Russian Greek Catholic Church
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The Russian Greek Catholic Church (Russian: Российская греко-католическая церковь, Rossiyskaya greko-katolicheskaya tserkov) is a Byzantine Rite church sui juris in full union with the Catholic Church. Historically it represents the first reunion of members of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church. It is now in full communion with and subject to the authority of the Pope as defined by Eastern canon law. Russian Catholics historically had their own episcopal hierarchy (the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Russia and the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Harbin, China), however the office is currently vacant; their few parishes are served by priests ordained in other Byzantine Catholic churches, former Orthodox priests, and Roman Catholic priests with bi-ritual faculties.
In Russia, it is purported that after the gradual development of the East-West Schism, a tiny group of Russian families maintained themselves as "Old Catholics" (rus: старокатолики (starokatoliki)), a name which should not be confused with the Döllingerite Old Catholic churches of Europe and the United States, which formally split with the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the reforms of the First Vatican Council. The status of this group of Russian "Old Catholics", families and groups of individuals to whom the union with Rome remains essential and its relation to the current Russian Catholic Church is unclear.
The modern Russian Catholic Church owes much to the inspiration of poet and philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (1853–1900), who urged, following Dante, that, just as the world needed the Tsar as a universal monarch, the Church needed the Pope of Rome as a universal ecclesial hierarch. Following Solovyov's teachings a Russian Orthodox priest, Nicholas Tolstoy, entered into full communion with the See of Rome under the Melkite Greek-Catholic, Byzantine Rite Patriarchate of Antioch. Solovyov received sacramental last holy communion from Father Tolstoy believing that in doing so he remained also a faithful member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Orthodox authorities refer to Tolstoy as an apostate and “ex-priest,” but tend to imply that Solovyov still died an Orthodox Christian. Nevertheless, Solovyov never retracted his sentiments in favor of union with the Catholic Church and the See of Rome, and to this day, many Russian Catholics refer to themselves as members of the 'Russian Orthodox Church in communion with Rome'.
Byzantine-rite Catholicism was illegal in the Tsarist Russian empire through the 1800s and until 1905, when Tsar Nicholas II granted religious tolerance. Thereafter, communities of Greek Catholics emerged and became organized. Old Believers were prominent in the early years of the movement. In 1917, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky appointed the first Apostolic Exarchate for Russian Catholics with Most Reverend Leonid Feodorov, formerly a Russian Orthodox seminarian, as Exarch. However, the October Revolution soon followed, dispersing Russian-Rite Catholics into the Siberian prison camps and the centers of the Russian diaspora throughout the world. In the spring of 1923, Exarch Leonid Feodorov was prosecuted for counterrevolution by Nikolai Krylenko and sentenced to ten years in the Soviet concentration camp at Solovki. Released in 1932, he died three years later. He was beatified in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.
In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, some Russian Catholics began to appear in the open. In a 2005 article, Russian Catholic priest Sergei Golovanov stated that three Russian Catholic priests served on Russian soil celebrating the Russian Byzantine Divine Liturgy. Two of them used the recension of the Russian Liturgy as reformed by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow in 1666. The other priest used the medieval rite of the Old Believers, that is to say, as the Russian liturgical recension existed before Patriarch Nikon's reforms of the Russian Liturgy. All Eastern Catholics in the Russian Federation strictly maintain the use of Church Slavonic, although vernacular Liturgies are more common in the Russian diaspora.
With the religious freedom experienced after the fall of Communism, there were calls from the small number of Russian Catholics to appoint an Exarch to the long existing vacancy. Such a move would have been strongly objected to by the Russian Orthodox Church, causing the Holy See to not act out of ecumenical concerns. In 2004, however, the Vatican's hand was forced when a convocation of Russian Catholic priests in the territory of the vacant exarchate used their rights under canon law to elect a temporary administrator. The Vatican then moved quickly to replace the temporary administrator with Bishop Joseph Werth, the Latin-rite Apostolic Administrator of Siberia, based in Novosibirsk. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Ordinary for all Eastern Catholics in the Russian Federation. As of 2010, five parishes have been registered with civil authorities in Siberia, while in Moscow two parishes and a pastoral center operate without official registration. There are also communities in Saint Petersburg and Obninsk. By 2013, there have been reports of 13 parishes and five pastoral points in Siberia with five parishes and three pastoral points in European Russia. The Ordinariate has minimal structure. A Byzantine priest serves as Secretary to the Ordinary. There is a priest coordinator for the parishes in Siberia and a liturgical commission and a catechetical commission.
Outside of Russia, there are Russian Catholic parishes and faith communities in San Francisco, New York, El Segundo, Denver, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Meudon, Paris, Chevetogne, Lyon, Berlin (closed), Munich, Rome, Milan, and Singapore. They are all under the jurisdiction of the respective local Latin-rite bishops. Denver, Dublin and Singapore do not have a Russian national character but exist for local Catholics who wish to worship in the Russian Byzantine style.
As of 2014, the two Exarchates of Russia and Harbin are still listed in the Annuario Pontificio as extant, but they have not yet been reconstituted, nor have new Russian-Rite bishops been appointed to head them.
- Anna Abrikosova, alias Mother Catherine of Siena, T.O.S.D.
- Blessed Peter Artemiev
- Byzantine Rite
- Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Moscow)
- Church Slavonic language
- Eastern Catholic Churches
- Florentine Union
- Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev, All Russia and Moscow
- Patriarch Ignatius
- Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov
- Directory of Russian Greek Catholic churches, monasteries and institutions in the world.
- The website of Saint Michael's Russian Catholic Church in New York City is a must for anyone desiring to delve deeper into the history of the Russian Catholic Movement.
- “A Brief History of The Russian Byzantine Catholic Church and the Russian Catholics.”
- An online article about a visit to Moscow's Russian Catholics shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union.
- A visit to the same Russian rite Catholic community from 2001.
- The Catholic Newmartyrs of Russia
- Normalization of the Position of Byzantine Rite Catholics in Russia
- The Byzantine - Slavic Rite