Ruthenian Churches

Name given to Uniate Churches* found mostly in Polish Galicia, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, with colonies in North America. The name is simply a Latinized form of “Russian.” Sometimes they are known as “Ukrainians,” and occasionally as White Russians and Slovaks. Their ancestors, converts of Vladimir,* were part of the Russian Church under the metropolitan of Kiev until his expulsion after the Union of Florence (1443). Pope Pius II appointed a Roman Catholic metropolitan of Kiev (1485) who was permitted by Casimir IV of Poland to exercise jurisdiction over the eight eparchies of the province under the control of Poland and Lithuania. In the sixteenth century they reverted to Orthodoxy, but in 1595 the metropolitan of Kiev, with the bishops of Vladimir, Lutsk, Pololsk, Pinsk, and Kholn, sought communion with Rome, which was achieved by the Union of Brest-Litovsk (1595-96). They were joined by the bishops of Przemysl (1694) and Lvov (1700). Despite a decree of Urban VIII (1624), during the seventeenth century most of the nobility and landowners in Poland adopted the Latin Rite.

After the partition of Poland (1795), most of the Ruthenians (except in Galicia) passed under Russian control and were gradually suppressed in favor of Orthodoxy. In the Kholn district (ceded by Austria in 1815), they survived till c.1875. Byzantines were still illegal, so most of the survivors passed to the Latin Rite. The Ruthenians of Galicia under the sovereignty of Austria were separated politically from their metropolitan, so Lvov was constituted an archbishopric (1807) to look after the interests of Lvov and Przemysl. They enjoyed religious toleration during the nineteenth century, but political troubles in E Europe have since engendered ill-feeling between the Latin Poles and the Byzantine Ruthenians.

A Ruthenian college was founded in Rome by Leo XIII (1897) which since 1904 has been controlled by Ruthenian Basilian monks. There is a strong monastic element, especially fostered by the austere Studites (founded c.1900). The Ruthenian liturgy is based on the Byzantine Rite with certain modifications adopted from Rome.

The Podcarpathian Ruthenians are another Ruthenian community who were granted a separate jurisdiction by the setting-up of the eparchy of Mukachevo, subject to the primacy of Hungary by Clement XIV (1771). The eparchy was created to settle the dispute between the Ruthenian metropolitan north of the Carpathians and the settlement, dating from the fourteenth century, of Little and White Russians south of the Carpathians, who had been brought into communion with Rome by the Union of Uzhgorod (1646).

There are considerable Ruthenian communities in the USA, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. The Ruthenians are the largest Uniate group, numbering about 4,500,000. Since 1946, those in the Ukraine have been separated from the Roman Catholics and aggregated to the Russian Orthodox Church.

See D. Attwater, The Catholic Eastern Churches (1935) and The Christian Churches of the East (2 vols., 1961-62). See also under Russia and Eastern Orthodox Churches.