What to know about the Catholic Church in Ukraine – Eurasia Review

Although the majority of Ukraine’s population is Eastern Orthodox, Catholics are among those suffering from Russia’s invasion of the country. The Russian military entered Ukraine at several locations on Thursday, and missile strikes on military targets and towns were also reported.

Here is what you need to know about the Ukrainian Catholic population:

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

About 9% of Ukrainians (about 3.6 million people) are Greek Catholics, meaning they are Roman Catholics and belong to Byzantine Rite churches. The vast majority of them are part of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is headed by Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuck of the Ukrainian Kyiv-Halych Archieparchy.

The Byzantine Rite celebrates the liturgy in the form used by the Eastern Orthodox Churches, regularly using the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.

Ukrainian Greek Catholics are concentrated in the western oblasts of the country bordering Poland, particularly in Lviv. There are, however, 16 eparchies or exarchates (equivalent to dioceses or vicariates) of the Church throughout the country, including Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is rooted in the Christianization of Kievan Rus in the 10th century, a state to which Ukraine, Russia and Belarus all claim heritage. This event also forms the roots of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

This Church also has a diaspora, with a significant presence in the United States, Canada, Poland and Brazil, and smaller communities elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Argentina and Australia.

Latin Rite Catholics

There is also a Latin or Roman Rite hierarchy in Ukraine, to which about 1% of the population (about 371,000 people) belongs. This is also concentrated in the west of the country, with six suffragan dioceses of the Archdiocese of Lviv, and it has cultural ties with Poland and Hungary.

Others

Ukraine is also home to the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo and the Armenian Catholic Archieparchy of Lviv.

The Ruthenian Catholic Church also uses the Byzantine Rite, and it is centered in an oblast that borders four of Ukraine’s western neighbors. There are almost 320,000 Catholics in the Eparchy of Mukachevo, who are served by around 300 priests.

There is an Armenian Catholic Archeparchy in Lviv, although it has been vacant since World War II. Armenian Catholics in Ukraine are few in number and are often entrusted to the pastoral care of priests from other Catholic Churches.

Persecution

Catholic churches were severely persecuted in Ukraine while the country was part of the Soviet Union, and renewed conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the 2010s raised fears of church strife and persecution.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was banned under Soviet rule from 1946 to 1989, and the Ruthenian Catholic Church was suppressed in 1949.

In 2014, after the Russian annexation of Crimea and armed conflicts in other border regions between Ukrainian military forces, pro-Russian rebel groups and Russian soldiers, the then Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine guard against a return to persecution due to Russia’s expansion into Ukraine. territory.

“The danger of repression of the Greek Catholic Church exists in any part of Ukraine where Russia might establish its dominance or continue through acts of terrorism to continue its aggression,” Archbishop Thomas Gullickson said. September 23, 2014.

Bishop Gullickson was nuncio to Ukraine from 2011 to 2015, and he retired in 2020, aged 70.

“A number of statements emanating from the Kremlin in recent times leave little doubt about Russian Orthodox hostility and intolerance towards Ukrainian Greek Catholics,” he told Aid to Aid directors in September 2014. the Church in Need.

“There is no reason to exclude the possibility of another massive repression of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church like the one that occurred in 1946 with the complicity of the Orthodox brothers and the blessing of Moscow,” he said. he declared.

Many Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic clergy were forced to leave Crimea after its annexation. Roman and Greek Catholics struggled to properly register ownership of church property and secure legal residency for their clergy.

Under the Soviet Union, 128 priests, bishops and nuns of the Ruthenian Catholic Church were imprisoned or sent into exile in Siberia. The Eparchy of Mukachevo had 36 martyred priests during the persecution.

Blessed Theodore Romzha served as Ruthenian Bishop of Mukachevo for three years before being assassinated in 1947 by the NKVD on the orders of Nikita Khrushchev, then First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

Blessed Romzha was among a group of more than 20 20th-century Ukrainian martyrs who were beatified by Saint John Paul II during his visit to Ukraine in 2001.

Famous cathedrals

The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv is the mother church of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Kyiv-Halych. Built in 2011, an air-raid shelter under the cathedral housed Major Archbishop Shevchuk during the Russian assault on Kiev.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Lviv is the seat of the Archbishop of Lviv. The building dates from the 14th century, when the city was part of the United Kingdom of Poland. It was named a basilica in 1910.

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