Belarusian Greek Catholic Church
|Belarusian Greek Catholic Church|
|Orientation||Eastern Catholic, Byzantine Rite|
|Leader||Mitred Archpriest Alexander Nadson|
|Associations||Congregation for the Oriental Churches|
|Headquarters||Marian House, Finchley, ENG, UK|
The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church (Belarusian: Беларуская грэка-каталіцкая царква, BHKC), sometimes called, in reference to its Byzantine Rite, the Belarusian Byzantine Catholic Church, is the heir within Belarus of the Union of Brest. It is listed in the Annuario Pontificio as a sui iuris Church, an Eastern rite particular Church in full union with the Catholic Church.
- History 1
- Present situation 2
- See also 3
- References 4
- Sources 5
The Christians who, through the Union of Brest (1595–96), entered full communion with the See of Rome while keeping their Byzantine liturgy in the Church Slavonic language, were at first mainly Belarusian (Litvin). Even after further Ukrainians joined the Union around 1700, Belarusians still formed about half of the group. According to the historian Anatol Taras, by 1795, around 80% of Christians in Belarus were Greek Catholics, with 14% being Roman Catholics and 8% being Orthodox.
The partition of Poland and the incorporation of the whole of Belarus into Russia led, according to the Russian Orthodox Church, many Belarusians (1,553 priests, 2,603 parishes and 1,483,111 people) to unite, by March 1795, with the Russian Orthodox Church. Another source seems to contradict this, since it gives the number of parishes that came under Russian rule in 1772 only as "over 800", meaning that many priests and people remained in communion with Rome.
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After the unsuccessful 1830-1831 November Uprising against Russian rule and the subsequent removal of the predominantly Roman Catholic local nobility from influence in Belarusian society, the three bishops of the Church, along with 21 priests, convoked in February 1839 a synod that was held in Polatsk on 25 March 1839. This officially brought 1,600,000 Christians and either 1,305 or some 2,500 priests to join the Russian Orthodox Church.
However, some priests and faithful still refused to join. The Russian state assigned most of the property to the Orthodox Church in the 1840s, and some priests emigrated to Austrian Galicia, while others chose to practise in secret the now-forbidden religion.
When, in 1905, Tsar Nicholas II published a decree granting freedom of religion, as many as 230,000 Belarusians wanted union with Rome. However, since the government refused to allow them to form a Byzantine-Rite community, they adopted the Latin Rite, to which most Belarusian Catholics now belong.
After the First World War, the western part of Belarus was included in the reconstituted Polish state, and some 30,000 descendants of those who, less than a century before, had joined the Russian Orthodox Church joined the Catholic Church, while keeping their Byzantine liturgy. In 1931, the Holy See sent them a bishop as Apostolic Visitator. After the Soviet Union annexed West Belarus in 1939, an exarch for the Belarusian Byzantine-Rite faithful was appointed in May 1940, but, a mere two years later, he was arrested and taken to a Soviet concentration camp, where he died.
While from then on very little information about the Byzantine Catholics in Belarus could reach Rome, refugees from among them founded centres in western Europe (Paris, London and Louvain) and in parts of the
- Belarusian Catholic Mission (Byzantine rite) in London
- History of the Greek Catholic Church in Belarus by Alexander Nadson
- The history of the Uniate Church and its disestablishment in the 19th century.
- Oriente Cattolico (Vatican City: The Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches, 1974)
- Annuario Pontificio
- Ronald Roberson, CSP; The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey (6th edition); 1999; Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, Pontificio Istituto Orientale; Rome, Italy; ISBN 88-7210-321-5
- Archimandrite Siarhiej Hajek: The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church Yesterday and Today (Greek translation published in instalments on Καθολική (Athens), beginning with the issue of 25 July 2006)
- 1780—1800-я гады: рэлігійная канверсія беларускіх уніятаў
- Каталіцтва, аб якім мы не ведаем
- Воссоединение Униатов и Исторические Судьбы Белорусского Народа
- Siarhiej Hajek: The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church Yesterday and Today in Καθολική of 25 July 2006
- Oriente Cattolico (1974), page 176
- Siarhiej Hajek: The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church Yesterday and Today in Καθολική of 22 August 2006
- Servizio Informazioni Chiese Orientali (2005), page 165
A parish in Archbishop of Chicago, on 20 July 2003.
Belarusian Greek Catholics abroad, numbering about 2,000, were under the care of Mitred Protopresbyter Alexander Nadson as Apostolic Visitator until his death in 2015. The chief centres are in London and Antwerp (constituted in 2003).
Two of the parishes had small churches. Some of the others had pastoral centres with an oratory.
At the beginning of 2005, the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church had 20 parishes, of which 13 had obtained state recognition. As of 2003, there have been two Belarusian Greek Catholic parishes in each of the following cities - Minsk, Polatsk and Vitsebsk; and only one in Brest, Hrodna, Mahiliou, Maladziechna and Lida. The faithful permanently attached to these came to about 3,000, while some 4,000 others lived outside the pastoral range of the parishes. Today there are 16 priests, and 9 seminarians. There was a small Studite monastery at Polatsk. The parishes are organized into two deaneries, each headed by an archpriest. The Abbot of the Polatsk monastery serves as the dean of the eastern deanery.
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By 1992, three priests and two deacons in Belarus were celebrating the Byzantine liturgy in Belarusian. The same year, a survey by Belarus State University found that 10,000 people in Minsk identified themselves as Greek Catholics. Extrapolated to the country as a whole, this was interpreted to mean that, especially among the intelligentsia and nationally conscious youth, some 120,000 Belarusians were in favour of a rebirth of the Greek-Catholic Church. Because of the lack of priests and churches this interest did not lead to membership.
September 1990 saw the registration of the first Greek-Catholic parish since the Second World War, and in early 1991 Father Jan Matusevich began to celebrate the liturgy in his Minsk apartment. He was later put in charge of all the Greek-Catholic parishes in Belarus, and died in 1998.
In early 1990, Father Nadson brought humanitarian aid from Belarusians abroad to their compatriots at home still suffering as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He was surprised to meet young Belarusians who said they were Greek Catholics. On 11 March, he celebrated Minsk's first Divine Liturgy in the national language, and, two days later, had a meeting with the editors of Unija, the first issue of which was then printed in Latvia.
The 1980s saw a gradual increase in interest among Minsk intellectuals in the Greek-Catholic Church. Articles by Anatol Sidarevich and Jury Khadyka about its history appeared in the 1987-1988 issues of Litaratura i Mastastva. And in the autumn of 1989 some young intellectuals of Minsk decided to publish the periodical Unija intended to promote the rebirth of the Greek-Catholic Church.
In 1960, the Holy See appointed Cheslau Sipovich as Apostolic Visitator for the Belarusian faithful abroad. He was the first Belarusian Catholic bishop since the Synod of Polatsk. A successor, Father Uladzimir Tarasevich, was appointed in 1983. After his death in 1986, Father Alexander Nadson was appointed Apostolic Visitator, but not, at his own request, raised to episcopal rank.