed down 800 schools, in order to eliminate the Ukrainian educated classes, and banned the Ukrainian language from public life. Education and literacy had come to Muscovy through Kyiv, the "Mother of all Rus'." Now the aggressive daughter would try to strangle the Mother.
Ukrainian-born writers like Gogol, and musicians like Tchaikovsky, emigrated to St Petersburg and russified in order to be accepted by society.
However, during the 19th century the Uniate Church played a leading role in the re-establishment of the Ukrainian national consciousness. Poets and writers like Ivan Franko and Taras Shevchenko wrote in Ukrainian and re-asserted their national heritage distinct from Muscovy.
Famine and persecution under the Bolsheviks 1921-39
After the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in St Petersburg, Kyiv declared independence. Ecclesiastically too, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church declared independence from Moscow. There ensued a complex seven-sided civil war until 1921 when the Reds won control. Central and East Ukraine became the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR. West Ukraine (Galicia) became a part of Poland. By 1930 the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church had been suppressed.
Stalin and the communists inflicted dreadful sufferings upon Ukraine. 1 million died in the 1929 famine, followed by approximately 7 million in the 1932-33 "holodomor", the famine-genocide, which was a deliberate result of the forced collectivisation policy and the war against the kulaks (Ukr. kurkul), the better-off peasantry. (If you had two cows, you ranked as a kulak).
One has to add to this purges, the deportation of millions to the Arctic and to Siberia, and then the death of around 7 million more Ukrainians in World War II. The total population deficit from these years is reckoned at around 20 million. The communist persecution of the (Orthodox) Church can be measured by the fact that the Kyiv diocese in 1917 had 1750 working churches. By 1941 it had only 4. All monasteries had been closed.
West Ukraine was under Polish rule from 1919-39, in itself not a happy experience for all. In September 1939, consequent upon the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Red Army and the NKVD rolled in to Galicia. Collectivisation, purges and murders began.
Two years of Stalinism convinced many Ukrainians of the evils of communism as practiced in the Soviet Union. Some hoped, therefore, that Hitler's invasion of 1941 would be a liberation from the Stalinist terror. Very quickly they found they had exchanged one devil for another. About 3 millions were deported as slave labourers to the Reich. By 1945 they found themselves back under full Soviet occupation.
Stalin's Liquidation of the Greek-Catholic Church in West Ukraine 1946
In 1946 the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was liquidated by the NKVD (forerunners of the KGB). In one weekend about 4000 parishes, schools and monasteries were closed. All the bishops were arrested and deported to Siberian labour camps. Many priests refused to sign allegiance to Moscow, and went underground or to the camps.
A pseudo-Synod was held in Lviv in 1946, attended by about 216 delegates (priests and laity). In fear of their lives, they signed a "voluntary" declaration of union with the Russian Orthodox Church, and "dissolved" the Greek-Catholic Church. Many village churches were left open as R.O. churches, because the communists feared the influence of the underground Catholic priests if they were to close all churches. The Russian Orthodox diocese of Lviv now had 2800 parishes, compared to Moscow's 800. In terms of parishes, it was the largest diocese in the entire Soviet Union.
The religiosity of Ukraine, compared to Russia, is evidenced by the fact that one third of all Russian Orthodox parishes were in west Ukraine, and two-thirds within Ukraine as a whole. Some priests who officially accepted union with Moscow nevertheless continued to pray for the Pope during the Eucharistic prayer - they felt it was better to comply officially while remaining Catholic in spirit. Thus at least the villagers had a church and a priest with valid sacraments rather than no religion at all.
It is not up to us to judge those who, under such terrible circumstances, appeared to compromise, while saluting those many thousands who accepted slave labour and death in the gulags for the Catholic Faith, along with the millions of Orthodox victims of Stalin.
From 1946 to 1988 the official Soviet line was that the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine no longer existed, because it had voluntarily re-united itself with Orthodoxy. Soviet law spoke of religious liberty, but it was a poor form of religious liberty which demolished thousands of churches, banned catechesis of the young, forbade missionary work, and restricted priests to the sacristy or behind the iconostasis. Practising Christians of all faiths were denied access to higher education and the professions. Communist party members monitored church attendance on Sunday mornings, noting the names of school pupils who dared to enter church. They were then ridiculed in front of the class on Monday morning for their allegedly anti-Soviet and reactionary behaviour. Often extra "voluntary" workdays were scheduled on the collective farms to coincide with the major Christian feasts, or rival sports and entertainment attractions were deliberately planned to clash with church services.
The only bishop to survive and re-emerge from the Siberian gulag was Josef Cardinal Slipiy, who after twenty years was expelled and lived in Rome as head of the Ukrainian Church, and received from Pope Paul VI the personal title of Patriarch. His courage and refusal to compromise with the forces of godlessness made him a light of hope and strength to Ukrainians suffering under the heavy yoke of Communist atheism, or exiled throughout the five continents. Other bishops were ordained secretly within Ukraine, and ministered clandestinely to their flocks.
Resurgence from the Catacombs 1989
The Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine for 44 years was a church of the catacombs, the largest oppressed religious minority in the world, but pretty well totally ignored by the western liberal press and mass-media. When one considers the publicity given - and rightly so - to the apartheid situation in South Africa, one wonders why so many movers and shakers and opinion formers in the west could completely ignore the religious oppression and denial of human rights taking place in the USSR. However in the late 1980's several factors contributed towards the re-emergence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church: the glasnost of Gorbachov, the increasing dissatisfaction with Moscow's lies, especially after Chernobyl, the celebration of the Millennium of Christianity in Kyivan Rus' in 1988, the apparitions of the Virgin Mary (1987-88) at the village of Hrushiw near Drohobych, apparently witnessed by hundreds of thousands, and the pressure brought by Pope John Paul II on the communist bloc. Masses were celebrated publicly, in defiance of the communist authorities, and often in connection with massive demonstrations for Ukrainian independence. The priests responsible were arrested, beaten up, and some of them sent to clean up waste at Chernobyl. In late 1989 Gorbachev agreed to John Paul's request to allow the Ukrainian Catholics to register their own parishes. Over a thousand parishes voted to switch back from Orthodoxy to Catholicism. Obviously there were difficulties in some villages where the vote was pretty evenly divided between Orthodox and Catholics. Occasionally there were fights for the control of church property. Clergy who did not wish to change denomination sometimes lost their parishes, when the laity voted to switch over. The situation would soon be further complicated by a fragmentation within Orthodoxy itself, with the unofficial Kyivan Patriarchate separating itself from the ROC in Moscow, and the resurgence of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church which had previously declared independence in 1917.
Moreover a severe shortage of Catholic priests was immediately apparent. The Lviv seminary (suppressed 1946) re-commenced operations with 400 students sitting on the floor of the Transfiguration church in Lviv, taking notes from a single priest. In September 1991 it acquired the use of an old pioneer summer-camp at Rudno, a village 12 km outside Lviv.
Meanwhile the USSR disintegrated and was replaced by the much weaker CIS, and Ukraine achieved full independence in September 1991.
A Free Church in a free nation
In the last 10 years the Ukrainian Catholic Church has opened or re-opened about 3500 parishes. It is now the second largest denomination in Ukraine, and has friendly, if unofficial, relations with the non-canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyivan Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Official relations are maintained with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), but are intermittently impeded by the unsubstantiated allegations made by the Russian Orthodox bishops, who unjustly accuse the Ukrainian Catholics of proselytism and persecution of Orthodox believers. Some of the Russian Orthodox irritation is understandable, when one realises that one-third of all their parishes, revenue and vocations came from west Ukraine, which has now largely reverted to eastern-rite Catholicism. However, it was only the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which delivered west Ukraine into Moscow's hands, and that is a rather dubious moral foundation on which to base one's claims. One can only hope and pray that they will break out of this Soviet-era mentality. One welcomes the fact that there are more enlightened groups and spokesmen within Orthodoxy who are far more positive in their ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church. The Ukrainian Catholic Church, and indeed the entire Ukrainian nation, which suffered so terribly in the 20th century under the horrors of Communist atheism and Nazi paganism, now has the heaven-sent chance to make a fresh start. The question of a Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate is still a sore point, both among Ukrainians themselves and in relations between Rome and Moscow. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest of all the eastern Catholic rites, and yet does not have its own Patriarch. As the history above shows, it dates back to 988 AD at least, and the metropolitanates of Kyiv-Galicia and Moscow (transferred from Kyiv via Vladimir-Suzdal) have been separate jurisdictions for over 600 years. In fact, Moscow never exercised control over the Kyivan Church until 1686. One can understand that Cardinal Kasper, in his visits to Moscow, does not wish to jeopardise the progress that has been made in Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical relations, but it is most important that the question of a Ukrainian patriarchate is not sewn up by Rome and Moscow talking together, without the participation of the Ukrainian Church. It would be rather like Rome discussing with the American Episcopalians to decide matters concerning the future of the British Catholic Church. If the Ukrainian Catholic Church - with its testimony of thousands of martyrdoms in the last century - did not receive fair treatment from the Vatican, how could the Orthodox Churches expect to be treated as full churches and equal partners, if they re-established full communion with Rome? For more information about the Ukrainian Catholic Church you can follow this web-link to www.ugcc.org.ua/eng/
The Papal Visit to Kyiv and Lviv, June 2001
From 23rd-27th June 2001 Pope John Paul II visited Kyiv and Lviv. This was the first ever visit of a reigning Pontiff to the Ukrainian lands in happy circumstances. About 100 AD Pope St Clement I, third successor of St Peter, was taken as a prisoner to Khersones in Crimea, near Sevastopol, and martyred there, by being thrown into the sea with an anchor round his neck. Five centuries later; Pope St Martin I was also exiled and martyred at Khersones in 655 AD. Our Holy Father celebrated the Divine Liturgy in both Byzantine and Latin rites, and met with leading national figures. He beatified 30 confessors and martyrs, the majority from the 20th century Soviet persecutions. In Lviv the Holy Father celebrated Mass on 26th and 27th June at the Hippodrome. On the latter occasion between 1.2 and 1.5 million people were present, making it the largest ever Eastern-rite Liturgy on the Slavic lands, and possibly the largest ever in history. He also met with 400,000 people at a youth rally in Sikhiv. He visited St George's Cathedral, and met with both Latin and Greek Catholic hierarchies. This historic occasion was a a great blessing for the people of Ukraine.
Two of the three Orthodox confessions in Ukraine welcomed the Pope warmly: Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv, and Metropolitan Methodii of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. Sad to say, Metropolitan Volodymyr Sabodan of the Moscow Patriarchate refused to meet the Pope, and absented himself to the Czech republic for the duration. Patriarch Alexei II protested strongly against the Pope's visit from Belarus, in a ceremony some 100 metres from the Ukrainian border. However, a poll among Muscovites revealed that 63% would welcome a Papal visit, with a mere 17% against. Alexei II does not have great support even within his own capital.
The successful Papal visits to Kazakhstan and Armenia in September 2001 emphasized the desire of the Pope to visit Moscow and to improve relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. There are signs that Alexei II may be softening his tough anti-Catholic stance, and we should pray that he may come to see the Catholic Church not as a threat but as a sister Church and willing partner. Let us pray that despite these frictions, the Papal visit will help to promote understanding and charity between the Catholics and Orthodox churches.