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Union of Brest — Unia Brzeska — Bresto Unija — Берасцейская Унія — Берестейська Унія



1. The Thirty-Three Articles from the Union of Brest, effected between 12 June 1595 and 9 October 1596.  
2. Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae, Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII of 20 June 1894 on The Reunion of Christendom.  
    ... the same in the original Italian  
3. Union of Brest article by A. Palmieri, 1912 from The Catholic Encyclopedia.  
4. Orientales Omnes Ecclesias, 23 December of 1945 Encyclical of Pope Pius XII, on the Three Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Reunion of the Ruthenian Church with the Apostolic See.
5. Apostolic Letter of 12 November 1995 of Pope John Paul II for the Fourth Centenary of the Union of Brest.




  The Thirty-Three Articles from the Union of Brest as incorporated into a Letter of the Ruthenian episcopate to Pope Clement VIII, dated 12 June 1595, accepted by Pope Clement in his Bull Magnus Dominus et Laudabilis on 23 December 1595, and then later proclaimed in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Brest on 9 October 1596 O.S. (19 October 1596 N.S.) .  

We require prior guarantees of these articles from the Romans before we enter into union with the Roman Church.

1. Since there is a quarrel between the Romans and Greeks about the procession of the Holy Spirit, which greatly impede unity really for no other reason than that we do not wish to understand one another—we ask that we should not be compelled to any other creed but that we should remain with that which was handed down to us in the Holy Scriptures, in the Gospel, and in the writings of the holy Greek Doctors, that is, that the Holy Spirit proceeds, not from two sources and not by a double procession, but from one origin, from the Father through the Son.

2. That the divine worship and all prayers and services of Orthros, Vespers, and the night services shall remain intact (without any change at all) for us according to the ancient custom of the Eastern Church, namely: the Holy Liturgies of which there are three, that of Saint Basil, that of Saint Chrysostom, and that of Epiphanius which is served during the Great Lent with Presanctified Gifts, and all other ceremonies and services of our Church, as we have had them until now, for in Rome these same services are kept within the obedience of the Supreme Pontiff, and that these services should be in our own language.

3. That the Mysteries of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ should be retained entirely as we have been accustomed until now, under the species of bread and wine; that this should remain among us eternally the same and unchangeable.

4. That the Mystery of Holy Baptism and its form should remain among us unchanged as we have served it until now, without any addition.

5. We shall not debate about purgatory, but we entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church.

6. We will accept the new calendar, if the old one cannot be, but without any violation of the Paschalia [the Easter cycle] and our other feasts as they were in the time of unity, because we have some special feasts which the Romans do not have; on the sixth of January we celebrate the memory of the Baptism of the Lord Christ and the first revelation of the One God in Trinity. We call this feast Theophany, and on this day we have a special service of the Blessing of Waters.

7. That we should not be compelled to take part in processions on the day of Corpus Christi—that we should not have to make such processions with our Mysteries inasmuch as our use of the Mysteries is different.

8. Likewise that we should not be compelled to have the blessing of fire, the use of wooden clappers, and similar ceremonies before Easter, for we have not had such ceremonies in our Church until now, but that we should maintain our ceremonies according to the rubrics and the Typicon of our Church.

9. That the marriages of priests remain intact, except for bigamists.

10. That the metropolitanate, the episcopate, and other ecclesiastical dignities shall be conferred on no one except the Rus' people or Greeks, who must be of our religion. And since our Canons require that the Metropolitain, the Bishops, and so on, first elected by the clergy, must be worthy people, we ask the King's Grace that the election be free, leaving intact the authority of the King's Grace to appoint the one whom he pleases. This means that as soon as someone has died we should elect four candidates, and the King's Grace will freely chose whom he wishes from among the four. This is necessary, especially so that the persons named to such positions will be worthy and educated, for the King's Grace, who is not of the same religion, cannot know who is worthy of this, and thus it has happened that such uninstructed people were appointed that they were scarcely literate. If the King's Grace should wish to appoint a layman to these spiritual posts, the appointee must receive Holy Orders within no more than three months under pain of losing appointment, according to the Constitution of the Parliament of Grondo and the Articles of King Sigmund Augustus of blessed memory, approved by the present King's Grace, for at the moment there are some who hold certain spiritual appointments in their hands but do not receive Holy Orders even for years, justifying themselves with some sort of royal "exemptions". We ask that in future this should not be.

11. That our Bishops should not send to Rome for the sacrae (permission to consecrate), but, if the King's Grace names someone to a bishopric, that according to the old custom the Archbishop—Metropolitain should have the duty and the right to ordain him. The Metropolitain himself, before entering upon the office of metropolitain, should send the sacrae to the Pope. Then, after he has received the sacrae from Rome, let the bishops ordain him, at least two of them, according to their custom. If a bishop is elected Metropolitain, let him not send for the sacrae, because he already has the episcopal cheirotonia; he may take an oath of obedience to the Supreme Pontiff in the presence of the Archbishop of Gniezno (who on that occasion will not be functioning as Archbishop, but as Primate of Poland).

12. So that our authority would be greater and we should govern our faithful with greater respect, we ask seats in the Senate of the King's Grace for the Metropolitain and the bishops. We ask this for many reasons for we have the same office and hierarchical dignity as the Roman Bishops.

13. And if in time the Lord shall grant that the rest of the brethren of our people and of the Greek Religion shall come to this same holy unity, it shall not be held against us or begrudged to us that we have preceded them in this unity, for we have to do this for definite, serious reasons for harmony in the Christian republic [Poland] to avoid further confusion and discord.

14. Most important of all, it is necessary that if in our dioceses presbyters—Archimandrates, Hegumenoi, presbyters, and other clergy, but especially foreigners, even bishops and monks who might come from Greece—of our Religion should not wish to be under our obedience they should never dare to perform any divine service. For if that were allowed then there would never be any order.

15. If in the future someone of our Religion should want to join the Roman Church, denying his own Religion and Ceremonies, let him not be accepted, since he is degrading the Ceremonies of the one Church of God, since, being already in one Church, we shall have one Pope.

16. That marriages may freely take place between the Roman faithful and the Rus' faithful, without any compulsion as to Religion, for both are already one Church.

17. Inasmuch as we have lost the possession of many ecclesiastical properties, some of which our predecessors alienated by rights other than the free administration of these goods during their personal lives, so that we find ourselves in such want and poverty that we cannot provide satisfactorily for the needs of the churches, and indeed we ourselves scarcely have the means of subsistence, we require that these properties be returned to our churches. If anyone has legitimately acquired the lifetime usufruct of any ecclesiastical benefice, let him be obliged to pay an annual rent to the Church, and upon his death let the benefice revert to the Church. Such a benefice shall not be granted to anyone without the consent of the bishop and his chapter. Every benefice to which the Church presently has title is to be recorded in the Gospel Books, even if the Church does not exercise any control over some benefices. In that way they will at least belong indisputably to the Church. With this accomplished, the Church can then undertake to regain those benefices which have been alienated at an earlier time.

18. Upon the death of the Metropolitain or of a bishop, the wardens and state treasurer shall not interfere in the ecclesiastical properties. As is the custom and tradition of the Roman Church, these properties shall be administered by the chapter until a new Metropolitain or bishop is elected. While this is already guaranteed to us by our privilege, we ask that it be incorporated into the constitution of the kingdom.

19. That Archimandrates, Hegumenoi, monks and their monasteries, according to the old custom shall be under the obedience of the bishops of their dioceses, for among us there is only one monastic Rule, which even the bishops use, and we do not have "Provincials".

20. That at the tribunal among the Roman Clergy we also should have two of our [clergy] to look after the affairs of our Church.

21. That the archimandrates, hegumenoi, priests, archdeacons, and our other clergy be held in the same esteem as the Roman clergy, and should enjoy and make use of the same liberties and privileges which were granted by King Ladislaus; they should be exempt from all taxation, both personal and concerning ecclesiastical property, in contrast to the unjust practice which has hitherto obtained—if they possess some private properties then they should pay taxes on them, whatever is just, as other proprietors do. Any priest and other clergy who possesses ecclesiastical properties within the territories of the senators and nobility are subject to them and must obey them: they should not appeal to the courts or enter into quarrels with the landlords, but must acknowledge the right of patronage. But accusations regarding the person of the clergy and their spiritual functions, are subject only to the bishop, and the misdemeanors of the clergy shall be punished exclusively by the bishop on the complaints of the landlord. Thus everyone, clergy and laity, will have their rights preserved whole and inviolate.

22. That the Romans should not forbid us to ring bells in our churches on Good Friday, both in the cities and everywhere else.

23. That we should not be forbidden to visit the sick with the Most Holy Mysteries, publicly, with lights and vestments, according to our rubrics.

24. That without any interference we might be free to hold processions, as many as are required, on holy days, according to our custom.

25. That our Rus' monasteries and churches should not be changed into Roman Catholic churches. And if any Roman Catholic has damaged or destroyed one of our churches or monasteries, in his territory, he shall be obliged to repair it or build a new one for the exclusive use of the Rus' people.

26. The spiritual Church Brotherhoods which have recently been erected by the Patriarchs and confirmed by the King's Grace—for example, those in L'viv, in Brest, in Vilnius, and elsewhere—in which we see great benefit for the Church of God and the cultivation of divine worship if they wish to abide in this unity, shall be maintained in all their integrity under the obedience of their Metropolitain and of the bishops in whose dioceses they function and to whom each of them is properly ascribed.

27. That we shall be free to have schools and seminaries in the Greek and Church—Slavonic languages in the localities where it is most convenient, and that our printing-presses shall be free (of course under the supervision of the Metropolitain and bishops, so that no heresies be propagated and nothing be printed without the knowledge and consent of the Metropolitain and bishops).

28. Since there have been great abuses and disobedience on the part of some priests in the dominions of the King's Grace as well as in the lands of the lords and magnates, so that these priests have obtained the protection of the landlords and magnates for their abuses, dissolving marriages, so that the wardens and other officials profit to some extent by the fees from these divorces and therefore shield these priests, not permitting the bishops and the synod to summon such wayward clerics, abusing and even beating our visitators, we request that such abuses should cease, and that we would be free to correct the wayward and keep order, and if someone should be excommunicated because of his disobedience or for an abuse, let the government and the lords, once they have been informed by the bishops or the visitator, not permit such excommunicated clergy to perform clerical functions or serve in the churches until they have been absolved by their pastors from their faults. This shall also be understood for archimandrates and hegumenoi and other ecclesiastics who are subject to the bishops and to their authority.

29. Than the Cathedrals in the main cities and all the parish churches everywhere in the dominions of the King's Grace, of every place and jurisdiction, whether founded by the King, or by the city, or by a local lord, shall be subject to the bishop and under his authority, and that lay people shall not administer them under any pretext, for there are those who meddle against the obedience of the bishop, arranging matters as they wish and who do not want to obey their bishops. Let this not occur in the future.

30. And if someone has been excommunicated by his bishops for any offense, let him not be received into the Roman Church but, on the contrary, let his excommunication be proclaimed there also. And we shall do the same with regard to those excommunicated from the Roman Church, for this is a joint concern.

31. And when the Lord God by His will and holy grace shall permit the rest of our brothers of the Eastern Church of the Greek tradition to come to the holy unity with the Western Church, and later in this common union and by the permission of the Universal Church there should be any change in the ceremonies and Typicon of the Greek Church, we shall share all this as people of the same religion.

32. We have heard that some have departed for Greece to procure ecclesiastical powers and return here to advise and influence the clergy and extend their jurisdiction over us. We, therefore, request the King's Grace to order precautions to be taken on the state borders so that anyone bearing such jurisdictions and excommunications be barred from entering the kingdom. Otherwise, grave misunderstandings could arise between the pastors and the flocks of the Church.

33. All these things we the undersigned, desiring holy concord for the praise of God's Name and for the peace of the Holy Church of Christ, we have given these articles which we consider necessary for our Church and for which we require agreement in advance and guarantees from the Holy Father the Pope and from the King's Grace, our merciful lord, for greater security, we have committed our Instructions to our Reverend brothers in God, father Hypatius Potij, the Protothrone, Bishop Volodymyr of Brest, and Father Cyril Terletsky, Exarch and Bishop of Lutsk and Ostrih, so that in our name and in their own name they should ask the Most Holy Father the Pope, and also the King's Grace, our merciful lord, to confirm and guarantee beforehand all the articles which we have here given in writing, so that assured as to the faith, the Mysteries, and our ceremonies, we might come to this holy accord with the Roman Church without any violation of our conscience and the flock of Christ committed unto us and likewise that others who are still hesitating, seeing that we retain everything inviolate, might more quickly come after us to this holy union.

Given in the Year of God 1595, the month of June, the first day according to the Old Calendar.

Michael, Metropolitain of Kiev and Halych and all Rus'

Hypatius, Bishop of Volodymyr and Brest

Cyril Terletsky, by the grace of God Exarch and Bishop of Lutsk and

Ostrih Leontius Pelchytsky, by the grace of God Bishop of Pinsk and Turov

[The seals of eight bishops are added, including Gedeon Balaban of L'viv and Dionysius Zbirujski of Kholm.]




  Свята-Сімяонаўскі Сабор у Брэсце – Saint Simeon Cathedral in Brest in Belarus  

Брэст – Берестя – Brest – Brześć – Брест, now in south-western Belarus, very near the border with Poland and not far north from the border with the Ukraine, the Church — Свята-Сімяонаўскі Сабор у Брэсце –Saint Simeon Cathedral— the only Church open and serving in Brest during Soviet times, is dedicated to a saint from long ago and far away. Συμεὼν ὁ στυλίτης – Святой Сымон Слупнік – Saint Simeon (or Symeon) the Stylite (the elder of that name) (* c. 388 – 2 September 459 †), lived his faith in the only God, the Triune God, in a way which is comprehensible to us (or at least to the present writer) only as an abstraction. He spent 36 years in extreme asceticism on a tiny platform, perhaps one meter square, atop several pillars near Aleppo in Syria, the last of which, where he spent about 30 years and finally reposed in the Lord, was about 15 meters in height. In this extreme austerity, Saint Simeon was far from isolated. His fame spread throughout Christendom, and large numbers of people converged on his pillar in the desert, seeking his advice and prayers, including by climbing up a latter to his platform home. He preached to the assembled crowds. He wrote letters, including one to Emperor Leo (r. 457 to 474; himself an Orthodox saint, with a feast day on 20 January) in support of the Council of Chalcedon, some of which letters survive. Though his self mortifications were so exceptional, he preached temperance. In subsequent centuries he had imitators. An extraordinary witness to the Gospel of Jesus.

Regretably, the man honored by the pictured bronze in front of this Church in Brest, Athanasius of Brest-Litovsk (c. 1595 - 1648), regarded as a saint and martyr by the Russian Orthodox Church, was apparently killed due to complicity in the Khmelnytsky Uprising, mixed up with his opposition to the Catholic Church and the Union of Brest. The Khmelnytsky Uprising (1648–1657), a war in which the Zaporozhian Cossacks allied with the Muslim Crimean Tatars against the Catholic powers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth — in connection with which the Polish nobles (Szlachta) were certainly also not good guys — was characterized by mass massacres in which women and children figured prominently. At other times and places and places the Zaporozhian Cossacks were on the right side. Athanasius of Brest-Litovsk, a strange saint, but very likely there is much more to the story. Note also, and tellingly, though Brest is in Belarus and indeed in its westernmost reaches, the text on the scroll, though in antiquated form, is in Russian, not Belarusian.

О Матко моя Церковъ
в которой правдиве
мешкает Богъ здавна!
Тобемъ помогалъ
речью и словами
я, Афанасий.
И всеми силами.
Хто в сердцу имя
Христово меть буде,
того Онъ в Царствии
Своемъ не забуде.





  Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae  


Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII

(r. 20 February 1878 to 20 July 1903 †)

On the Reunion of Christendom

20 June 1894



To Our Venerable Brethren, all Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops of the Catholic World
In Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See

Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction,


The splendid tokens of public rejoicing which have come to Us from all sides in the whole course of last year, to commemorate Our Episcopal Jubilee, and which were lately crowned by the remarkable devotion of the Spanish Nation, have afforded Us special joy, inasmuch as the Unity of the Church and the admirable adhesion of her members to the Sovereign Pontiff have shone forth in this perfect agreement of concurring sentiments. During those days it seemed as if the Catholic world, forgetful of everything else, had centered its gaze and all its thoughts upon the Vatican.

The special missions sent by Kings and Princes, the many Pilgrimages, the letters We received so full of affectionate feeling, the Sacred Services--everything clearly brought out the fact that all Catholics are of one mind and of one heart in their veneration for the Apostolic See. And this was all the more pleasing and agreeable to Us, that it is entirely in conformity with Our intent and with Our endeavors. For, indeed, well acquainted with Our times, and mindful of the duties of Our Ministry, We have constantly sought during the whole course of Our Pontificate and striven, as far as it was possible, by teaching and action, to bind every Nation and people more closely to Us, and make manifest everywhere the salutary influence of the See of Rome. Therefore, do We most earnestly offer thanks in the first place to the goodness of God, by whose help and bounty We have been preserved to attain Our great age; and then, next, to all the Princes and Rulers, to the Bishops and Clergy, and to as many as have co-operated by such repeated tokens of Piety and Reverence to Honor Our Character and Office, while affording Us personally such seasonable consolation.

A great deal, however, has been wanting to the entire fullness of that consolation. Amidst these very manifestations of public joy and Reverence Our thoughts went out towards the immense multitude of those who are strangers to the gladness that filled all Catholic hearts: some because they lie in absolute ignorance of the Gospel; others because they dissent from the Catholic belief, though they bear the name of Christians.

This thought has been, and is, a source of deep concern to Us; for it is impossible to think of such a large portion of mankind deviating, as it were, from the right path, as they move away from Us, and not experience a sentiment of innermost grief.

But since We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty, Who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth, and now that Our advanced age and the bitterness of anxious cares urge Us on towards the end common to every mortal, We feel drawn to follow the example of Our Redeemer and Master, Jesus Christ, Who, when about to return to Heaven, implored of God, His Father, in earnest Prayer, that His Disciples and followers should be of one mind and of one heart: I pray . . . that they all may be one, as Thou Father in Me, and I in Thee: that they also may be one in Us. And as this Divine Prayer and Supplication does not include only the souls who then believed in Jesus Christ, but also every one of those who were henceforth to believe in Him, this Prayer holds out to Us no indifferent reason for confidently expressing Our hopes, and for making all possible endeavors in order that the men of every race and clime should be called and moved to embrace the Unity of Divine Faith.

Pressed on to Our intent by Charity, that hastens fastest there where the need is greatest, We direct Our first thoughts to those most unfortunate of all nations who have never received the light of the Gospel, or who, after having possessed it, have lost it through neglect or the vicissitudes of time: Hence do they ignore God, and live in the depths of error. Now, as all salvation comes from Jesus Christ--for there is no other Name under Heaven given to men whereby we must be saved--Our ardent desire is that the most Holy Name of Jesus should rapidly pervade and fill every land.

And here, indeed, is a duty which the Church, faithful to the Divine Mission entrusted to her, has never neglected. What has been the object of her labors for more than nineteen centuries? Is there any other work she has undertaken with greater zeal and constancy than that of bringing the nations of the earth to the Truth and Principles of Christianity? Today, as ever, by Our Authority, the Heralds of the Gospel constantly cross the seas to reach the farthest corners of the earth; and We Pray God daily that in His goodness He may deign to increase the number of His Ministers who are really worthy of this Apostolate, and who are ready to Sacrifice their convenience, their health, and their very life, if need be, in order to extend the frontiers of the Kingdom of Christ.

Do Thou, above all, O Savior and Father of mankind, Christ Jesus, hasten and do not delay to bring about what Thou didst once promise to do--that when lifted up from the earth Thou wouldst draw all things to Thyself. Come, then, at last, and manifest Thyself to the immense multitude of souls who have not felt, as yet, the ineffable Blessings which Thou hast earned for men with Thy Blood; rouse those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, that, enlightened by the rays of Thy Wisdom and Virtue, in Thee and by Thee "they may be made perfect in one."

As We consider the Mystery of this Unity We see before Us all the countries which have long since passed, by the Mercy of God, from timeworn error to the wisdom of the Gospel. Nor could We, indeed, recall anything more pleasing or better calculated to extol the work of Divine Providence that the memory of the days of yore, when the Faith that had come down from Heaven was looked upon as the common inheritance of one and all; when civilized nations, separated by distance, character and habits, in spite of frequent disagreements and warfare on other points, were united by Christian Faith in all that concerned Religion. The recollection of that time causes Us to regret all the more deeply that as the ages rolled by the waves of suspicion and hatred arose, and great and flourishing nations were dragged away, in an evil hour, from the bosom of the Roman Church. In spite of that, however, We trust in the Mercy of God's Almighty Power, in Him Who alone can fix the hour of His benefits and Who has Power to incline man's will as He pleases; and We turn to those same nations, exhorting and beseeching them with Fatherly love to put an end to their dissensions and return again to Unity.

First of all, then, We cast an affectionate look upon the East, from whence in the beginning came forth the salvation of the world. Yes, and the yearning desire of Our heart bids us conceive and hope that the day is not far distant when the Eastern Churches, so illustrious in their ancient faith and glorious past, will return to the fold they have abandoned. We hope it all the more, that the distance separating them from Us is not so great: nay, with some few exceptions, we agree so entirely on other heads that, in defense of the Catholic Faith, we often have recourse to reasons and testimony borrowed from the teaching, the Rites, and Customs of the East.

The Principal subject of contention is the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff. But let them look back to the early years of their existence, let them consider the sentiments entertained by their forefathers, and examine what the oldest Traditions testify, and it will, indeed, become evident to them that Christ's Divine Utterance, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, has undoubtedly been realized in the Roman Pontiffs. Many of these latter in the first gates of the Church were chosen from the East, and foremost among them Anacletus, Evaristus, Anicetus, Eleutherius, Zosimus, and Agatho; and of these a great number, after Governing the Church in Wisdom and Sanctity, Consecrated their Ministry with the shedding of their blood. The time, the reasons, the promoters of the unfortunate division, are well known. Before the day when man separated what God had joined together, the name of the Apostolic See was held in Reverence by all the nations of the Christian world: and the East, like the West, agreed without hesitation in its obedience to the Pontiff of Rome, as the Legitimate Successor of St. Peter, and, therefore, the Vicar of Christ here on earth.

And, accordingly, if we refer to the beginning of the dissension, we shall see that Photius himself was careful to send his advocates to Rome on the matters that concerned him; and Pope Nicholas I sent his Legates to Constantinople from the Eternal City, without the slightest opposition, "in order to examine the case of Ignatius the Patriarch with all diligence, and to bring back to the Apostolic See a full and accurate report"; so that the history of the whole negotiation is a manifest Confirmation of the Primacy of the Roman See with which the dissension then began. Finally, in two great Councils, the second of Lyons and that of Florence, Latins and Greeks, as is notorious, easily agreed, and all unanimously proclaimed as Dogma the Supreme Power of the Roman Pontiffs.

We have recalled those things intentionally, for they constitute an invitation to peace and reconciliation; and with all the more reason that in Our own days it would seem as if there were a more conciliatory spirit towards Catholics on the part of the Eastern Churches, and even some degree of kindly feeling. To mention an instance, those sentiments were lately made manifest when some of Our faithful travelled to the East on a Holy Enterprise, and received so many proofs of courtesy and good-will.

Therefore, Our mouth is open to you, to you all of Greek or other Oriental Rites who are separated from the Catholic Church, We earnestly desire that each and every one of you should meditate upon the words, so full of gravity and love, addressed by Bessarion to your forefathers: "What answer shall we give to God when He comes to ask why we have separated from our Brethren: to Him Who, to unite us and bring us into One Fold, came down from Heaven, was Incarnate, and was Crucified? What will our defense be in the eyes of posterity? Oh, my Venerable Fathers, we must not suffer this to be, we must not entertain this thought, we must not thus so ill provide for ourselves and for our Brethren."

Weigh carefully in your minds and before God the nature of Our request. It is not for any human motive, but impelled by Divine Charity and a desire for the salvation of all, that We advise the reconciliation and union with the Church of Rome; and We mean a perfect and complete union, such as could not subsist in any way if nothing else was brought about but a certain kind of agreement in the Tenets of Belief and an intercourse of Fraternal love. The True Union between Christians is that which Jesus Christ, the Author of the Church, instituted and desired, and which consists in a Unity of Faith and Unity of Government.

Nor is there any reason for you to fear on that account that We or any of Our Successors will ever diminish your rights, the privileges of your Patriarchs, or the established Ritual of any one of your Churches. It has been and always will be the intent and Tradition of the Apostolic See, to make a large allowance, in all that is right and good, for the primitive Traditions and special customs of every nation. On the contrary, if you re-establish Union with Us, you will see how, by God's bounty, the glory and dignity of your Churches will be remarkably increased. May God, then, in His goodness, hear the Prayer that you yourselves address to Him: "Make the schisms of the Churches cease," and "Assemble those who are dispersed, bring back those who err, and unite them to Thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." May you thus return to that one Holy Faith which has been handed down both to Us and to you from time immemorial; which your forefathers preserved untainted, and which was enhanced by the rival splendor of the Virtues, the great genius, and the sublime learning of St. Athanasius and St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzum and St. John Chrysostom, the two Saints who bore the name of Cyril, and so many other great men whose glory belongs as a common inheritance to the East and to the West.

Suffer that We should address you more particularly, nations of the Slavonic race, you whose glorious name and deeds are attested by many an ancient record. You know full well how much the Slavs are indebted to the merits of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, to whose memory We Ourselves have rendered due honor only a few years ago. Their virtues and their labors were to great numbers of your race the source of civilization and salvation. And hence the admirable interchange, which existed for so long between the Slavonic nations and the Pontiffs of Rome, of favors on the one side and of filial devotion on the other. If in unhappy times many of your forefathers were separated from the Faith of Rome, consider now what priceless benefits a return of Unity would bring to you. The Church is anxious to welcome you also to her arms, that she may give you manifold aids to salvation, prosperity, and grandeur.

With no less affection do We now look upon the nations who, at a more recent date, were separated from the Roman Church by an extraordinary revolution of things and circumstances. Let them forget the various events of times gone by, let them raise their thoughts far above all that is human, and seeking only truth and salvation, reflect within their hearts upon the Church as it was constituted by Christ. If they will but compare that Church with their own communions, and consider what the actual state of Religion is in these, they will easily acknowledge that, forgetful of their early history, they have drifted away, on many and important points, into the novelty of various errors; nor will they deny that of what may be called the Patrimony of Truth, which the authors of those innovations carried away with them in their desertion, there now scarcely remains to them any article of belief that is really certain and supported by Authority.

Nay, more, things have already come to such a pass that many do not even hesitate to root up the very Foundation upon which alone rests all Religion, and the hope of men, to wit, the Divine Nature of Jesus Christ, Our Savior. And again, whereas formerly they used to assert that the books of the Old and the New Testament were written under the inspiration of God, they now deny them that Authority; this, indeed, was an inevitable consequence when they granted to all the right of private interpretation. Hence, too, the acceptance of individual conscience as the sole guide and rule of conduct to the exclusion of any other: hence those conflicting opinions and numerous sects that fall away so often into the doctrines of Naturalism and Rationalism.

Therefore it is, that having lost all hope of an agreement in their persuasions, they now proclaim and recommend a union of brotherly love. And rightly, too, no doubt, for we should all be united by the bond of mutual Charity. Our Lord Jesus Christ enjoined it most emphatically, and wished that this love of one another should be the mark of His Disciples. But how can hearts be united in perfect Charity where minds do not agree in Faith?

It is on this account that many of those We allude to men of sound judgment and seeking after Truth, have looked to the Catholic Church for the sure way of salvation; for they clearly understand that they could never be united to Jesus Christ, as their Head if they were not members of His Body, which is the Church; nor really acquire the True Christian Faith if they rejected the Legitimate teaching confided to Peter and his Successors. Such men as these have recognized in the Church of Rome the Form and Image of the True Church, which is clearly made manifest by the Marks that God, her Author, placed upon her: and not a few who were possessed with penetrating judgment and a special talent for historical research, have shown forth in their remarkable writings the uninterrupted succession of the Church. of Rome from the Apostles, the integrity of her Doctrine, and the consistency of her Rule and Discipline.

With the example of such men before you, Our heart appeals to you even more than Our words: to you, Our Brethren, who for three centuries and more differ from Us on Christian Faith; and to you all likewise, who in later times, for any reason whatsoever, have turned away from Us: Let us all meet in the Unity of Faith and of the Knowledge of the Son of God. Suffer that We should invite you to the Unity which has ever existed in the Catholic Church and can never fail; suffer that We should lovingly hold out Our hand to you. The Church, as the common mother of all, has long been calling you back to her; the Catholics of the world await you with brotherly love, that you may render Holy Worship to God together with us, united in perfect Charity Worship to God together with us, united in perfect charity by the profession of one Gospel, One Faith and One Hope.

To complete the harmony of this most desired unity, it remains for Us to address all those throughout the world whose salvation has long been the object of Our thoughts and watchful cares; We mean Catholics, whom the profession of the Roman Faith, while it renders them obedient to the Apostolic See, preserves in Union with Jesus Christ. There is no need to exhort them to True and Holy Unity, since through the Divine Goodness they already possess it; nevertheless, they must be admonished, lest under pressure of the growing perils on all sides around them, through negligence or indolence they should lose this great Blessing of God. For this purpose, let them take this Rule of thought and action, as the occasion may require, from those instructions which at other times We have addressed to Catholic people, either collectively or individually; and above all, let them lay down for themselves as a Supreme Law, to yield obedience in all things to the teaching and Authority of the Church, in no narrow or mistrustful spirit, but with their whole soul and promptitude of will.

On this account let them consider how injurious to Christian Unity is that error, which in various forms of opinion has oft-times obscured, nay, even destroyed the True Character and idea of the Church. For by the Will and Ordinance of God, its Founder, it is a Society perfect in its kind, whose Office and Mission it is to school mankind in the Precepts and Teachings of the Gospel, and by safeguarding the integrity of Morals and the exercise of Christian Virtue, to lead men to that happiness which is held out to every one in Heaven. And since it is, as we have said, a perfect Society, therefore it is endowed with a living Power and efficacy which is not derived from any external source, but in virtue of the Ordinance of God and its own Constitution, inherent in its very nature; for the same reason it has an inborn Power of making Laws, and Justice requires that in its exercise it should be dependent on no one; it must likewise have freedom in other matters appertaining to its rights.

But this freedom is not of a kind to occasion rivalry or envy, for the Church does not covet Power, nor is she urged on by any selfish desire; but this one thing she does wish, this only does she seek, to preserve amongst men the duties which Virtue imposes, and by this means and in this way to provide for their everlasting welfare. Therefore is she wont to be yielding and indulgent as a mother; yes, it not infrequently happens that in making large concessions to the exigencies of States, she refrains from the exercise of her own rights, as the compacts often concluded with civil governments abundantly testify.

Nothing is more foreign to her disposition than to encroach on the rights of civil power; but the civil power in its turn must respect the rights of the Church, and beware of arrogating them in any degree to itself. Now, what is the ruling spirit of the times when actual events and circumstances are taken into account? No other than this: it has been the fashion to regard the Church with suspicion, to despise and hate and spitefully calumniate her; and, more intolerable still, men strive with might and main to bring her under the sway of civil governments. Hence it is that her property has been plundered and her liberty curtailed: hence again, that the training of her Priesthood has been beset with difficulties; that laws of exceptional rigor have been passed against her Clergy; that Religious Orders, those excellent safeguards of Christianity, have been suppressed and placed under a ban; in a word, the principles and practice of the regalists have been renewed with increased virulence.

Such a policy is a violation of the most Sacred Rights of the Church, and it breeds enormous evils to States, for the very reason that it is in open conflict with the Purposes of God. When God, in His most Wise Providence, placed over human society both temporal and Spiritual Authority, He intended them to remain distinct indeed, but by no means disconnected and at war with each other. On the contrary, both the Will of God and the common weal of human society imperatively require that the civil power should be in accord with the Ecclesiastical in its Rule and Administration.

Hence the State has its own peculiar rights and duties, the Church likewise has hers; but it is necessary that each should be united with the other in the bonds of concord. Thus will it come about that the close mutual relations of Church and State will be freed from the present turmoil, which for manifold reasons is ill-advised and most distressing to all well-disposed persons; furthermore, it will be brought to pass that, without confusion or separation of the peculiar interests of each, the people will render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

There is likewise a great danger threatening unity on the part of that association which goes by the name of Freemasons, whose fatal influence for a long time past oppresses Catholic nations in particular. Favored by the agitations of the times, and waxing insolent in its power and resources and success, it strains every nerve to consolidate its sway and enlarge its sphere. It has already sallied forth from its hiding-places, where it hatched its plots, into the throng of cities, and as if to defy the Almighty, has set up its throne in this very city of Rome, the Capital of the Catholic world. But what is most disastrous is, that wherever it has set its foot it penetrates into all ranks and departments of the commonwealth, in the hope of obtaining at last supreme control. This is, indeed, a great calamity: for its depraved principles and iniquitous designs are well known. Under the pretence of vindicating the rights of man and of reconstituting society, it attacks Christianity; it rejects revealed Doctrine, denounces practices of Piety, the Divine Sacraments, and every Sacred thing as superstition; it strives to eliminate the Christian Character from Marriage and the family and the education of youth, and from every form of instruction, whether public or private, and to root out from the minds of men all respect for Authority, whether human or Divine. On its own part, it preaches the worship of nature, and maintains that by the principles of nature are truth and probity and justice to be measured and regulated. In this way, as is quite evident, man is being driven to adopt customs and habits of life akin to those of the heathen, only more corrupt in proportion as the incentives to sin are more numerous.

Although We have spoken on this subject in the strongest terms before, yet We are led by Our Apostolic watchfulness to urge it once more, and We repeat Our warning again and again, that in face of such an eminent peril, no precaution, howsoever great, can be looked upon as sufficient. May God in His Mercy bring to naught their impious designs; nevertheless, let all Christians know and understand that the shameful yoke of Freemasonry must be shaken off once and for all; and let them be the first to shake it off who are most galled by its oppression--the men of Italy and of France. With what weapons and by what method this may best be done We Ourselves have already pointed out: the victory cannot be doubtful to those who trust in that Leader Whose Divine Words still remain in all their force: I have overcome the world.

Were this twofold danger averted, and government and States restored to the Unity of Faith, it is wonderful what efficacious remedies for evils and abundant store of benefits would ensue. We will touch upon the principal ones.

The first regards the Dignity and Office of the Church. She would receive that Honor which is her due and she would go on her way, free from envy and strong in her liberty, as the Minister of Gospel Truth and Grace to the notable welfare of States. For as she has been given by God as a Teacher and Guide to the human race, she can contribute assistance which is peculiarly adapted to direct even the most radical transformations of time to the common good, to solve the most complicated questions, and to promote uprightness and justice, which are the most solid foundations of the commonwealth.

Moreover there would be a marked increase of union among the nations, a thing most desirable to ward off the horrors of war.

We behold the condition of Europe. For many years past peace has been rather an appearance than a realty. Possessed with mutual suspicions, almost all the nations are vying with one another in equipping themselves with military armaments. Inexperienced youths are removed from paternal direction and control, to be thrown amid the dangers of the soldier's life; robust young men are taken from agriculture or ennobling studies or trade of the arts to be put under arms. Hence the treasures of States are exhausted by the enormous expenditure, the national resources are frittered away, and private fortunes impaired; and this, as it were, armed peace, which now prevails, cannot last much longer. Can this be the normal condition of human society? Yet we cannot escape from this situation, and obtain True Peace, except by the aid of Jesus Christ. For to repress ambition and covetousness and envy--the chief instigators of war--nothing is more fitted than the Christian Virtues and, in particular, the Virtue of Justice; for, by its exercise, both the law of nations and the faith of treaties may be maintained inviolate, and the bonds of brotherhood continue unbroken, if men are but convinced that Justice exalteth a nation.

As in its external relations, so in the internal life of the State itself, the Christian Virtues will provide a guarantee of the commonweal much more sure and stronger far than any which laws or armies can afford. For there is no one who does not see that the dangers to public security and order are daily on the increase, since seditious societies continue to conspire for the overthrow and ruin of States, as the frequency of their atrocious outrages testifies.

There are two questions, forsooth--the one called the social, and the other the political question--which are discussed with the greatest vehemence. Both of them, without doubt, are of the last importance, and, though praiseworthy efforts have been put forth, in studies and measures and experiments for their wise and just solution, yet nothing could contribute more to this purpose than that the minds of men in general should be imbued with right sentiments of duty from the internal principle of Christian Faith. We treated expressly of the social question in this sense a short time ago, from the standpoint of principles drawn from the Gospel and natural reason.

As regards the political question, which aims at reconciling liberty with Authority--two things which many confound in theory, and separate too widely in practice--most efficient aid may be derived from the Christian Philosophy. For, when this point has been settled and recognized by common agreement, that, whatsoever the form of government, the Authority is from God, reason at once perceives that in some there is a Legitimate right to command, in others the corresponding duty to obey, and that without prejudice to their dignity, since obedience is rendered to God rather than to man; and God has denounced the most rigorous judgment against those in Authority, if they fail to represent Him with uprightness and justice. Then the liberty of the individual can afford ground of suspicion or envy to no one; since, without injury to any, his conduct will be guided by Truth and rectitude and whatever is allied to public order. Lastly, if it be considered what influence is possessed by the Church, the mother of and peacemaker between rulers and peoples, whose mission it is to help them both with her Authority and Counsel, then it will be most manifest how much it concerns the commonweal that all nations should resolve to unite in the same belief and the same profession of the Christian Faith.

With these thoughts in Our mind and ancient yearnings in Our heart, We see from afar what would be the new order of things that would arise upon the earth, and nothing could be sweeter to Us than the contemplation of the benefits that would flow from it. It can hardly be imagined what immediate and rapid progress would be made all over the earth, in all manner of greatness and prosperity, with the establishment of tranquility and peace, the promotion of studies, the founding and the multiplying on Christian lines according to Our directions, of associations for the cultivators of soil, for workmen and tradesmen, through whose agency rapacious usury would be put down, and a large field opened up for useful labors.

And these abundant benefits would not be confined within the limits of civilized nations, but, like an overcharged river, would flow far and wide. It must be remembered, as we observed at the outset, that an immense number of races have been waiting, all through the long ages, to receive the light of Truth and civilization. Most certainly, the counsels of God with regard to the eternal salvation of peoples are far removed above the understanding of man; yet if miserable superstition still prevails in so many parts of the world, the blame must be attributed in no small measure to Religious dissensions. For, as far as it is given to human reason to judge from the nature of events, this seems without doubt to be the mission assigned by God to Europe, to go on by degrees carrying Christian civilization to every portion of the earth. The beginnings and first growth of this great work, which sprang from the labors of former centuries, were rapidly receiving large development, when all of a sudden the discord of the sixteenth century broke out. Christendom was torn with quarrels and dissensions, Europe exhausted with contests and wars, and the Sacred Mission felt the baneful influence of the times. While the causes of dissension still remain, what wonder is it that so large a portion of mankind is held enthralled with barbarous customs and insane rites?

Let us one and all, then, for the sake of the common welfare, labor with equal assiduity to restore the ancient concord. In order to bring about this concord, and spread abroad the benefits of the Christian Revelation, the present is the most seasonable time; for never before have the sentiments of human brotherhood penetrated so deeply into the souls of men, and never in any age has man been seen to seek out his fellowmen more eagerly in order to know them better and to help them. Immense tracts of land and sea are traversed with incredible rapidity, and thus extraordinary advantages are afforded not only for commerce and scientific investigations but also for the propagation of the Word of God from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same.

We are well aware of the long labors involved in the restoration of that order of things which We desire; and it may be that there are those who consider that We are far too sanguine and look for things that are rather to be wished for than expected. But we unhesitatingly place all Our hope and confidence in the Savior of mankind, Jesus Christ, well remembering what great things have been achieved in times past by the folly of the Cross and its preaching, to the astonishment and confusion of the wisdom of the world. We beg of Princes and Rulers of States, appealing to their statesmanship and earnest solicitude for the people, to weigh Our Counsels in the balance of Truth and second them with their Authority and favor. If only a portion of the looked-for results should come about, it will cause no inconsiderable boon in the general decadence, when the intolerable evils of the present day bring with them the dread of further evils in days to come.

The last years of the past century left Europe worn out with disasters and panic-stricken with the turmoils of revolution. And why should not our present century, which is now hastening to its close, by a reversion of circumstances bequeath to mankind the pledges of concord, with the prospects of the great benefits which are bound up in the Unity of the Christian Faith?

May God, Who is rich in Mercy, and in Whose Power are the times and moments, grant Our wishes and desires, and in His great Goodness, hasten the fulfillment of that Divine Promise of Jesus Christ: There will be One Fold and One Shepherd.

As a pledge of these Heavenly Gifts, and in witness of Our good will to you, Venerable Brothers, and to the Clergy and people committed to each of you, We most lovingly grant in the Lord the Apostolic Benediction





Ai sovrani ed ai popoli di tutto il mondo.

Il Papa Leone XIII. Salute e pace nel Signore.

Le luminose testimonianze di pubblica riconoscenza che per tutto lo scorso anno ricevemmo da ogni dove a ricordo dell’inizio del Nostro episcopato (testimonianze ultimamente accresciute dall’insigne devozione degli Spagnoli) Ci recarono anzitutto motivo di gioia in quanto in quella affinità e concordia di sentimenti rifulse l’unità della Chiesa e la sua mirabile unione con il Sommo Pontefice. Sembrava che in quei giorni il mondo cattolico avesse dimenticato ogni altro avvenimento e avesse rivolto incessantemente lo sguardo e il pensiero al Vaticano.

Ambascerie di Prìncipi, folle di pellegrini, lettere piene di affetto, cerimonie sacre confermavano palesemente che uno solo è il cuore e una sola è l’anima di tutti i cattolici nell’ossequio verso la Sede Apostolica. Questo fatto Ci riuscì ancor più lieto e gradito in quanto del tutto conforme agli insegnamenti e alle azioni Nostre. Certamente consapevoli dei tempi e memori della Nostra missione, in tutto il corso del Nostro pontificato Ci siamo costantemente proposti e Ci siamo sforzati (per quanto con l’insegnamento e con l’azione Ci fu possibile) di stringere più intimamente a Noi tutte le genti e tutti i popoli, e di porre in luce la virtù, sotto ogni aspetto benefica, del Pontificato Romano.

Anzitutto rendiamo dunque somme grazie alla divina benevolenza, ché per suo benefico dono abbiamo raggiunto incolumi un’età così longeva; poi ai prìncipi, ai vescovi, al clero, a tutte le persone, a quanti con molteplici manifestazioni di pietà e di ossequio si comportarono in modo da rendere onore alla persona e alla dignità Nostra, recandoCi in particolare opportuno conforto.

Tuttavia, non poco mancò alla Nostra piena e totale consolazione. Infatti, tra le stesse testimonianze della gioia e dell’affetto popolare, si affacciava alla mente una moltitudine sterminata, estranea a quella concordia dei cattolici in festa, in parte perché del tutto ignara della sapienza evangelica, in parte perché, pur essendo iniziata al cristianesimo, dissente tuttavia dalla fede cattolica. Per questo motivo Ci siamo acerbamente rattristati e Ci rattristiamo: infatti non è giusto rivolgere il pensiero, senza intimo cordoglio, a tanta parte del genere umano che procede lontana da Noi, deviando dal retto cammino. E invero, poiché Noi siamo sulla terra vicari di Dio onnipotente, il quale vuole che tutti gli uomini siano salvi e pervengano alla conoscenza della verità, e poiché la tarda età e le amarezze Ci sospingano al termine della vita, Ci piace imitare l’esempio del redentore e maestro Nostro Gesù Cristo che, prossimo a far ritorno in cielo, con eccelse preghiere chiese a Dio Padre che i discepoli e i seguaci suoi fossero di mente e di cuore una cosa sola: “Prego … perché tutti siano una cosa sola. Come tu, Padre, sei in me e io in te, così anch’essi siano in noi una cosa sola” (Gv 17,20-21). Questa preghiera e supplica divina non solo abbraccia coloro che allora credevano in Cristo, ma anche quanti avrebbero creduto nei tempi successivi; pertanto Ci affida un valido motivo per manifestare con fiducia i Nostri voti e per far sì (per quanto possiamo) che senza alcuna distinzione di stirpe o di luogo tutti gli uomini siano chiamati e sospinti all’unità della fede divina.

Spinti dalla carità, la quale accorre più sollecita là dove è maggiore la necessità di aiuto, l’animo si volge anzitutto alle genti più misere fra tutte, a quelle che in nessun modo accolsero la luce del Vangelo o, pur avendola ricevuta, la estinsero o per incuria o per il trascorrere del tempo; perciò ignorano Dio e vivono nel più grave errore. Dato che ogni salvezza proviene da Gesù Cristo, e “infatti sotto il cielo non è dato agli uomini altro nome cui noi dobbiamo la nostra salvezza”(At 4,12), questo è il più ardente dei nostri voti: possa il sacrosanto nome di Gesù colmare e dominare rapidamente ogni plaga della terra.

In questa impresa giammai la Chiesa trascurò di adempiere alla missione a lei affidata da Dio. Perché mai si affaticò per diciannove secoli, perché mai agì con più ardore e costanza, se non per condurre le genti alla verità e ai princìpi cristiani? Oggi assai spesso, per Nostro incarico, banditori del Vangelo valicano i mari per addentrarsi nelle più remote contrade; e ogni giorno supplichiamo Dio perché voglia benevolmente moltiplicare i sacerdoti, degni della missione apostolica, i quali, per estendere il regno di Cristo, non rifuggano dal sacrificare gli agi, la sicurezza e in caso di necessità la stessa vita.

Affrettati tu dunque, salvatore e padre del genere umano, Gesù Cristo; non rinviare il compimento di ciò che un tempo hai promesso: una volta esaltato in terra, tutti avresti tratto a te stesso. Pertanto scendi al fine e rivelati alle infinite moltitudini tuttora ignare dei sommi benefìci che col tuo sangue elargisti ai mortali; scuoti coloro che giacciono nelle tenebre e nell’ombra della morte, affinché illuminati dai raggi della tua sapienza e della tua virtù, in te e per te si assommino in uno.

Pensando a tale mistero di unità, si offrono al Nostro sguardo tutti i popoli che la divina pietà già da tempo trasse dagli antichi errori alla sapienza del Vangelo. In verità, nessun ricordo è più lieto né più luminoso in lode della provvidenza divina quanto la memoria di quelle antiche età, quando la fede divinamente ispirata era universalmente ritenuta patrimonio comune e indiviso; quando la fede cristiana univa le genti civili, dissociate dai luoghi, dalla cultura, dai costumi e perciò per molti versi discordi e spesso in conflitto tra loro, e tuttavia concordi in fatto di religione. Al ricordo di un tale passato, l’animo troppo si addolora considerando che, con l’andare del tempo e con l’insorgere di diffidenze e rivalità, malaugurate vicende abbiano strappato dal seno della Chiesa romana grandi e fiorenti nazioni. In ogni caso, fidenti nella grazia e nella misericordia di Dio onnipotente, che solo sa quando sia tempestivo il soccorso e che ha il potere di piegare a sua discrezione la volontà degli uomini, Noi ci rivolgiamo a queste stesse nazioni e con paterno amore le esortiamo e scongiuriamo di comporre le rivalità e di ritornare all’unità.

Anzitutto rivolgiamo un amoroso sguardo ad Oriente, da dove inizialmente partì la salvezza del mondo. In verità, l’ansia del Nostro desiderio comanda di aprirci a lieta speranza che le Chiese orientali, insigni per avita fede e per antica gloria, ritornino presto là donde partirono. Confidiamo in ciò soprattutto in quanto le distanze che ci separano non sono rilevanti; infatti, se si eccettuano poche cose, per il resto concordiamo a tal punto che nella difesa della cattolicità non raramente noi desumiamo testimonianze e prove dalla dottrina, dal costume, dai riti praticati dagli orientali. Punto principale del dissidio è il primato del Pontefice romano. Ma risalgano ai primordi, considerino il sentimento dei loro precursori, l’eredità dell’epoca più prossima alle origini. In verità quella divina affermazione di Cristo “Tu sei Pietro e sopra questa pietra edificherò la mia Chiesa” conferma magnificamente il riconoscimento relativo ai Pontefici romani.

E nel novero dei Pontefici, non pochi nell’antichità provennero dallo stesso Oriente: tra i primi, Anacleto, Evaristo, Aniceto, Eleuterio, Zosimo, Agatone. A molti di essi accadde anche di consacrare con l’effusione del sangue il governo dell’intera comunità cristiana, retto con sapienza e santità. È ben noto in quale tempo, per quale causa, da quali promotori fu accesa l’infausta discordia. Prima di quel tempo in cui l’uomo separò ciò che Dio aveva congiunto, il nome della Sede Apostolica era venerando presso tutte le genti del mondo cristiano, e al Pontefice romano, come leggittimo successore del beato Pietro e perciò vicario di Gesù Cristo in terra, ubbidivano sia l’Oriente che l’Occidente con uniformità di princìpi e senza alcuna riserva.

Per questo motivo, se si considera l’origine del dissidio, lo stesso Fozio si premurò di inviare a Roma dei legati a sostegno delle sue ragioni, e in verità Nicolò I, Pontefice massimo inviò da Roma i suoi ambasciatori a Costantinopoli senza che alcuno facesse opposizione, “affinché attentamente investigassero sul contenzioso del Patriarca Ignazio e poi riferissero alla Sede Apostolica con veraci e complete testimonianze”.

Perciò tutta la storia di quella vicenda palesemente conferma il primato della Sede romana, con la quale allora era sorto un contrasto. Infine, nessuno ignora che in due Concilii ecumenici, il Lionese II e il Fiorentino, con spontaneo consenso e a una sola voce, tutti, latini e greci insieme, sancirono come dogma la suprema potestà dei Pontefici romani.

Di proposito abbiamo rievocato questi fatti in quanto essi sono quasi un invito a ristabilire la pace; tanto più che negli Orientali Ci sembra ora di scorgere una disposizione d’animo assai più mite verso i cattolici, anzi un certo benevolo atteggiamento. Se ne ebbe conferma recentemente quando vedemmo riservare singolari attestazioni di cordialità e di amicizia ai nostri devoti pellegrini in Oriente. Pertanto “la Nostra bocca si apre per voi” quanti siete, di greco o di altro rito orientale in disaccordo con la Chiesa cattolica. Desideriamo vivamente che ciascuno richiami alla memoria il severo e affettuoso discorso che Bessarione rivolse ai padri vostri: “Quale risposta potremo dare a Dio, dal momento che saremo divisi dai fratelli, mentre per unirci e per raccoglierci in un solo ovile, Egli discese dal cielo, s’incarnò e fu crocifisso? In che modo ci difenderemo presso i nostri posteri? Non dobbiamo patire questa onta, venerandi Padri: rifiutiamo una tale decisione, non comportiamoci in modo così pernicioso per noi e per i nostri fedeli”. Ponderate saggiamente al cospetto di Dio i Nostri desideri. Non certo indotti da motivi umani ma dalla divina carità e dall’ansia per la comune salvezza, sollecitiamo alla riconciliazione e all’unione con la Chiesa romana: intendiamo una unione piena e perfetta. Tale non sarebbe infatti in alcun modo se non recasse nulla di più che una certa concordia circa i dogmi in cui credere e uno scambio di amore fraterno. Unione vera tra cristiani è quella che il fondatore della Chiesa, Gesù Cristo, istituì e volle, riponendola nell’unità della fede e della disciplina. Né avete motivo di temere che Noi o i Successori Nostri vorremo in alcun modo menomare il vostro diritto, le prerogative patriarcali, le consuetudini rituali di ciascuna Chiesa. Infatti negli intendimenti e nella pratica della Sede Apostolica è stabilito (e lo sarà sempre in futuro) di rispettare largamente e con equità le origini e i costumi di ciascun popolo.

Invero, una volta reintegrata l’unità con Noi, sarebbero per certo mirabili la dignità e la gloria che per dono divino ricadrebbero sulle vostre Chiese.

Possa dunque Iddio benevolmente accogliere la vostra stessa preghiera, “Fa che abbiano fine gli scismi delle Chiese”[1] e “Raccogli i dispersi e conduci gli erranti a ricongiungersi alla tua santa Chiesa cattolica e apostolica” [2]. Così ritornate a quella fede una e santa che la più remota antichità trasmise inalterata a noi come a voi; a quella fede che i padri e i vostri antenati serbarono inviolata; a quella stessa fede che con lo splendore delle virtù, con l’altezza dell’ingegno, con l’eccellenza della dottrina fu illuminata a gara da Atanasio, Basilio, Gregorio Nazianzeno, Giovanni Crisostomo, dai due Cirilli e da molti altri grandi, la cui gloria, come retaggio comune, appartiene ugualmente all’Oriente e all’Occidente.

A questo punto sia consentito fare particolare menzione di voi tutte, genti Slave, al cui chiaro nome rendono testimonianza molte pagine di storia. Voi sapete quanto siano benemeriti degli Slavi i santi padri vostri nella fede Cirillo e Metodio, alla memoria dei quali Noi stessi decretammo alcuni anni or sono un debito di accresciuti onori. Dalla loro virtù e dalle loro fatiche sono derivate civiltà e salvezza per molti popoli della vostra stirpe. Perciò tra gli Slavi e i Pontefici romani durò a lungo un nobilissimo scambio di benefìci da un lato, e di fedelissima devozione dall’altro. Se poi maligna avversità di tempi distolse in gran parte i vostri maggiori dalla fede di Roma, considerate quanto sarebbe meritevole il vostro ritorno all’unità. La Chiesa insiste nel richiamare anche voi al suo abbraccio, assicurandovi un ampio presidio di salute, prosperità e grandezza.

Con uguale affetto rivolgiamo lo sguardo ai popoli che in età più recenti si separarono dalla Chiesa romana per un insolito rivolgimento di cose e di tempi. Consegnate all’oblio le varie vicende dei tempi andati, innalzino il pensiero sopra tutte le miserie umane e con animo assetato di verità e di salvezza riflettano sulla Chiesa fondata da Cristo. Se vorranno paragonare con essa le loro congregazioni e considerare quale posto occupi in esse la religione, facilmente ammetteranno di aver dimenticato le loro origini e di essere giunti, da un errore all’altro, a fallaci novità in molte questioni di somma importanza; né vorranno negare che di quel patrimonio di verità (che i fautori di novità avevano recato con sé nel separarsi) quasi nessuna formula di fede sicura e autorevole rimane presso di loro.

Anzi si è giunti a tal punto che molti non temono di scalzare il fondamento stesso su cui unicamente poggiano tutta la religione e ogni speranza dei mortali, ossia la natura divina di Gesù Cristo salvatore. Così, coloro che prima affermavano che i libri dell’antico e del nuovo Testamento erano scritti per divina ispirazione, ora negano ad essi siffatta autorità, ed era inevitabile che ciò avvenisse, dal momento che a chiunque era stata data facoltà di interpretare quei testi a proprio talento e discrezione.

Ne deriva che la coscienza di ciascuno diventa la sola guida e norma della vita, rifiutando ogni altra regola nell’operare; ne derivano opinioni tra loro contrastanti e sètte molteplici che assai spesso degradano nelle dottrine del naturalismo o del razionalismo. Pertanto, disperando di trovarsi d’accordo nelle dottrine, ora esaltano e raccomandano l’unione nell’amore fraterno. E ciò è ben giusto in quanto tutti dobbiamo essere congiunti da amore reciproco. Tale soprattutto fu l’insegnamento di Gesù Cristo, che appunto volle come distintivo dei suoi seguaci lo scambievole amore. In verità, quale perfetto amore può congiungere gli animi se la fede non avrà reso concordi le menti?

Per questi motivi molti di coloro di cui stiamo parlando, sani d’intelletto e bramosi di verità, cercarono un sicuro mezzo di salvezza nella Chiesa cattolica, avendo pienamente compreso che non si può essere uniti a Gesù Cristo come a un capo se non si aderisce anche al suo corpo che è la Chiesa; né si può raggiungere la vera fede di Cristo se si ripudia il suo legittimo magistero, affidato a Pietro e ai suoi successori. In altri termini, costoro ravvisarono nella Chiesa romana la viva e compiuta immagine della vera Chiesa, facilmente riconoscibile dai segni che Dio creatore le ha impresso. Pertanto tra costoro si contano molti, di viva intelligenza e di sagace acume nella esplorazione delle antiche età, i quali con scritti insigni hanno dimostrato la continuazione ininterrotta della Chiesa romana dagli Apostoli, l’integrità dei dogmi, la disciplina costante. Dunque, sull’esempio di costoro, l’animo ancor più che la parola vi ispiri, fratelli Nostri, che già da tre secoli siete in disaccordo con Noi circa la fede cristiana, voi altresì, quanti siete, che in seguito per qualsivoglia motivo vi separaste da noi: “Incontriamoci tutti nell’unità della fede e della conoscenza del Figlio di Dio”(Ef 4,13).

A questa unità cui mai venne meno la Chiesa cattolica, né mai per alcun motivo potrà venir meno, lasciate che Noi vi invitiamo e che con profondo amore vi porgiamo la destra. La Chiesa, madre comune, già da tempo vi chiama a sé; vi attendono con ansia fraterna tutti i cattolici, perché santamente con noi veneriate Iddio, congiunti in perfetta carità nella professione di un solo Vangelo, di una sola fede, di una sola speranza.

Perché sia pieno il concento dell’agognata unità, non resta che rivolgere il discorso a coloro (quanti sono in tutto il mondo) alla cui salvezza da tempo dedichiamo le cure e i pensieri Nostri: Ci riferiamo ai cattolici i quali, professando la fede romana, sono obbedienti alla Sede Apostolica e così sono congiunti a Gesù Cristo. Certo non occorre esortarli alla vera e santa unità, poiché ne sono già partecipi per bontà di Dio; occorre però ammonirli di non invilire nella ignavia e nell’indolenza quel grandissimo dono di Dio, mentre da ogni parte aumentano i pericoli. A tal fine traggano opportuna norma, nel pensare e nell’agire, da quei documenti che Noi stessi abbiamo inviato altre volte a tutte o alle singole nazioni cattoliche; e soprattutto s’impongano come legge suprema di ubbidire in ogni caso al magistero e all’autorità della Chiesa non già con riserva o diffidenza ma con tutto l’animo e con lieta volontà. In questo caso, riflettano quanto sia deleterio alla unità cristiana quella erronea varietà di opinioni che talora oscurò e cancellò la genuina essenza e la nozione della Chiesa.

Essa infatti, per volere e comandamento di Dio che ne fu il fondatore, è una società perfetta nel suo genere, il cui dovere e la cui missione consistono nell’educare il genere umano con i precetti e gli insegnamenti evangelici, nel tutelare la purezza dei costumi e l’esercizio delle virtù cristiane, e nel condurre a quella felicità che a ciascuno è proposta nei cieli.

Poiché, come abbiamo detto, si tratta di società perfetta, essa ha una forza e una virtù di vita non attinte dall’esterno ma insiste per sapienza divina e per la sua stessa natura; per tale motivo essa possiede una originaria facoltà di emanare leggi ed è giusto che nell’emanarle essa non soggiaccia ad alcuno; inoltre è necessario che sia libera nelle altre questioni di sua competenza. Questa libertà tuttavia non è tale da offrire motivo alcuno alla emulazione e all’invidia; infatti la Chiesa non persegue il potere né è sospinta da ambizioni particolari, ma vuole soltanto questo, questo è il suo solo proposito: tutelare negli uomini i doveri della virtù e in questo modo, per questa via provvedere alla loro eterna salute. Perciò suole usare condiscendenza e indulgenza materna; anzi non di rado accade che si astenga dal far valere i propri diritti attribuendone i motivi ai diversi livelli di civiltà; ne sono ampia prova i concordati spesso sottoscritti con i governi. Nulla è più alieno da essa che il sottrarre un qualunque diritto a uno Stato; però è doveroso che lo Stato rispetti a sua volta i diritti della Chiesa e si guardi dall’appropriarsi di qualche parte di essi.

Ora, se si guarda alla realtà, cosa rivela il corso dei tempi? Molti sono soliti sospettare, disdegnare, odiare, calunniare astiosamente la Chiesa; ed è più grave ancora che si agisca così con ogni mezzo e con accanimento per asservirla al potere dei Governi. Ne derivano il furto dei suoi beni e la limitazione della sua libertà; le difficoltà frapposte alla educazione dei chierici; le leggi di eccezionale severità sancite contro il clero; lo scioglimento e la proibizione dei sodalizi religiosi, validi presìdi del cristianesimo; in breve, il rinnovo, con maggiore asprezza, dei precetti e degli atti dei “regalisti”.

Ciò significa fare violenza ai sacrosanti diritti della Chiesa e ciò reca immensi danni alla società civile, per il fatto che si contrastano apertamente i princìpi divini. Iddio, sovrano e autore dell’universo, in modo provvidenziale prepose alla convivenza umana il potere civile e religioso; tuttavia volle che essi rimanessero distinti, ma vietò che tra l’uno e l’altro vi fossero frattura e conflitto. Anzi, sia il volere di Dio stesso, sia il bene comune dell’umano consorzio richiedono in modo perentorio che il potere civile armonizzi con quello ecclesiastico nel reggere e governare. Quindi lo Stato e la Chiesa hanno propri diritti e doveri, ma occorre che l’uno all’altra sia collegato col vincolo della concordia. Così certo accadrà che le mutue funzioni della Chiesa e dello Stato si sottrarranno a quelle tensioni che ora sono per molti versi nefaste e insopportabili per tutti gli onesti; si otterrà pure che, senza confondere né separare le ragioni di entrambe le istituzioni, i cittadini rendano “a Cesare ciò che è di Cesare, a Dio ciò che è di Dio”.

Del pari, corre gran rischio l’unità religiosa ad opera di quella setta che si chiama “Massonica”, la cui funesta potenza incalza già da tempo specialmente le nazioni cattoliche. Favorita dai tempi inquieti, e fatta ardita dalla forza, dalle ricchezze e dal successo, cerca con molti mezzi di consolidare più stabilmente e di estendere più largamente il proprio dominio. Dalla clandestinità e dagli agguati essa è già uscita alla luce nelle città e si è insediata anche in questa stessa Urbe, centro del cattolicesimo, quasi a sfidare la presenza di Dio. Ma la peggiore jattura sta nel fatto che, ovunque mette piede, si insinua in tutte le classi e in tutte le istituzioni dello Stato, pur di conseguire finalmente la somma del potere. Una minaccia davvero gravissima: infatti è palese sia la malvagità delle sue opinioni sia la nequizia dei suoi propositi. Col pretesto di rivendicare i diritti dell’uomo e di rinfrancare la società civile, essa attacca con accanimento il cristianesimo; ripudia la dottrina tramandata da Dio; vitupera come superstizioni i doveri religiosi, i divini sacramenti, e i beni più sacri: dal matrimonio, dalla famiglia, dalle scuole della gioventù, da ogni morale pubblica e privata; cerca di strappare l’impronta cristiana e di svellere dall’animo dei popoli ogni rispetto verso l’autorità umana e divina. Insegna poi che l’uomo deve onorare la natura e che unicamente alle leggi di essa si debbano misurare e regolare la verità, l’onestà, la giustizia. In tal modo, come è evidente, l’uomo è sospinto ai costumi e alle consuetudini di vita dei pagani, anzi a quelli resi più corrotti da continue tentazioni. Sebbene in altre occasioni Ci siamo pronunciati severamente su tale argomento, tuttavia siamo indotti dalla vigilanza apostolica a insistere e ad ammonire più e più volte, in un pericolo così incombente, che nessuna cautela è eccessiva al punto da non doverne adottare una maggiore. Iddio clemente impedisca i malvagi propositi; ma il popolo cristiano avverta e comprenda che occorre prima o poi scuotere l’ignobile giogo della setta; e lo scuotano con maggior vigore coloro che ne sono più duramente oppressi, cioè gli Italiani e i Francesi. Con quali armi e con quale uso di ragione possano raggiungere più agevolmente tale fine fu già indicato da Noi stessi; e non è dubbia la vittoria per chi confida in quel condottiero di cui è sempre attuale la divina parola: “Io ho vinto il mondo”(Gv 16,33).

Rimossi l’uno e l’altro pericolo, ricondotti all’unità della fede gli Stati e le comunità, quale efficace rimedio ne deriverebbe ai mali e quale abbondanza di beni! Sia consentito accennare ai più importanti.

Il primo riguarda la dignità e le funzioni della Chiesa: infatti essa riavrebbe il grado di onore che le è dovuto e, dispensatrice della grazia e della verità evangelica, proseguirebbe nel suo cammino esente da invidia e in sicura libertà, con straordinario profitto per le nazioni. Essa infatti, in quanto maestra e guida del genere umano per divina disposizione, è in grado di contribuire efficacemente a moderare, per il bene comune, le più importanti trasformazioni dei tempi, a risolvere equamente i problemi più complessi, a promuovere la rettitudine e la giustizia che sono solide fondamenta degli Stati.

Ne seguirebbe inoltre un legame più saldo tra le nazioni, più che mai desiderabile nell’età nostra, allo scopo di scongiurare i foschi pericoli di guerra. Abbiamo davanti agli occhi la situazione dell’Europa. Già da molti anni si vive in una pace più apparente che reale. Dominate da reciproci sospetti, quasi tutte le nazioni insistono a gara nell’allestimento di apparati bellici. La gioventù inesperta viene esposta ai pericoli della vita militare, lontana dalla guida e dagli insegnamenti dei genitori; nel fior degli anni essa viene distolta dalla coltivazione dei campi, dagli ottimi studi, dal commercio, dalle arti per essere inviata sotto le armi. Ne deriva che gli erari sono esausti per le enormi spese, stremate le finanze pubbliche, in declino le fortune private; non è più a lungo sopportabile questa pace armata. È forse tale per natura la condizione del civile consorzio? Ma non possiamo uscire da questa condizione e conseguire una vera pace se non per grazia di Gesù Cristo. Infatti, nulla è più efficace della virtù cristiana, e anzitutto della giustizia, al fine di tenere a freno l’ambizione, il desiderio della roba d’altri e la rivalità, che sono le faci incendiarie delle guerre; è grazie a questa virtù che possono rimanere integri sia i diritti delle nazioni e il rispetto dei trattati, sia i vincoli di fratellanza, purché si sia convinti che “la giustizia fa grandi le nazioni”(Pr 14,34).

Del pari si avrà in patria una salvaguardia del bene pubblico molto più sicura e valida di quella che offrono le leggi e le armi. Non è chi non veda come ogni giorno si aggravano i pericoli per la sicurezza e la tranquillità pubblica, dal momento che congreghe sovversive (come conferma la frequenza di atroci delitti) congiurano alla rovina e alla distruzione della società civile. Con grande passione si discute questa duplice questione che chiamano “sociale” e “politica”. Entrambe molto serie, senza dubbio. E sebbene lodevoli studi, aggiustamenti e prove siano in corso per dirimere entrambe le questioni con saggezza e giustizia, tuttavia nulla sarà così opportuno come educare gli animi alla retta coscienza del dovere attraverso l’interiore fondamento della fede cristiana.

Dalla questione “sociale” abbiamo già trattato non molto tempo fa con un’opera specifica, traendo i princìpi del Vangelo e dalla ragione naturale. Circa la questione “politica”, nel proposito di conciliare la libertà con l’autorità — nozioni che molti confondono e senza ritegno separano — un aiuto utilissimo può essere tratto dalla filosofia cristiana. Infatti, dato e universalmente riconosciuto che qualunque sia la forma dello Stato l’autorità viene da Dio, di conseguenza la ragione riconosce legittimo negli uni il diritto di governare, consentaneo negli altri il dovere di ubbidire, e ciò non è contrario alla dignità perché in verità si ubbidisce più a Dio che all’uomo; Dio infatti preannuncia “un durissimo giudizio a coloro che comandano” se non lo rappresenteranno con rettitudine e giustizia. Invero la libertà dei singoli a nessuno può riuscire sospetta o invisa perché, senza nuocere ad alcuno, si manifesterà in azioni limpide, oneste, compatibili con la pubblica tranquillità. Infine, se si considera quanto può la Chiesa, madre e conciliatrice dei prìncipi, nata per giovare ad entrambi con l’autorità e il consiglio, allora sarà evidente quanto interessi alla comune salvezza che tutte le genti inducano l’animo a sentire ed a professare nello stesso modo la fede cristiana.

Ripensando a queste questioni e con l’animo acceso dal desiderio, scorgiamo da lontano quale potrebbe essere in futuro il nuovo ordine di cose sulla terra, e nulla troviamo di più consolante che la contemplazione dei beni che ne deriverebbero. Si può appena immaginare quale rapido progresso si avrebbe ovunque tra le genti verso ogni ottimale condizione di prosperità, quando fossero ristabilite la tranquillità e la pace, incoraggiate le lettere, fondate e accresciute in senso cristiano, secondo le Nostre prescrizioni, le associazioni di agricoltori, di operai, di industriali, per mezzo delle quali sia repressa l’usura vorace e si dilati il campo dei lavori utili.

L’efficacia di tali benefìci non rimarrebbe poi circoscritta entro i confini delle nazioni civili e colte, ma come un fiume gonfio si spanderebbe ovunque. Bisogna infatti riflettere su ciò che dicemmo all’inizio: che sterminate moltitudini, già da molti secoli aspettano chi rechi loro la luce della verità e della civiltà. Certamente, quanto riguarda l’eterna salute dei popoli e i decreti della mente divina sono assai lontani dalla umana intelligenza: tuttavia, se in varie regioni della terra è ancora così diffusa la sciagurata superstizione, bisogna attribuirne la colpa, in parte non piccola, ai conflitti insorti in tema di religione. Infatti, per quanto la ragione dei mortali è in grado di interpretare gli eventi, la missione affidata da Dio all’Europa sembra questa: propagare per tutta la terra la civiltà cristiana. Gli inizi e i progressi di così nobile impresa, dovuti al travaglio delle età precedenti, stavano raggiungendo i più felici risultati, quando all’improvviso nel secolo decimo sesto scoppiò la discordia. Scissa la cristianità per dispute e conflitti, consunte le forze dell’Europa in contese e guerre, le sacre missioni risentirono della funesta forza degli eventi. Perdurando le cause della discordia, quale meraviglia se tanta parte dei mortali è soggiogata da disumani costumi e da riti insani? Adoperiamoci dunque tutti con pari impegno perché si ristabilisca l’antica concordia per il bene comune.

Al fine di ristabilire la concordia e parimenti di diffondere i benefìci della sapienza cristiana volgono tempi assai propizi, poiché i sentimenti di umana fraternità non mai penetrarono più profondamente negli animi, e in nessuna età si vide l’uomo cercare con ansia maggiore i suoi simili allo scopo di conoscerli e di aiutarli. Carri e navi varcano con incredibile rapidità immensi tratti di terre e di mari; ne derivano sicuramente notevoli vantaggi non solo per il commercio e per le ricerche degli scienziati ma anche per la diffusione della parola di Dio dall’alba al tramonto.

Non ignoriamo quanto lunga e laboriosa impresa sia fondare quell’ordine che vagheggiamo; né forse mancheranno coloro che giudicano eccessiva la speranza cui Noi ci affidiamo, più desiderabile che attendibile. Ma Noi collochiamo ogni speranza e piena fiducia in Gesù Cristo, Salvatore del genere umano, giustamente ricordando quali e quanti effetti provennero dalla stoltezza della Croce e dalla sua predicazione, a stupore e confusione della mondana sapienza. Scongiuriamo in particolare prìncipi e governanti perché in nome della loro civile saggezza e della loro amorosa cura dei popoli, giudichino secondo verità i Nostri consigli e li assecondino col favore della loro autorità. Se solo una parte dei frutti auspicati venisse raccolta, non sarebbe da considerare come un modesto beneficio tra tanta universale decadenza, tenuto conto che alla insofferenza per le attuali condizioni va congiunta l’apprensione per il futuro.

La fine del precedente secolo lasciò l’Europa stanca di stragi e trepidante per i moti rivoluzionari. Viceversa, questo secolo che volge al termine perché non dovrebbe trasmettere in eredità al genere umano auspici di concordia e la speranza degli inestimabili beni racchiusi nella unità della fede cristiana?

Arrida ai Nostri desideri e ai Nostri voti “Iddio ricco di misericordia, al cui potere soggiacciono i tempi e i momenti” e benignamente si affretti a concedere l’adempimento della promessa di Gesù Cristo: “Vi sarà un solo ovile e un solo Pastore” (Gv 10,16).

Dato a Roma, presso San Pietro, il 20 giugno dell’anno 1894, decimosettimo del Nostro Pontificato.


[1] Παυυον τά σχίσματα των έκκλσιων (In liturg. S. Basilii).
[2] Τούςέσκορπισένουςέπισυνάγαγε, τους πεπλανημένους έπανάγαγε, καί συναψον τή άγια σου καθολικη καί άποστολικη Εκκλησία. (Ib.)




Union of Brest article from 1912 in The Catholic Encyclopedia, by A. Palmieri  

Brest — in Russian, Brest-Litovski; in Polish, Brzesc; in the old chronicles, called Brestii, or Brestov.

Brest is a city in Lithuania, with some 50,000 inhabitants, famous in the history of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Russia for the union of the Ruthenians with Catholicism.

After the annexation of Red Ruthenia, or the Ukraine, to Poland, in 1569, the Ruthenians, who had become politically subject to Poland, began to compare the lamentable condition of their Church with the development and vitality of Catholicism and to turn their eyes towards Rome. The Ruthenian clergy were steeped in immorality and ignorance; the bishops made no scruple of setting their flocks an evil example, living in open concubinage, and practising the most brazen simony. Russian documents of the sixteenth century bear witness to this melancholy decay of the Orthodox Church in the Polish provinces and to the impossibility of applying any remedy. Face to face with this spiritual ruin, the Catholic Church, reinvigorated by the accession of Jesuit missionaries, was showing her immense religious and moral superiority. Some loyal and honourable members of the Orthodox clergy and laity gradually became convinced that only a return to the Roman obedience could secure for their Church anything like sound conditions.

The Jesuits, who had been established at Vilna in 1569, at Yaroslaff in 1574, and successively at Polotsk, Grodno, and other cities of Southern Russia, soon set about to conciliate the friends of union among the Orthodox and to second their efforts. They began publishing works of religious controversy, emphasizing the spiritual, moral, and political advantages which must accrue to the so-called Orthodox Church from union with Rome. Eminent in this labour of preparing opinion for return to the Roman Church were Father Peter Skarga (1536-1612), one of the greatest apostles, and a literary and political genius, of Poland, and Father Benedict Herbest (1531-93). The former published, at Vilna, in 1577, his famous work on "The Unity of God's Church under One Only Pastor" (O jednosci kosciola bozego pod jednym pasterzem), and it filled the Orthodox with confusion; they burned numerous copies of it, so that a new edition had to be published in 1590. Father Herbest then published, also in Polish, his "Exposition of the Faith of the Roman Church, and History of the Greek Servitude" (Cracow, 1586). These two works helped greatly to dispel the doubts of the Orthodox friends of union and bring them still nearer to Rome; a result that was greatly furthered by the writings and labours of Antonius Possevinus. However, the Orthodox remained still undecided. Jeremias II, Patriarch of Constantinople, visited Moscow in 1588 and in 1589 arrived at Vilna, where he convoked a synod to find remedies for the most serious evils of the Ruthenian Church. Received by Sigismund III, King of Poland (1587-1632), with honour and costly gifts, he consecrated Michael Rahosa, Metropolitan of Kieff and Halicz (1588-99). Finding that some of the Orthodox Ruthenians did not conceal their desire for reconciliation with Rome, Jeremias II, to bind them more closely to his own authority and the Orthodox Church, by a decree of 6 August, 1589, appointed Cyril Terlecki, Bishop of Lutzk, his exarch for the metropolitan jurisdiction of Kieff. The patriarch also imposed a precept that a synod of bishops must be held every year to remedy the disorders of the Ruthenian Church.

In 1590 the metropolitan, Rahosa, convoked a synod at Brest for 24 June. A few days before the Ruthenian bishops assembled, Terlecki had a conference at Bels with the Bishops of Lemberg (Balaban), Pinsk (Pelczycki), and Chelm (Zbiruiski), and they jointly drew up a document undertaking to "submit their will and their intelligence to the Pope of Rome", and begging that their rites and their ecclesiastical privileges should be preserved. This document was presented to the Synod of Brest, at which the metropolitan and the Bishop of Vladimir assisted; it was accepted and approved, but kept secret, for reasons of prudence. Terlecki was charged to present it to Sigismund III and obtain the royal sanction for it, but a year and more passed before he fulfilled his charge. Sigismund III, having at last received the document, replied to it on 18 March, 1592, expressing his joy at the decision of the Ruthenian episcopate, promising them his assistance against possible persecutions by the Orthodox, and assuring them that the national rite should be respected and safeguarded. Nevertheless, the proposal of union, though warmly approved by Terlecki, did not attain realization. Terlecki was soon supported by Adam Pociej, who was consecrated Bishop of Vladimir in 1593, in succession to Meletius Chrebtowicz, deceased. Pociej was a sincerely convinced advocate of the union, though he well understood the obstacles to its accomplishment. Another synod of Ruthenian bishops met at Brest on 24 June, 1593, but avoided the question of union, and confined itself to depriving Gideon Balaban of the administration of his diocese. Balaban refused to recognize the privilege granted to the Orthodox patriarchal community of Lemberg by Jeremias II.

On 24 June, 1594, the Ruthenian bishops again assembled at Brest, but their meeting had no synodal character, as Sigismund III was in Sweden, and no synod could be held in the absence of the sovereign. A few days later, Bishops Terlecki, Balaban, Zbirujski, and Kopystenski met at Sokal and reaffirmed their adhesion to the act of union drawn up at Bels and approved at Brest, in 1590. Terlecki had full powers to treat of the union with the Court of Poland and the Holy See. They composed a "Decree on receiving back and entering into the communion of the Holy Roman Church" (Decretum de recipienda et suscipienda communione sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae), in which, after deploring the evils resulting from the schism, they begged to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the visible pastor of God's Church, on condition that the sacred rites and liturgical customs of the Eastern Church were preserved, saving such points as might be judged contrary to the union and prejudicial to the unity of faith. Terlecki began to solicit the adhesion of the Ruthenian bishops to this document, which was dated 2 December, 1594. It was subscribed by the metropolitan, Rahosa, Pociej, Terlecki, Zbirujski, Pelczyski, Gregory of Polotsk, and Jonas Hohol of Pinsk.

On 12 June, 1595, Rahosa, the metropolitan, and the Bishops of Vladimir, Lutzk, and Pinsk met at Brest and drew up two petitions, one to Clement VIII and the other to Sigismund III. The former protested that they desired to renew the union concluded at the Council of Florence, saving always the Eastern customs and rites; in the latter the same desires were expressed, and it was added that the Ruthenian Church adopted the Gregorian Calendar. Pociej and Terlecki betook themselves to Cracow to confer with the king's delegates and the Apostolic nuncio as to the basis and conditions of the union. These conditions were accepted. On 2 Aug., 1595, Sigismund III declared that the Ruthenian clergy enjoyed the same privileges and rights as the Latin, that they were free of the excommunications and censures inflicted by the Patriarch of Constantinople, that Ruthenian sees should be entrusted only to Ruthenian prelates, that the Ruthenian Church should retain the free possession of its property, that Ruthenian churches and monasteries could not be latinized, and that the Eastern prelates were thenceforward to have no jurisdiction over the Ruthenian clergy. The Apostolic nuncio agreed to the concession of these privileges, and Sigismund III required that delegates of the Ruthenian episcopate should go to Rome for the definitive sanction of the act of union. But its conclusion was already known, and the Bishops of Lutzk, Chelm, Przemysl, and Lemberg announced it to their flocks in pastoral letters dated 27 August. Unfortunately, the metropolitan, Rahosa, did not act loyally: after signing the decree of union, he endeavoured secretly to hinder its execution, and instigated Constantine, Prince of Ostrog, to assemble the Ruthenian bishops and dissuade them from submitting to the Holy See. But Rahosa's intrigues were to no purpose, and, on 25 November, 1595, Pociej and Terlecki arrived at Rome with the decree of union of 2 December, 1594.

The arrival of the Ruthenian bishops overwhelmed Clement VIII and the Roman Court with joy. The delegates were received with great honour; the pope and the cardinals discussed the conditions of reunion proposed by the Ruthenian episcopate, and ungrudgingly conceded that the integrity of the Ruthenian Rite should be maintained; it was also agreed that the "Filioque" should not be inserted in the Nicene Creed, although the Ruthenian clergy professed and taught the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son. The bishops asked to be dispensed from the obligation of introducing the Gregorian Calendar, so as to avoid popular discontent and dissensions, and insisted that the king should grant them, as of right, the dignity of senators. To all these requests Clement VIII acceded.

All obstacles having been removed, the union of the Rutheians with the Roman Church was solemnly and publicly proclaimed in the Hall of Constantine in the Vatican. Canon Wollowicz, of Vilna, read in Ruthenian and Latin the letter of the Ruthenian episcopate to the pope, dated 12 June 1595. Cardinal Silvio Antoniani thanked the Ruthenian episcopate in the name of the pope, and expressed his joy at the happy event. Then Pociej, in his own name and that of the Ruthenian episcopate, read in Latin the formula of abjuration of the Greek Schism, Terlecki read it in Ruthenian, and they affixed their signatures. Clement VIII then addressed to them an allocution, expressing his joy and promising the Ruthenians his support. A medal was struck to commemorate the event, with the inscription: "Ruthenis receptis". On the same day the Bull "Magnus Dominus et laudabilis" was published, announcing to the Catholic world the return of the Ruthenians to the unity of the Roman Church. The Bull recites the events which led to the union, the arrival of Pociej and Terlecki at Rome, their abjuration, and the concession to the Ruthenians that they should retain their own rite, saving such customs as were opposed to the purity of Catholic doctrine and incompatible with the communion of the Roman Church. On 7 Feb., 1596, Clement VIII addressed to the Ruthenian episcopate the Brief "Benedictus sit Pastor ille bonus", enjoining the convocation of a synod in which the Ruthenian bishops were to recite the profession of the Catholic Faith. Various letters were also sent to the Polish king, princes, and magnates exhorting them to receive the Ruthenians under their protection. Another Bull, "Decet romanum pontificem", dated 23 Feb., 1596, defined the rights of the Ruthenian episcopate and their relations in subjection to the Holy See.

About the beginning of February, 1596, Terlecki and Pociej returned to their own country, arriving at Lutzk in March and celebrating a solemn "Te Deum" for the success of their mission. But the enemies of the union, their religious fanaticism aroused, redoubled their activity. At the Diet of Warsaw, which opened in May, 1596, the Ruthenian deputies, led by the Prince of Ostrog, protested against the bishops who had signed the decree of union and declared that they would not accept it. The Orthodox communities of Vilna and Lemberg stirred up the people against the unionist bishops. To cut this religious agitation short, Sigismund III ordered the Ruthenian episcopate to be convoked in a synod at Brest, 8 October, 1596, and the union to be solemnly proclaimed. About 6 October the metropolitan, Rahosa, the Ruthenian Bishops of Vladimir, Lutzk, Polotsk, Pinsk, Chelm, the Latin Bishops of Lemberg, Lutzk, Chelm, Father Skarga, and other prelates met at Brest. The Orthodox had sent many of their lay representatives, various archimandrites, Nicephorus, the protosyncellus of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and Cyril Lucaris, representing the Patriarch of Alexandria. The Orthodox, under the Prince of Ostrog, petitioned for the deposition of the bishops who had withdrawn from the obedience of the Patriarch of Constantinople, for the maintenance of the Old Calendar, and for the abrogation of the act of union. They moreover held a conciliabulum to concert measures of opposition. In vain did the king's commissioners labour to allay their hostility and induce them to accept the union; they would not yield, and they refused to recognize Rahosa as their metropolitan.

All attempts failing to win over this opposition to the union, the Ruthenian bishops, on 9 October, wearing their pontifical vestments, went in procession to the Church of St. Nicholas and celebrated the Liturgy, at the conclusion of which Hermogenes, Archbishop of Polotsk, mounted the pulpit and read the declaration of the Ruthenian episcopate accepting the union with Rome. When this had been read, the Latin and Ruthenian bishops embraced each other and then repaired to the Latin Church of the Most Blessed Virgin to sing the "Te Deum" again. Next day another solemn ceremony was celebrated in the Church of St. Nicholas, and Father Skarga preached on the unity of God's Church. Bishops Gideon Balaban, of Lemberg, and Michael Kopystenski, of Przemysl, having declared themselves opposed to the union, were deposed and excommunicated. Their dioceses remained in schism until 1720. The enemies of the union published, on 9 October a protest against the Ruthenian episcopate. The Prince of Ostrog became the soul of the opposition, and the struggle was maintained, particularly in the field of theology. But Sigismund III efficaciously undertook the defence of the union; in an edict of 5 December 1596, he ordered the Ruthenians to recognize as bishops only those who had accepted the act of union.

Thus came to pass one of the most auspicious events in the history of Catholicism among the Slavic peoples. The Union of Brest would have produced most abundant fruit, and would have contributed greatly to the triumph of Catholicism in Russia if the statesmen and the Latin clergy of Poland had realized its political and religious utility, and had used all their efforts to favour it, and if, after the partition of Poland, Russia had not destroyed it in the conquered provinces by methods of the most brutal violence.

  — Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor —
— Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York —


SKARGA, Synod brzeski; obrona synodu brzeskiego (The Synod of Brest; A Defence of the Synod of Brest) (1596), reprinted in Pamjatniki polemitcheskoi literatury v zapadnoi Rusi (Monuments of the Polemical Literature of Western Russia) (St. Petersburg, 1882), 939-1002; Echthesis, abo krotkie zebranie spraw, ktore sie dzialy na partycularnym synodzie w Brzesciu litewskim (Small Collection of Documents relating to the Special Synod of Brest) (Cracow, 1597; Moscow, 1879) in Pamjatniki, III (St. Petersburg, 1903), 329-76; PHILALETHES, Apokrisis, abo odpowiedz na xiazki o synodzie brzeskim (Reply to Father Skarga's Work on the Synod of Brest) (Vilna, 1597; 1599; Russian tr., Kieff, 1870) in Pamjatniki, III, 1003-1820; ARCUDIUS; Antirresns, apo apologia przeciwko Krzystofowi Philaletowi (Apology against Christopher Philalethes) (Vilna, 1600) in Pamjatniki, III, 477-982; ZOCHKOWSKI, Colloquium lubelskie (Lemberg, 1680); KULCZYNSKI, Specimen ecclesiae ruthenicae (Rome, 1733; Paris, 1859); HARASIEWICZ, Annales eccl. ruthenae (Lemberg, 1862), 111-61; LIKOWSKI, Historya unii kosciola ruskiego z rzymskim (History of the Union of the Ruthenian Church with Rome) (Posen, 1875), French tr. L'union de l'église grecque ruthene en Pologne avec l'eg. rom., conclue a Brest, en Lithuanie, en 1596 (Paris); MALINOWSKI, Die Kirchen-und Staats-Satzungen bezuglich des griechisch-kathol. Ritus der Ruthenen in Galizien (Lemberg, 1861); BARTOSZEWICZ, Szkic dziejow kosciola ruskiego w Polsce (Hist. Sketch of the Ruthenian Church in Poland) (Cracow, 1880); PELESZ, Gesch. des Union der ruthen. Kirche mit Rom, I (Wurzburg, 1881), 498-556.
The chief works by Russian Orthodox writers on the Union of Brest are: KAMENSKIJ, Izvestie vozniksei v Pol' sie unii (Notes on the Union concluded in Poland) (Moscow, 1805); FLEROV, Oxpravoslavnyh cerkovnyh bratswah protivoborstvovavshih unii (Orthodox Eccl. Confraternities which Opposed the Union of Brest) (St. Petersburg, 1857); KOJALOVIC, Litovskaya cervoknaja unija (Lithuanian Eccl. Union) (St. Petersburg, 1861). The principal Russian works, Catholic and non-Catholic, are given in PALMIERI, Theologia dogm. ortho., I (Florence, 1911), 748-51, 783-98.




Orientales Omnes Ecclesias


Encyclical of 23 December of 1945 of Pope Pius XII
On the Three Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Reunion
Of the Ruthenian Church with the Apostolic See


To the Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See:

1. All the Eastern Churches, as history proves, have ever been the object of the deep affection of the Roman pontiffs, who, grieving as deeply over their leaving the one fold and "not for any human motive, but impelled by divine charity and a desire for the salvation of all,"[1] have again and again called upon them to return speedily to the unity which they had unhappily abandoned. They were absolutely convinced that if this union were happily restored the most fruitful consequences would result both for the whole of Christendom and for the orientals in particular; for the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ and all its members cannot but greatly benefit from the full and perfect unity of all Christians.

2. In this connection it should be borne in mind that the orientals need have no fear at all of being compelled to abandon their lawful rites and customs if unity of faith and government is restored; our predecessors have more than once made this absolutely clear. "Nor is there any reason for you to fear on that account that we or any of our successors will ever diminish your rights, the privileges of your patriarchs, or the established ritual of any one of your churches."[2]

3. The happy day has not yet come on which, all the peoples of the East returning to the fold, we should be able to embrace them all with the affection of the father. Nonetheless we have the happiness of seeing not a few of our sons from those countries; these, since they have recognized the Chair of Peter as the center of Catholic unity, persevere with the greatest tenacity in defending and strengthening this same unity.

4. Among them there is special reason why it pleases us to speak at present of the Church of the Ruthenians; not only is it outstanding for the number of its members and its zeal in retaining the faith, but also this is the three hundred and fiftieth year since it was happily restored to communion with the Apostolic See. It is, indeed, especially incumbent on those directly involved to celebrate this happy event in a spirit of gratitude, but we think it opportune also to recall it to the memory of all Catholics, so that they may ceaselessly give thanks to God for this great blessing, and also may join with us in earnest prayer that He would mercifully ease and alleviate the present distress and apprehension of this beloved people, would protect its most holy region, direct its constancy and preserve its faith unharmed.

5. We think it will be useful if in this letter we give a brief historical summary of the events with which we are concerned. It must be observed in the first place that even before the union of the Ruthenians with the Apostolic See was happily concluded at Rome and confirmed at Brest in 1595 and 1596, these people had more than once looked to the Roman Church as the one mother of the whole Christian community and dutifully paid it due obedience and reverence. Thus, for instance, the noble prince who is reverenced by the numberless peoples of the Russian empire as the author and promoter of their conversion to the Christian faith, St. Vladimir, borrowed liturgical rites and sacred ceremonies from the Eastern Church; but he not only dutifully persevered in the unity of the Catholic Church, but also took pains to establish friendly relations between his nation and the Apostolic See. Not a few of his descendants also received the legates of the Roman pontiffs with due honor and were fraternally united with other Catholic communities, even after the Church of Constantinople was separated by the lamentable schism.

6. It follows that the action of the metropolitan Isidore of Kiev and the Russians was in harmony with the most ancient tradition of the Ruthenian Church when, in 1439, at the ecumenical council of Florence he signed the decree which solemnly united the Greek to the Latin Church. Nevertheless upon his return from the council, although he was joyfully welcomed at Kiev, his titular see, shortly afterwards at Moscow he was cast into prison and compelled to take to flight and leave the country.

7. However, although it might well have been totally blotted out on account of the sorry conditions of the period, the memory of this happy union of the Ruthenians with the Apostolic See was not wholly lost with the passage of time. For example in 1458 Gregory Mammas, patriarch of Constantinople, in this holy city, consecrated a certain Gregory as metropolitan of the Ruthenians, who were then subject to the grand duke of Lithuania; and again, more than one of the successors of this metropolitan strove to restore the bond of unity with the Roman Church, although adverse circumstances did not permit the solemn public promulgation of union.

8. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, however, it became daily more obvious that there was no hope of achieving the desired renewal and reform of the Ruthenian Church, which w as then borne down by grave abuses, except by restoring union with the Apostolic See. Even dissident historians describe and freely admit the wretched state this Church was then in. In 1585 the Ruthenian nobles, meeting together in Warsaw, asserted, in the course of a sharp and vivid exposition to the metropolitan of their grievances, that their Church was plagued by greater evils than had ever previously existed or could ever be in the future. These nobles did not hesitate to arraign the metropolitan himself, the bishops and the superiors of monasteries, bringing serious charges against them. The mere fact that laymen should thus rise up against the hierarchy made it evident that ecclesiastical discipline was not a little relaxed.

9. It is not surprising therefore that the bishops themselves, after vainly trying various remedies, concluded that the only hope for the Ruthenian Church lay in bringing about its return to Catholic unity. At that time the most powerful man among the Ruthenians was prince Constantine Ostrozhsky and he was in favor of this return, but only on condition that the whole Eastern Church should come to an agreement with the Western; later, when he saw that the plan was not going to be carried out in the way he desired, he became a violent opponent of the restoration of unity. None the less, on 2nd December 1594, the metropolitan and six bishops, after taking counsel together, published a joint declaration in which they proclaimed themselves ready to promote agreement and the long desired union. We have come to this determination, they wrote, "from the consideration, full of sadness for us, of how great are the hindrances men find in the way of salvation in the absence of this union of the Churches of God. From the time of Christ our Savior and his holy apostles, as the canons and councils make clear, our predecessors long continued in this union; they acknowledged one supreme pastor and first bishop in the Church of God on earth, no other than the holy pope of Rome, and obeyed him in all things. While this state of affairs remained in its vigor there was ever order in the Church of God and increase of divine worship."[3]

10. However, long and difficult negotiations were necessary before they could give effect to this praiseworthy determination. A new declaration of the same kind was first issued in the name of all the bishops on 22nd June 1595, and at length towards the end of September such progress had been made that Cyril Terletski, bishop of Lutsk, and Hypatius Pociei, bishop of Vladimir were able to set out for Rome as representatives of all the rest of the bishops. They took with them on this journey a document setting out the conditions on which all the Ruthenian bishops were ready to embrace the unity of the Church. Our predecessor Clement VIII received them very benevolently and committed the document they had brought to a committee of cardinals for careful examination and approval. Discussions of the whole matter began at once and finally reached the desired happy result. On 23rd December 1595 the emissaries were admitted to the presence of the supreme pontiff; they read the declaration of all the bishops before the illustrious assembly and then in their own name and that of the other bishops made a solemn profession of faith and promised due obedience and respect.

11. On the same day our predecessor Clement VIII joyfully communicated the news of this happy event to the world by the Apostolic constitution Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis.[4] How great was the joy and goodwill with which the Roman Church welcomed the Ruthenian people on their reception into the unity of the fold may be seen also from the Apostolic Letter Benedictus sit Pastor, issued on 7th February 1596, in which the supreme pontiff informed the metropolitan and the other Ruthenian bishops of the happy establishment of the union of their whole Church with the Apostolic See. In this letter the Roman pontiff briefly set forth what had been done in the matter at Rome; he gratefully extolled the work they had by God's mercy at length undertaken, and then decreed that the legitimate uses and rites of the Ruthenian Church could be preserved inviolate. "In the same manner as the council of Florence permitted, we too permit you to retain your rites and ceremonies, which in no way injure the integrity of the Catholic faith or our union."[5] He goes on to say that he has asked the king of Poland to extend the protection of his patronage to the bishops and all appertaining to them, and also to pay them the fullest honor and, as they desired, to admit them to the senate of the kingdom. Finally he fraternally exhorts the bishops to meet as soon as possible in a full provincial council to ratify and confirm the union of the Ruthenians with the Catholic Church.

12. This council was held at Brest. There were present, besides all the Ruthenian bishops, many other ecclesiastics and representatives of the king, the Latin bishops of Lvov, Lutsk and Chelm as papal legates. The bishops of Lvov and Przemysl unhappily withdrew the consent they had previously given, but in spite of this on 8th October 1596 the union of the Ruthenian community with the Catholic Church was happily confirmed and proclaimed. It was the general hope that this union and association, which answered so perfectly the needs of the Ruthenian people, would be abundantly fruitful of good.

13. However, "an enemy came and scattered tares among the wheat";[6] whether the cause was the greed of some of the nobles, or political quarrels, or that the previous instruction and preparation of clergy and people in the matter had been neglected, there followed sharp conflicts and protracted calamities, so that there was cause to fear that the work so happily begun would be utterly destroyed.

14. That this did not befall at the very outset on account of calumnies and dissensions, in which not only the dissident brethren but also some Catholics took part, was chiefly due to the metropolitans Hypatius Pociei and Joseph Velamin Rutsky. They were indefatigable in their efforts to protect and promote the cause of the union; in particular they brought it about that priests and the members of monasteries should conform to ecclesiastical law and the requirements of good morals, and that all the faithful should be instructed in the virtuous ordinances of the true faith.

15. This work of conciliation was consecrated not many years later by the blood of martyrdom. Josaphat Kuntzevitch, archbishop of Polotsk and Vitebsk, was famed for his holiness of life and apostolic zeal, and was an intrepid champion of Catholic unity. He was hunted down with bitter hatred and murderous intent by the schismatics and on 12th November 1623 he was inhumanly wounded and slain with a halberd. But the hallowed blood of this martyr too became in a manner the seed of the Church, for all the parricides save one, repenting of their deed, renounced schism and execrated their crime before they were put to death. It may also be attributed to the prayers of the holy martyr that Melety Smotritzky, who had been the bitter rival of Josaphat for possession of the see of Polotsk, returned to the Catholic faith in 1627 and, after a period of vacillation, for the rest of his life stoutly defended the return of the Ruthenians to the Catholic Church.

16. Nonetheless the difficulties of every kind hindering reconciliation increased from year to year. The most serious of these was that the kings of Poland, who at first were regarded as patrons and promoters of the scheme, were now compelled by the fear of their foreign foes and by domestic factions to make ever greater concessions to those, and there were not wanting some, who hated Catholic unity. The result was that in a short time, as the Ruthenian bishops themselves confessed, this holy cause was left with no other protection to rely upon but that of the Roman pontiffs. They for their part supported the Ruthenian Church by affectionate letters, such helps as they could supply, and particularly by means of the Apostolic Nuncio in Poland.

17. The sadder the times became, the more the prudence of the Ruthenian bishops was made manifest; they made every effort to instruct the uncultivated populace in Christian doctrine, to raise the insufficiently instructed clergy to a higher degree of learning in sacred doctrine, and to imbue monks whose observance had become slack with a new zeal for discipline and spirit of holiness. They did not lose heart even in 1632, when a great part of the goods of the Church was handed over to the recently established hierarchy of the dissident brethren and when it was decreed in the treaty between the Cossacks and the Polish king that the union of the Ruthenians with the Apostolic See was to be destroyed; on the contrary, they continued with tenacious constancy to defend the flocks entrusted to them.

18. But God does not permit his people to be tried by excessive affliction and at length, after the peace of Andrussovia in 1667, he bade more peaceful days dawn for this people after so many trials and perils. The peace thus obtained resulted daily in greater blessings for our holy religion. In fact Christian faith and Christian morals so flourished that in the two eparchies which in 1596 had unhappily remained separated from unity opinion every day grew more favorable to a return to the Catholic fold. Thus it happily came about that in 1691 the eparchy of Przemysl, and in 1700 that of Lvov were united to the Apostolic See, and so, that almost the whole of the Ruthenian people then inhabiting Poland were in enjoyment of Catholic unity. All prospered more from day to day, to the great gain of Christianity, and so in 1720 the metropolitan and the rest of the bishops of the Ruthenian Church met in council at Zamosc to provide to the best of their ability by common counsel for the growing needs of the faithful; from the decrees of this council - confirmed by our predecessor Benedict XIII in the Apostolic Constitution Apostolatus officium of 19th July 1724 - no small benefit resulted to the Ruthenian community.

19. However it came about by the inscrutable will of God that towards the end of the century this community was harassed by many persecutions and vexations, and after the partition of Poland these became ever harder and more bitter in the areas which were annexed to the Russian Empire. After the death of Alexander I the rash policy was deliberately adopted of entirely breaking the union of the Ruthenians with the Roman Church. Already most of their eparchies had been almost cut off from any intercourse with the Apostolic See. Soon bishops were chosen who were imbued and inspired with zeal for schism, and so would become the lackeys and applauders of the civil power. In the seminary of Vilna, founded by the tsar Alexander I, teaching hostile to the Roman pontiffs was imparted to the clergy of both rites. The Basilian Order, whose members had always been a great support to the Catholic Church of the Eastern rite, was deprived of its own government and administration, and its monks and monasteries were entirely subjected to the consistories of the eparchies. Then the priests of the Latin rite were prohibited under grave penalties from administering the sacraments or other religious helps to the Ruthenians. Finally, alas, in 1839 the union of the Ruthenian Church with the dissident Russian Church was solemnly proclaimed.

20. It is impossible to describe the miseries, perils and hardships with which the most noble nation of the Ruthenians was afflicted at that time, for no other crime or guilt but that of crying out against the wrong done it and striving to retain its faith, when it had been driven by force and fraud into schism.

21. Justly and rightly, therefore, our predecessor Gregory XVI deplored and lamented this deed, and denounced its shamefulness to the whole Catholic world, in his allocution of 22nd November 1839. But his solemn protest and reprobation went unheard; the Catholic Church had to lament the tearing by iniquitous violence from her motherly embrace of these her sons. Moreover not many years later the eparchy of Chelm, belonging to the Polish kingdom united to Russia, suffered the same wretched fate. Those of the faithful who would not depart from the true faith, and dutifully and undauntedly resisted the union with the dissident Church imposed in 1875, were shamefully punished with fines and flogging and exile.

22. On the other hand, during this same period the Ruthenians enjoyed peace and tranquillity in the eparchies of Lvov and Przemysl, which had been united to the empire of Austria at the partition of Poland. In 1807 the metropolitan title of Halicz was restored there and permanently attached to the archdiocese of Lvov. This province flourished so much that two of its metropolitans, Michael Levitsky (1816 - 58) and Sylvester Sembratovitch (1882 - 98), who both displayed great prudence and zeal in their rule, were honored for their personal qualities and notable merits with the Roman purple, and appointed to the supreme senate of the Church. Moreover, since the number of Catholics was ever increasing, our predecessor Leo XIII formally erected a new eparchy, that of Stanislavov in 1885. Six years later the prosperity of the Galician Church was consolidated in an extraordinary manner when all the bishops with the legate of the supreme pontiff and many other clergy met at Lvov to hold there a provincial council and issue opportune liturgical and disciplinary regulations.

23. At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century economic conditions led to the emigration of many Ruthenians from Galicia to the U.S.A., Canada and South America. Our predecessor Pius X was therefore fearful that these beloved sons, not knowing the language of the place and unaccustomed to Latin rites, might be caught by the fallacies of heretics and schismatics, or might be ensnared by doubt and error and miserably abandon all religion. In 1907, therefore, he appointed a bishop with special faculties for them. Later on, since the number and the needs of these Catholics were increasing, a special ordinary bishop was appointed for Galician Catholics in the U.S.A., and another in Canada, besides the ordinary bishop for the faithful of this rite who had emigrated from the Podkarpatska Rus, Hungary or Jugoslavia. Since then, both the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda and that of the Eastern Church have issued opportune and appropriate decrees regulating the ecclesiastical affairs of the Ruthenians in these jurisdictions and in the South American countries.

24. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Catholic Ruthenian community has more than once desired, when opportunity offered, to give public expression to its gratitude for so many benefits and to its attachment to the Roman pontiffs. A notable instance occurred in 1895, the third centenary of the happy union of their fathers with the Apostolic See achieved at Rome and confirmed at Brest. Not only was the happy event recalled with appropriate celebrations in every part of Galicia, but a most distinguished delegation of the metropolitan and bishops was sent to Rome to express the love of the Ruthenian Church for the chief bishop, the successor of St. Peter, and to offer him their respect, reverence and obedience. Receiving this delegation with due honors, our predecessor Leo XIII addressed them with fatherly joy and benevolence, and he extolled the union of the Ruthenians with the Apostolic See as the salutary source of true light, unshakable peace and supernatural fruit to all those who sincerely held fast to it.

25. In our own days the benefits which the Roman pontiffs have bestowed on this beloved people have been no less. Especially when the first world war devastated those regions and during the following years they left nothing undone which could bring any help or solace to the Ruthenian community. When the difficulties which oppressed this Catholic community had, by God's help, been overcome, it was seen to respond with a ready and active will to the indefatigable zeal of its bishops and the labor of the rest of the clergy, their fellow-workers. Then, alas, came the second war and, as is well known it was much more grievous and harmful to the Ruthenian hierarchy and their faithful flock. But, before we proceed to a brief account of the present hardships and miseries which this Church is suffering to the grave peril of its very existence, we will add some fuller and clearer account of the great and high blessings brought to the Ruthenian Church and people by the union happily concluded three hundred and fifty years ago.

26. For indeed, after summarily and hastily outlining the history of this most auspicious union and seeing its vicissitudes, sometimes happy, sometimes very sad, we are faced with the question: what benefit was this union to the Ruthenian people and their Church? What profit and advantage did they receive from this Apostolic See and the Roman pontiffs? We shall be performing an opportune and useful service in duly answering this question, especially because there are not wanting some who hate and bitterly repudiate this union of Brest.

27. In the first place it must be noted that our predecessors have always shown the greatest zeal in protecting and preserving the lawful rites of the Ruthenians. For when the bishops, through the bishops of Vladimir and Lutsk who were sent to Rome on this business, asked "that His Holiness, for himself and his successors, who were never to make any change in this matter, would deign to preserve and confirm to the Eastern Church its administration of the sacraments, its rites and ceremonies, involate and entire, as in use at the time of the union."[7] Clement VIII graciously acceded to their petition, and prescribed that no alteration was to be made in these matters. Not even the use of the new Gregorian calendar was afterwards imposed on them, although it seemed at first that the Ruthenians ought to employ it while retaining the liturgical calendar of the Eastern rite; so that even now the Julian calendar can remain in force among them.

28. Furthermore, our same predecessor by a letter of 23rd February 1596 conceded that the election of those who had been duly nominated as suffragan bishops of the Ruthenians should be confirmed by the metropolitan, as was proposed in the pact of reconciliation, and in accordance with the ancient discipline of the Eastern Church. Others of our predecessors permitted the metropolitans to establish schools in any part of Russia and freely and lawfully to commit them to any directors and teachers they pleased. They also decreed that the Ruthenians should not be at a disadvantage compared with the rest of Catholics as regards the distribution of spiritual favors; they wished them to share with the rest of the faithful in all grants of indulgences, on condition that they should also fulfill the necessary conditions. Paul V extended to all those who attended the schools established by the metropolitans the special spiritual privileges granted by the Roman pontiffs to members of the sodalities of the Blessed Virgin established in the churches of the Society of Jesus; and Urban VIII granted to all who made retreats with the Basilian monks the same indulgences as had been bestowed on the clerks regular of the Society of Jesus.

29. From all this it is evident that our predecessors have always shown the same fatherly love to the Ruthenians as to the Catholics of the Latin rite. They have also considered it most important to defend the rights and privileges of their hierarchy. When many Latins asserted that the Ruthenian rite was of inferior standing, and some Latin bishops even declared that the Ruthenian prelates did not enjoy full episcopal rights and functions but were subject to them, this Apostolic See rejected these unjust and fanciful opinions; on 28th September 1643 a decree was published to the following effect: "Cardinal Pamphili reported divers decrees of the special Congregation for the united Ruthenians and His Holiness approved the decree of the same special Congregation of the preceding 1st August, that the Ruthenian bishops in union were bishops, and were to be so called and regarded. He approved the decree of the same Congregation that the Ruthenian bishops should be able to erect schools in their dioceses for the instruction of their youth in letters and sciences, and that the Ruthenian ecclesiastics enjoyed the privileges fori, canonis, immunitatis, libertatis, which the priests of the Latin Church enjoy."[8]

30. The tireless and solicitous care of the Roman pontiffs for the preservation and protection of the Ruthenian rites is best seen from the course of the long drawn out question of the change of rite. Although, for special reasons which were utterly alien to their will, they could not through a long period impose on the laity an absolute prohibition of this change, none the less their repeated efforts to establish that prohibition, and their exhortations to the Latin bishops and priests, clearly show how much our predecessors had this matter at heart. In the actual decree which in 1595 happily established the union of the Ruthenians with the Apostolic See there is no clear and open prohibition of going over from the Easter to the Latin rite. Nonetheless, what the mind of the Apostolic See then already was is shown by the letter sent in 1608 by the general of the Society of Jesus to his subjects in Poland. He tells them that those who had never belonged to the Latin rite could not embrace it after the reconciliation, "because it was the precept of the Church, and was specially laid down in the documents of the union under Clement VIII that everyone should remain in the rite of his own Church."[9]

31. But, as complaints became more and more frequent that young Ruthenian nobles were adopting the Latin rite, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda by a decree of 7th February 1624 ordered that "in future it should not be lawful for any of the united Ruthenians, whether lay folk or ecclesiastics, secular or regular, and especially monks of St. Basil the Great, to go over to the Latin rite, for any reason, however urgent, without the special permission of the Apostolic See."[10]

32. However, when king Sigismund III of Poland petitioned that this prohibition should not be absolutely enforced - he wished it to apply only to ecclesiastics - our predecessor Urban VIII could not but assent to this most illustrious supporter of Catholic unity. The Apostolic See therefore endeavored to obtain by advice and admonition what, for special reasons, was not enjoined by law, and there are many proofs of this.

33. Thus already in the preamble of the decree of 7th July 1624, by which the adoption of the Latin rite was forbidden only to the clergy, it was laid down that priests of the Latin rite were to be warned not, when hearing confessions, to encourage the lay faithful to adopt it. Warnings to the same effect were repeated again and again, and the Apostolic Nuncios in Poland by order of the supreme pontiffs made every effort that they should have the desired result. That the mind and judgment of the Apostolic See on this subject did not change even in later times is shown by the letter of our predecessor Benedict XIV to the bishops of Lvov and Przemysl in 1751 in which inter alia this is found: "Your letter written on 17th July has reached us; in it you justly complain of Ruthenians going over from the Greek to the Latin rite, whereas you are well aware, venerable brethren, that our predecessors have detested and we detest these changes of rite, since we very much desire that preservation and not the destruction of the Greek rite."[11] The same pontiff therefore promised that he would remove all hindrances in the matter and would finally prohibit such going over to the Latin rite in a solemn decree. However, the adverse circumstances and conditions of the times did not permit that his wishes and promises should have their desired outcome.

34. But the Roman pontiffs Clement XIV and Pius VII decreed that Catholics of the Ruthenian rite living in Russia could not change over to the Latin rite; and then at length, in the agreement styled Concordia entered into by the Latin and Ruthenian bishops under the auspices of the congregation for the promotion of the faith in 1863, it was laid down that this prohibition bound all Ruthenians.

35. From this brief historical summary it is easily seen with what care the Apostolic See has watched over the integral preservation of the Ruthenian rite, both as regards the community as a whole and as regards individuals. However, no one will be surprised if it has permitted or temporarily approved some minor changes on account of the special circumstances of the times, provided always that the chief and essential rites remained whole and entire. Thus, for example, it has permitted no changes to be made in the rites of the liturgy, save the few decreed by the Ruthenian bishops themselves in the council of Zamosc.

36. However, ostensibly for the protection of the complete integrity of their rite but in reality so that the unlearned people might more easily fall off from the Catholic faith, some crafty promoters of schism endeavored to reintroduce old customs, already in part obsolete. The Roman pontiffs, therefore, as in duty bound, openly denounced their clever and hidden machinations and decreed that "without consulting the Apostolic See no innovation was to be made in the rites of the liturgy, even on the grounds of restoring ceremonies thought to be more in conformity with liturgies approved by the same See, but only for very grave reason and by the authority of the Apostolic See."[12]

37. For the rest, far from its being the mind of the Apostolic See to damage the integrity or hinder the preservation of this rite, it rather caused the Ruthenian Church to cherish most religiously the traditions in liturgical matters handed down from antiquity. An outstanding sign of this zealous favor towards the Ruthenian rite may be seen in the new Roman edition of its liturgical books begun in our pontificate and already in part happily accomplished. In this edition the Apostolic See, gladly assenting to the wishes of the Ruthenian bishops, has endeavored to restore their liturgical rites in accordance with their venerated ancient traditions.

38. There now comes to our mind another benefit which the Ruthenian community certainly derived from this union with the Apostolic See. Through this unity this most noble people was joined to the Catholic Church, by whose life accordingly it lives, by whose truth it is enlightened, in whose grace it shares. From this proceed streams from the heavenly fountain which so penetrate and permeate all things that the most beautiful flowers of all virtues and an abundance of salutary fruit are brought forth.

39. Before the return to unity our dissident brethren themselves lamented that our holy religion was in a ruinous state in those regions, that the vice of simony everywhere prevailed in the choice of bishops and other sacred ministers, that Church goods were dissipated, the morals of monks corrupt, the discipline of monasteries in decay, and even the bond of obedience between the faithful and their pastors every day further weakened and imperiled. But, on the contrary, after the establishment of unity, by the inspiration and help of God, the state of affairs gradually improved. How great was the strength of mind and constancy needed by the bishops to restore Church discipline everywhere, especially in the early days; so troubled by every kind of disturbance and opposition! What persevering work and patient labor they had to devote to raising up a clergy of the highest moral standard; to consoling the flocks committed to them, harassed by such harsh circumstances; and finally to sustaining and strengthening in every way those whose faith was wavering and faltering! None the less, contrary to all human calculation, not only did this auspicious union triumphantly overcome all the contrary storms, but it emerged from its victorious battle with increased vitality and strength. Thus it came about that it was not by the sword or the scourge, not by promises or threats, but by an outstanding example of religious life and a kind of manifest display of divine grace, that the Catholic Ruthenians finally brought the dissident eparchies of Lvov and Przemysl to enter the one fold.

40. When at last peace and tranquillity were restored, especially in the eighteenth century, the flourishing state of the Ruthenian Church manifested itself even externally. Witnesses to this are the great monuments of this period, the chief church of the city of Lvov, dedicated to St. George, and the churches and monasteries built at Polshayev, Torokan, Zhirovitse and elsewhere.

41. It seems useful to make a brief reference here to the Basilian monks, who in all these matters have deserved so well, so excellently, by their great and zealous work. After their monasteries under the influence of Velamin Rutsky had been brought back to a better and holier state and formed into a congregation, many of their members gave such an example of piety, learning and apostolic zeal that they became the leaders and teachers of religious living to the Christian people. In the schools which they opened they not only imparted to youths, often of outstanding ability, an excellent education in divine and human knowledge, but communicated to them their own solid virtue, so that they were in no way surpassed by those educated in the Latin schools. Our dissident brethren clearly perceived this, since many of them gladly left home and country to betake themselves to these homes of learning and share in their attractions and advantages.

42. In more recent times the Ruthenian community has benefited no less from its union with the Apostolic See. This may easily be seen by a consideration of the state of the Galician Church as it was before the ruin and devastation wrought by this savage war. In this province the faithful numbered about 3,600,000, the priests 2,275, and places of worship or parishes 2,226. Besides this, outside Galicia but springing from it, there were many Catholic Ruthenians, especially in America - they may be estimated at 400,000 or 500,000. Thus the number of the faithful was perhaps greater than at any time in their history, and in every eparchy they showed a correspondingly outstanding zeal for virtue, piety and religious living. In the seminaries of the eparchies students were duly and diligently educated in preparation for the sacred ministry. The Christian faithful, participating with great love and reverence in divine worship according to their own rite, brought forth abundantly the goodly fruit of religion.

43. While cursorily and briefly recalling the flourishing state of the Ruthenian Church, we cannot pass over in silence the illustrious metropolitan Andrew Szepticky. For nearly forty-five years he labored with tireless assiduity, making himself most acceptable to his flock on more than one account besides what concerned their spiritual profit. In the course of his episcopate a theological society was founded to encourage the clergy in a deeper and more fruitful study of the sacred science; an ecclesiastical academy was erected in Lvov in which Ruthenian youths of superior intellectual gifts could apply themselves to philosophy, theology and other higher studies in the manner customary in universities; every kind of literary production, books, newspapers and reviews, greatly increased and won a good reputation even among foreign nations. Besides all this, sacred art was cultivated in accordance with the tradition of the nation and its particular genius; a museum and other homes of art were equipped with outstanding works of antiquity, and finally, a number of institutions were begun and developed to meet the needs of the poorer classes of citizens and to assist the indigent.

44. We must mention, too, the outstanding merits of the religious societies both of men and women, whose work in these matters brought too great spiritual profit. We will speak first of the monasteries of Basilian monks and nuns. In the time of the emperor Joseph II of Austria they had suffered great harm from the invasion of the civil power into their affairs, but later, in 1882 and the following years, they were restored to their glory by the reform of Dobromil, as it is called; they join an ardent apostolic zeal to the love of the life of seclusion and the inspiration from on high which they draw from the rules and example of their holy founder. To these old monastic communities have been added equally praiseworthy new religious societies of men and women; such are the Order of Studites, whose monks devote themselves above all to heavenly contemplation and works of holy penance, and the religious congregation of the Holy Redeemer, of the Ruthenian rite, whose members work most fruitfully both in Galicia and in Canada. Finally, there are many institutes of religious women - the Servants of Mary Immaculate, the Myrrhbearers (Myrophorae), the Sisters of St. Joseph, of St. Josaphat, of the Holy Family, of St. Vincent de Paul--who work for the education of girls and undertake the care of the sick.

45. Mention must also be made here of the college dedicated to St. Josaphat, erected on the Janiculum and munificently endowed by our predecessor Pius XI. Selected young men had for centuries been prepared for the priesthood in the Pontifical College of the Greeks, and then in 1897 another of our predecessors, Leo XIII, established a special college at Rome for young Ruthenians divinely called to the priesthood. Finally, as we have said, since this building had become inadequate for the increasing number of students, our immediate predecessor, conformably to his special love for the Ruthenian people, built it new and larger premises, so that in them candidates for the priesthood should be instructed and formed in sacred learning and the special discipline of their rite, and should happily grow in reverence, obedience and love towards the Vicar of Jesus Christ, for the future welfare of the Ruthenian Church.

46. The Ruthenian community received another not less important ornament and benefit from its union with the Apostolic See in being graced with a noble company of confessors and martyrs. To preserve their faith unimpaired and to maintain their zealous loyalty to the Roman pontiffs, these did not hesitate to endure every kind of labor and hardship, or even to go gladly to their death, in the spirit of that maxim of the Divine Redeemer: "Blessed are you, when men hate you and cast you off and revile you, when they reject your name as something evil, for the Son of Man's sake. When that day comes, rejoice and exult over it; for behold, a rich reward awaits you in heaven."[13]

47. The first of their number to come to our mind is the holy pontiff Josaphat Kuntzevitch, whose unconquerable fortitude we have briefly praised above. When he was murderously sought out by abandoned enemies of the Catholic name, he freely offered himself to the murderers, and gave himself as a victim to bring about as soon as possible the return of his dissident brethren. He was the outstanding martyr for Catholic faith and unity at that period, but not the only one; not a few both of the clergy and the laity received the same palm of victory after him; some were slain with the sword, some atrociously flogged to death, some drowned in the Dnieper, so passing from their triumph over death to heaven.

48. Not much later, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the Cossacks openly took up arms against Poland. Then the hatred of those who opposed religious unity became ever stronger and more violent; they were convinced that the introduction of this union was the cause of all the calamities and evils that had befallen them; they were determined therefore to use every way and means to cast it down and destroy it. There resulted almost innumerable wrongs to the Catholic Church of the Ruthenians; many churches were profaned, pillaged, demolished, and their furnishing and property destroyed. Not a few of the clergy and a great number of the faithful were severely flogged, terribly tortured, most cruelly done to death. Even the bishops themselves were despoiled of their goods, ejected from their sees and forced to flee. However, even amid the raging of this storm, their spirit did not fail; they did everything possible for the protection and safe-keeping of the flocks entrusted to them, and, more than that, in their dire straits they exerted every effort, by prayer and argument and labor, to bring the whole Russian Church with the tsar Alexis into the unity of the fold.

49. Besides all this a new and no less bitter persecution of Catholicism was begun a few years before the partition of Poland. At the time when the troops of the Russian emperor had invaded Poland many churches of the Ruthenian rite were taken away from the Catholics by force of arms; the priests who refused to abjure their faith were put in chains, insulted, scourged and cast into prison, where they suffered cruelly from hunger, thirst and cold.

50. Not inferior to these in constancy and fortitude were the clergy who, about the year 1839, suffered the loss of their goods and even of their liberty, rather than abandon their religious duties. Among these we wish to recall in a special way the well-known priest, Joseph Ancewski, who was kept in harsh confinement in the monastery of Suzdal for thirty-two years, attaining the reward of his singular steadfastness in 1877, when he died a most holy death. We recall also the one hundred and sixty priests, who for open profession of the Catholic faith were torn away from their families, which were left in wretchedness, were transported into the interior of Russia and imprisoned in monasteries, but could not be turned from their holy resolve by hunger or any other affliction.

51. Equally conspicuous for fortitude were the many, both clergy and laity, of the eparchy of Chelm, who with unconquerable courage resisted the persecutors of the Catholic faith. For example, when troops came to seize their church and hand it over to the schismatics, the inhabitants of Pratolin did not resist force by force, but, unarmed, put their crowded bodies in the way of their attackers like a living wall; some were wounded and savagely ill-treated, some suffered long imprisonment or were deported to the icy regions of Siberia, some, finally, were put to the sword and shed their blood for Christ. The cause of those who sealed their Catholic faith by death has been begun in their eparchy, and so there is hope that at length it may be permitted to number them among the blessed. These iniquitous crimes were not, however, perpetrated in only one place, but in many cities, towns and villages. First, all the churches of the Catholics were handed over to the followers of schism, all the clergy driven from their places and forced to leave unguarded the flock committed to them. Then the faithful, with no account taken of their own wishes, were enrolled in the dissident Church. However, although orphaned of their pastors and deprived of the offices and helps of their religion, they made supreme efforts to hold fast to their faith. Thus it was that later when members of the Society of Jesus secretly went to them, in disguise and at the peril of their lives, to instruct, to exhort and to comfort them, they welcomed them with the greatest joy and devotion.

52. But a wonderful and happy spectacle was to be seen in the Ruthenian districts in 1905, when liberty to profess any religion was to some extent granted. Innumerable Catholics came forth from their retreats into open day. They had no priests of their own Eastern rite, so they went in a body, singing their thanks and praise to God, with the standard of the cross carried on high and their sacred pictures publicly exposed for veneration, to the churches of the Latin rite, entry to which had previously been prohibited to them under severe penalties. There they begged the lawful ministers of the Church to open their doors to them, receive their profession of faith and enroll them again among the Catholics. In this way in a short time 200,000 faithful were duly received back into the Church.

53. However, even in more recent times the bishops and priests and their faithful flocks have needed fortitude and constancy of spirit to retain their Catholic faith, protect the Church and defend its sacred liberty. Among them we must recall here, with special honor, the metropolitan Andrew Szepticky. During the first European war, when Galicia was occupied by Russian armies, he was expelled from his see and deported to a monastery, where he was for a time at least kept in prison; he had no greater desire than to testify to his great veneration for the Apostolic See, and even, sustained by God's grace, gladly to suffer martyrdom for his flock, for whose welfare he had already long spent his strength and solicitude.

54. We have now seen, from the brief historical relation of events in this letter, how many and how great were the benefits and blessings brought to the Ruthenian people by its union with the Catholic Church. This is not, indeed, to be wondered at; for if "it was God's good pleasure to let all completeness dwell" in Christ,[14] no one can enjoy this completeness who is separated from the Church which "is his body."[15] As our predecessor Pelagius II asserts, "whoever is not in the peace and unity of the Church will not be able to possess God."[16] We have seen, too, that this beloved Ruthenian people has had to suffer great hardships, perils and vexations in defending to the best of its power its Catholic unity, but from these Divine Providence has freed it again and again and restored peace to it.

55. But now, with the greatest fatherly anguish of heart, we see a new and terrible storm threatening this Church. The information which reaches us is scanty, but is sufficient to cause solicitude and fill us with anxiety. It is the anniversary of the day three hundred and fifty years ago, when this ancient community of Christians was happily united to the supreme pastor, the successor of St. Peter; but this same day has become for us "a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery, a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds."[17]

56. For we have learnt with great grief that, in those territories which have recently been made over to the sway of Russia, our dear brethren and sons of the Ruthenian people are in dire straits in consequence of their fidelity to the Apostolic See; every means are being employed to take them away from the bosom of their mother, the Church, and to induce them, against their will and against their known religious duty, to enter the communion of the dissidents. Thus it is reported that the clergy of the Ruthenian rite have complained in a letter to the civil government that in the Western Ukraine, as it is called today, their Church has been placed in an extremely difficult position; all its bishops and many of its priests have been arrested; and at the same time it has been prohibited that anyone should take up the government of the same Ruthenian Church.

57. We are well aware that this harsh and severe treatment is speciously attributed to political reasons. But this is no new procedure used today for the first time; very often in the course of the centuries the enemies of the Church have hesitated to make public profession of their opposition to the Catholic faith and to attack it openly; they brought cunning and subtle allegations that Catholics were plotting against the State. In the very same way the Jews accused the Divine Redeemer himself before the Roman governor, saying "We have discovered that this man is subverting the loyalty of our people, forbids the payment of tribute to Caesar."[18] But faces and events themselves plainly manifest, and show in its true light, what was and is the real cause of this savagery. For, as is well known, the patriarch Alexis, recently elected by the dissident bishops of Russia, openly exalts and preaches defection from the Catholic Church in a letter lately addressed to the Ruthenian Church, a letter which contributed not a little to the initiation of this persecution.

58. These griefs cut us the more deeply because while the cruel war was yet raging almost all the nations of the world, through a gathering of their representatives, solemnly proclaimed among other things that no persecution of religion must ever be undertaken. This had given us hope that peace and true liberty would be granted everywhere to the Catholic Church, the more so since the Church has always taught, and teaches, that obedience to the ordinances of the lawfully established civil power, within the sphere and bounds of its authority, is a duty of conscience. But, unfortunately, the events we have mentioned have grievously and bitterly weakened, have almost destroyed, our hope and confidence so far as the lands of the Ruthenians are concerned.

59. Amid these heavy calamities, since human help is seen to be of no avail, nothing remains, venerable brethren, but earnestly to implore the most merciful God, who "will do justice to the needy and will avenge the poor,"[19] that of his loving kindness he would himself calm this terrible storm and at length bring it to an end. We again and again exhort you and the flock committed to you to join with us by humble prayer and works of penance in imploring him by whose heavenly light the minds of men are illumined, by whose heavenly command their wills are directed, to spare his people and not to give up his heritage to reproach,[20] and speedily to free the Church of the Ruthenians from this hurtful crisis.

60. In this sad and anxious state of affairs our fatherly heart goes out especially to those who are so harshly and bitterly oppressed by it, and first of all to you, venerable brothers, the bishops of the Ruthenian people. Great as are the trials which afflict you, you are more burdened with anxiety for the safety of your flocks than for the injuries and sufferings inflicted upon yourselves, in accordance with the words: "the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."[21] The present is dark and the future uncertain and full of cares, but do not lose heart. Rather so display yourselves, presenting "such a spectacle . . . to the whole creation, men and angels alike,"[22] that all the faithful of Christ may see in your endurance and courage a shining example. Courageously, and steadfastly enduring this attack of your enemies, and afire with a divine love for the Church, you become "the good odor of Christ unto God, in them that are saved and in them that perish."[23] In bonds as you are, and separated from your sons, it is not in your power to give them instruction in our holy religion, but your very bonds more fully and profoundly proclaim and preach Christ.

61. As a father we next address you, our beloved sons who have received the seal of the priesthood, and must therefore follow more closely in the footsteps of Christ, "who suffered for us,"[24] and still more than others must bear the brunt of battle. We are deeply moved by your distress, but rejoice that we can say to the greater number of you, borrowing the words of the Divine Redeemer: "I know of all thy doings, thy faith, thy love, thy generosity, thy endurance, how in these last days thou art more active than at first."[25] We exhort you to continue steadfastly and inflexibly to stand firm in your faith in these lamentable times; continue to uphold the weak and support the wavering. So far as there is need, warn the faithful of Christ entrusted to you that it is absolutely unlawful, even merely exteriorly or verbally, to deny or abandon Christ and His Church; expose the cunning wiles of those who promise men earthly advantages and greater happiness in this life, but destroy their souls. Show yourselves "as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulation, in necessities, in distresses . . . in chastity, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost, in charity unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armor of justice on the right hand and on the left."[26]

62. Lastly we address all of you, Catholics of the Ruthenian Church. We share your sorrows and afflictions with a father's heart. We know that grievous snares are being set for your faith. There seems ground for fear that in the near future still greater hardships will befall those who refuse to betray their sacred religious allegiance. For that reason we even now exhort you in the Lord, beloved sons, to be terrified by no menaces or injuries, to be moved by no danger of exile or risk even of life ever to abjure your faith and your fidelity to Mother Church. That treasure is involved which is hidden in a field and the man who finds it "hides it again, and now, for the joy it gives him is going home to sell all that he has and buy that field."[27] Remember, too, what the Divine Redeemer Himself said in the Gospel: "He is not worthy of me, that loves father or mother more; he is not worthy of me, that loves son or daughter more; he is not worthy of me, that does not take up his cross and follow me. He who secures his own life will lose it; it is the man who loses his life for my sake that will secure it."[28] To this divine pronouncement we will add the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles: "It is well said, We are to share his life, because we have shared his death; if we endure, we shall reign with him, if we disown him, he in his turn will disown us. If we play him false, he remains true to his word; he cannot disown himself."[29]

63. We think, beloved sons, that we cannot reinforce this fatherly exhortation of ours and bring it to an end more fittingly than by these admonitions of the same Apostle of the Gentiles: "Be on the watch, stand firm in the faith, play the man, be full of courage."[30] "Obey those who have charge of you,"[31] your bishops and priests, when they give you instructions for your salvation and in accordance with the prescriptions of the Church. Offer active resistance to all those who in any way whatever scheme against your faith. Be "eager to preserve that unity the Spirit gives you, whose bond is peace. You are one body, with a single Spirit; each of you, when he was called, called in the same hope."[32] In the midst of every kind of sorrow and affliction remember "that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared to the glory to come that shall be revealed in us."[33] "But the Lord keeps faith with us; he will strengthen you, and keep you from all harm."[34]

64. We have absolute confidence that, by the inspiration and help of divine grace, you will respond courageously and with a will to these exhortations of ours; and we foresee and humbly pray that better and more peaceful times will come for you from the merciful Father, the God who gives all encouragement.[35]

Meanwhile, as a pledge of heavenly gifts and a witness of our goodwill, with all our heart we give the Apostolic Blessing to all of you, venerable brethren, and to your flocks, and especially to the bishops, priests and all the faithful of the Ruthenian Church.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, on 23rd December 1945, the seventh year of our pontificate.

Pope Pius XII



1. Leo XIII: Apostolic Letter Praeclara gratulationis, 20th June, 1894, Acta Leonis XIII, 14, p. 201.
2. Leo XIII, loc. cit..
3. Baronius: Annales, VII, Rome 1596, App. p. 681.
4. A. Theiner: Vetera Monumenta Poloniae et Lithuaniae, III, p. 240 sqq.
5. A. Theiner, loc. cit. p. 251.
6. Matthew xiii, 25.
7. Theiner: loc. cit. p. 237.
8. Acta et decr, SS. Conciliorum rec. col. 600, nota 2.
9. loc. cit. Col. 602.
10. loc cit. Col. 603.
11. loc. cit. Col. 606.
12. Cf. Pius IX: letter Omnem sollictudinem, 13th May 1874, citing Gregory XVI: Inter gravissimos, Pius IX Acta, VI, 317.
13. Luke vi, 22-3.
14. Col. I, 9.
15. Eph. i, 23.
16. Epist. ad episcopos Istriae, Acta Conc. Oecum. IV, ii, 107.
17. Soph., i, 15.
18. Luke xxiii, 2.
19. Ps. cxxxix, 13.
20. Cf. Joel ii, 17.
21. John x, II.
22. I Cor. iv, 9.
23. II Cor. ii, 15.
24. Cf. I Pet. ii, 21.
25. Apoc. ii, 19.
26. II Cor. vi, 4 sqq.
27. Matth. xiii, 44.
28. Matth. x, 37 sqq.
29. II Tim. ii, II sqq.
30. I Cor. xvi, 13.
31. Heb. xiii, 17.
32. Ephes. iv, 3-4.
33. Rom. viii, 18.
34. 2 Thess, iii,-3.
35. Cf. 2 Cor. i, 3.





Apostolic Letter of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II
for the Fourth Centenary of the Union of Brest

12 November 1995


Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The day is drawing near when the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will celebrate the fourth centenary of the union between the Bishops of the Metropolia of Kievan Rus' and the Apostolic See. The union was effected at the meeting of representatives of the Metropolia of Kiev with the Pope on 23 December 1595 and was solemnly proclaimed at Brest-Litovsk on the River Bug on 16 October 1596. Pope Clement VIII, in the Apostolic Constitution Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis, [1] announced the union to the whole Church and in the Apostolic Letter Benedictus sit Pastor [2] he addressed the Bishops of the Metropolia, informing them that the union had taken place.

The Popes followed with care and affection the often tragic and sorrowful journey of this Church. Here I would like to mention especially the memorable Encyclical Letter Orientales omnes, in which Pope Pius XII, in December 1945, recalled the 350th anniversary of the restoration of full communion with the See of Rome. [3]

The Union of Brest opened a new page in the history of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. [4] Today that Church wishes to sing with joy a hymn of thanksgiving and praise to the One who, once more, has brought it back from death to life, and it wishes to set forth with renewed enthusiasm on the path marked out by the Second Vatican Council.

Joining the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in this thanksgiving and petition are the Greek Catholic Churches of the diaspora which date back to the Union of Brest, together with the other Eastern Catholic Churches and the entire Church.

As the Bishop of Rome, I too wish to unite myself to the Catholics of the Byzantine tradition in those lands. For many years, during my pastoral ministry in Poland, I sensed a physical as well as a spiritual closeness with that Church, which was then undergoing such difficult trials. After my election to the See of Peter, I considered it a pressing duty, following the example of my Predecessors, to speak out in defence of its right to exist and freely to profess its faith, at a time when both these rights were being denied. I now have the privilege of joyfully sharing in its celebration of these days of regained freedom.

In search of unity

2. The celebrations commemorating the Union of Brest must be seen in the context of the Millennium of the Baptism of the Rus'. Seven years ago, in 1988, that event was celebrated with great solemnity. For the occasion I published two documents: the Apostolic Letter Euntes in mundum of 25 January 1988, [5] for the whole Church, and the Message Magnum Baptismi donum, of 14 February of the same year, [6] addressed to Ukrainian Catholics. It was an occasion for celebrating a moment of fundamental importance for the Christian and cultural identity of those peoples, a moment of unique significance, since at that time the Churches of the Byzantine tradition and the Church of Rome were still living in full communion.

After the division which damaged the unity between the West and the Byzantine East, frequent and intense efforts were made to restore full communion. I wish to mention two particularly significant events: the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, and above all the Council of Florence in 1439, when protocols of union with the Eastern Churches were signed. Unfortunately, various causes prevented the promise and potential of those agreements from being realized.

The Bishops of the Metropolia of Kiev, in restoring communion with Rome, made explicit reference to the decisions of the Council of Florence, a Council which had numbered among its participants representatives from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In this context, the figure of Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev stands out. As a faithful interpreter and defender of the decisions of that Council, he had to endure exile for his convictions.

The Bishops who promoted the union and the members of their Church retained a lively awareness of their original close ties to their Orthodox brethren, together with a full consciousness of the Oriental identity of their Metropolia, an identity which was also to be upheld after the union. In the history of the Catholic Church, it is a highly significant fact that this just desire was respected and that the act of union did not involve passing over to the Latin tradition, as some thought would happen. Their Church saw an acknowledgment of its right to be governed by its own hierarchy with a specific discipline and to maintain its Eastern liturgical and spiritual heritage.

Between persecution and growth

3. After the union, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church enjoyed a period in which its ecclesiastical structures flourished, with resulting benefits for religious life, the education of the clergy and the spiritual commitment of the faithful. With remarkable farsightedness, great importance was attached to education. Thanks to the valuable contribution of the Basilian Order and other Religious Congregations, there was a great growth in the study of the sacred sciences and the nation's culture. In the present century, a figure of extraordinary prestige, in this regard as well as in his witness of suffering borne for Christ, was Metropolitan Andrii Sheptyckyi, whose education and fine spiritual qualities were combined with outstanding organizational gifts. He founded schools and academies, supported theological studies and the human sciences, the press and sacred art, and sought to preserve historical memories.

And yet, all this ecclesial vitality was continually marked by the tragedy of misunderstanding and opposition. An illustrious victim in this regard was the Archbishop of Polock and Vitebsk, Josaphat Kuntsevych, whose martyrdom merited the unfading crown of eternal glory. His body now lies in the Vatican Basilica, where it is continuously venerated with devotion and gratitude by Catholics from throughout the world.

The difficulties and trials continued unabated. Pope Pius XII recalled them in the Encyclical Letter Orientales omnes. After describing the earlier persecutions, he predicted the tragic persecution which would take place under the atheistic regime. [7]

Outstanding among the heroic witnesses to the rights not only of the faith but also of human conscience in those difficult years is the figure of Metropolitan Josyf Slipyj: his courage in enduring exile and prison for 18 years and his indomitable confidence in the resurrection of his Church make him one of the most powerful figures among the confessors of the faith in our time. Nor should his many companions in punishment be forgotten, particularly Bishops Hryhory Khomyshyn and Josaphat Kocylowskyj.

These tempestuous events shook the Church in the homeland to its roots. But Divine Providence had already begun to make it possible for many of its members to find a way of escape for themselves and their people. From the beginning of the 19th century onwards, great waves of emigrants began to cross the ocean, settling above all in Canada, the United States of America, Brazil, Argentina and Australia. The Holy See took care to be close to them, by providing assistance and establishing pastoral structures for them in their new homes, including the establishment of their own Eparchies. At the time of trial, during the atheistic persecution in their native land, the voice of these believers could thus be raised, in full freedom, with strength and courage. In the international forum they defended the right of their persecuted brethren to religious freedom, and thus strengthened the Second Vatican Council's appeal for religious freedom, [8] and the efforts made in this regard by the Holy See.

4. The whole Catholic Community recalls with deep emotion the victims of such great suffering: the martyrs and confessors of the faith of the Church in Ukraine offer us a magnificent lesson in fidelity even at the price of life itself. And we, the favoured witnesses of their sacrifice, are aware that they helped to maintain the dignity of a world which seemed overwhelmed by atrocities. They knew the truth, and the truth set them free. Christians in Europe and throughout the world, pausing in prayer before the concentration camps and prisons, should be grateful for the light which they gave: it was the light of Christ, which they caused to shine in the darkness. For long years the darkness seemed in the eyes of the world to prevail, but it was not able to extinguish that light, which was the light of God and the light of man, wounded but not laid low.

This inheritance of suffering and glory today stands at a historic crossroads: now that the chains of imprisonment have been broken, the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine has begun again to breathe in freedom and to regain fully its own active role in the Church and in history. This task, difficult yet providential, today calls for particular reflection, that it may be carried out with wisdom and farsightedness.

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council

5. The celebration of the Union of Brest should be lived and interpreted in the light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. This is perhaps the most important aspect for understanding the significance of the anniversary.

It is well known that the Second Vatican Council made a special point of studying the mystery of the Church, and that one of the most important documents which it produced was the Constitution Lumen gentium. Precisely because of this detailed study the Council takes on a particular ecumenical significance. This is confirmed by the Decree Unitatis redintegratio, which presents a very enlightened programme of activities to be carried out in the work for Christian unity. Thirty years after the conclusion of the Council, I wished to reiterate this programme with my Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, published on 25 May of this year. [9] This Encyclical traces the ecumenical progress which has been made since the Second Vatican Council and, at the same time, looking to the third millennium of the Christian era, it seeks to open up new possibilities for the future.

Putting the celebrations of the coming year in the context of a reflection on the Church, as proposed by the Council, I am anxious above all to encourage a deeper understanding of the proper role which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is called to play today in the ecumenical movement.

6. There are those who see the existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches as a difficulty on the road of ecumenism. The Second Vatican Council did not fail to face this problem, indicating possibilities for solutions both in the Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, and in the Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, which was specifically dedicated to these Churches. Both documents reflect a spirit of ecumenical dialogue with the Eastern Churches not in full communion with the See of Rome, in such a way that the richness which the other Churches share with the Catholic Church can be appreciated, and that the quest for an ever fuller and deeper communion may be founded on this shared richness. In fact,"ecumenism is directed precisely to making the partial communion existing between Christians grow towards full communion in truth and charity". [10]

To promote dialogue with the Byzantine Orthodox Churches, there was set up, after the Second Vatican Council, a special Mixed Commission which also included among its members representatives of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

In various documents efforts have been made to arrive at a deeper and greater understanding between the Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches, efforts which have not been without positive results. In my Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen [11] and in my Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint [12] I have already written of the elements of sanctification and truth [13] common to Eastern and Western Christianity, and of the desirable path to follow in the search for full communion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, in the light of the greater ecclesiological understanding brought about by the Second Vatican Council: "Today we know that unity can be achieved through the love of God only if the Churches want it together, in full respect for the traditions of each and for necessary autonomy. We know that this can take place only on the basis of the love of Churches which feel increasingly called to manifest the one Church of Christ, born from one Baptism and from one Eucharist, and which want to be sisters". [14] The deepening of knowledge of the doctrine on the Church, brought about by the Council and continuing since the Council, has marked out what can be called a new path on the journey to unity: the path of the dialogue of truth nourished and sustained by the dialogue of charity (cf. Eph 4: 15).

7. The shift from an underground existence has meant a radical change in the situation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church: this Church has found itself facing the grave problems of rebuilding the structures of which it had been completely deprived and, more generally, it has had to commit itself to rediscovering itself fully, not only from within, but also in relation to the other Churches.

Thanks be to God for having enabled it to celebrate this jubilee with religious freedom regained. Thanks be to God also for the growth of the dialogue of charity, whereby significant progress has been made on the road to the much desired reconciliation with the Orthodox Churches.

Numerous migrations and deportations have redrawn the religious geography of those lands; many years of official State atheism have profoundly affected people's minds; there is still not enough clergy to respond to the immense needs of religious and moral reconstruction: these are some of the more dramatic challenges facing all of the Churches.

In the face of these difficulties a common witness of charity is required, in order that the proclamation of the Gospel may not be impeded. As I said in my Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen, "today we can co-operate in proclaiming the Kingdom or we can become the upholders of new divisions". [15] May the Lord guide our feet into the way of peace.

The blood of the martyrs

8. In the new-found freedom we cannot forget the persecution and martyrdom which the Churches of that region, both Catholic and Orthodox, suffered in their own flesh. This is an important aspect for the Church of all times, as I recalled in my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente. [16] It concerns a particularly significant heritage of the Churches of Europe, which remain profoundly marked by it: this needs to be studied in the light of the Word of God.

An integral part of this religious memory of ours is therefore the duty to call to mind the meaning of martyrdom, to propose the actual figures of those witnesses of faith to the veneration of everyone, in the awareness that even today the saying of Tertullian retains its full meaning: "Sanguis martyrum, semen Christianorum". [17] We Christians already have a common martyrology in which God maintains and brings about communion among the baptized by the supreme demand of faith, manifested in the sacrifice of life itself. Real, if imperfect communion, already present between Catholics and Orthodox in their ecclesial life, reaches perfection in all that we "consider the highest point of the life of grace, martyria unto death, the truest communion possible with Christ who shed his Blood, and by that sacrifice brings near those who once were far off (cf. Eph 2:13)". [18]

Remembrance of the martyrs cannot be erased from the memory of the Church or of humanity: whether victims of the ideologies of the East or of the West, all of them are brought together in fellowship by the violence whereby hatred for the faith violated the dignity of the human person, created by God "in his image and likeness".

The Church of Christ is one

9. "Credo unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam". This profession of faith contained in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is common to both Catholic and Orthodox Christians: it emphasizes not only that they believe in the unity of the Church, but also that they live and wish to live in the one and indivisible Church as it was founded by Jesus Christ. The differences between Christianity in the East and in the West which arose and developed in the course of history are for the most part diversities of cultural origin and of tradition. In this sense, "legitimate diversity is in no way opposed to the Church's unity, but rather enhances her splendour and contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission". [19]

Pope John XXIII was fond of repeating: "What unites us is much greater than what divides us". I am convinced that this attitude can be a great benefit to all the Churches. More than 30 years have gone by since the Pope made this statement. In this period of time there have been many indications which suggest to us that Christians have made progress in this direction. Eloquent signs of this progress have been the fraternal meetings between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, and those which I myself have had with the Ecumenical Patriarchs Dimitrios and, more recently, Bartholomaios, and with other venerable Patriarchs of the Churches of the East. All this, together with the many initiatives involving meetings and dialogue which are being promoted everywhere in the Church, encourages us to have hope: the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity, does not cease to work among Christians still separated from one another.

And yet human weakness and sin continue to resist the Spirit of unity. Sometimes one even has the impression that there are forces ready to do almost anything in order to slow down, and even put an end to, the movement towards Christian unity. But we cannot give in: daily we must find the courage and strength, which at one and the same time are the gift of the Spirit and the result of human effort, to continue on the path already undertaken.

10. In recalling the Union of Brest we must ask ourselves what this event means today. It was a union which concerned only a particular geographical region, but it is relevant for the entire field of ecumenism. The Eastern Catholic Churches can make a very important contribution to ecumenism. The Council's Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum reminds us that "the Eastern Churches in communion with the Apostolic See of Rome have a special role to play in promoting the unity of all Christians, particularly Easterners, according to the principles of this sacred Synod's Decree on Ecumenism: first of all by prayer, then by the example of their lives, by religious fidelity to ancient Eastern traditions, by greater mutual knowledge, by collaboration, and by a brotherly regard for objects and attitudes". [20] From this it follows that Eastern Catholics are to commit themselves to living profoundly what the Decree lays out. They are asked to make a confession of faith full of humility and gratitude to the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church towards the fulfilment promised her by the Redeemer of the world.

Time of prayer

11. Prayer will therefore be the fundamental element which should mark the celebration of this jubilee. Such prayer above all involves giving thanks for all that has been accomplished, down the centuries, by commitment to the Church's unity, and especially for the impulse given to the search for unity as a result of the Second Vatican Council.

This prayer is one of thanksgiving to the Lord, who guides the unfolding of history, for the situation of new-found religious freedom in which this jubilee is being celebrated. It is also an appeal to the Spirit-Paraclete, that he may cause to flourish everything which promotes unity, and may give courage and strength to all those who commit themselves, according to the guidelines of the Council's Decree Unitatis redintegratio, to this work blessed by God. It is a plea for the gift of brotherly love, and for the forgiveness of offences and injustices suffered in the course of history. It is a petition that the power of the living God will bring good even out of the cruel and many-faceted evil caused by acts of human malice. This prayer also expresses hope for the future of the ecumenical journey: the power of God is greater than all human weaknesses, whether old or new. If this jubilee of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on the threshold of the third millennium, marks a step forward towards full Christian unity, this result will be first of all the work of the Holy Spirit.

Time of reflection

12. The jubilee celebrations should also be a time of reflection. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church must first of all ask itself what full communion with the Apostolic See meant for it in the past, and what it will mean for it in the future. In a spirit of humble thanksgiving, the Greek Catholic Church will give glory to God, for its heroic fidelity to the Successor of Peter and, under the action of the Holy Spirit, it will understand that today this same fidelity commits it to fostering the unity of all the Churches. This fidelity cost it sufferings and martyrdom in the past: this is a sacrifice offered to God in order to implore the hoped-for union.

Faithfulness to the ancient Oriental traditions is one of the means available to the Eastern Catholic Churches for promoting Christian unity. [21] The Council's Decree Unitatis redintegratio is very explicit when it declares: "All should realize that it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve, and foster the exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches, in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition, and to bring about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians". [22]

A memory entrusted to Mary

13. We cannot fail to entrust the yearning for full Christian unity to the Mother of Christ, she who is ever present in the work of the Lord and of his Church. Chapter Eight of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium points to her as the one who goes before us on our earthly pilgrimage of faith and is tenderly present to the Church which, at the end of the second millennium, is working to re-establish among all those who believe in Christ that unity which the Lord wills for them. Because she is the Mother of the one Christ, she is the Mother of unity. Since Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to the Son of God, who received from her his human body, she ardently wills the visible unity of all believers who make up the Mystical Body of Christ. The veneration of Mary, which unites East and West so intimately, will serve, I am convinced, the cause of unity.

The Most Holy Virgin, already present everywhere in our midst both in so many sacred buildings and in the life of faith of so many families continuously speaks of unity, a unity for which she constantly intercedes. If today, in commemorating the Union of Brest, we recall the marvellous wealth of veneration that the Christian people of the Ukraine have offered to the Mother of God, we cannot but draw from this admiration for the history, spirituality and prayer of those peoples the consequences for unity which are so closely linked to those treasures.

Mary, who has inspired in their trials fathers and mothers, young people, the sick and the aged; Mary, the column of fire capable of guiding so many martyrs of the faith, is certainly at work in preparing the hoped-for union of all Christians: in the light of this, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church certainly has its own role to play.

To Mary the Church offers her thanks and asks her to make us share her concern for unity. With filial trust let us abandon ourselves to her, that we may be with her where God will be all in all.

To you, dear Brothers and Sisters, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, on 12 November, Memorial of Saint Josaphat, in the year 1995, the eighteenth of my Pontificate.



[1] Cf. Bullarium romanum V/2 (1594-1602), 87-92.

[2] Cf. A. Welykyj, Documenta Pontificum Romanorum Historiam Ucrainae illustrantia, t. I, p. 257-259.

[3] Cf. AAS 38 (1946), 33-63.

[4] Cf. John Paul II, Letter to Cardinal Myroslav I. Lubachivsky, Major Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians (25 March 1995), 3: L'Osservatore Romano, 5 May 1995, p. 6

[5] Cf. AAS 80 (1988), 935-956.

[6] Cf. ibid., 988-997.

[7] Cf. AAS 38 (1946), 54-57. Those fears would be disturbingly confirmed a few years later, as the same Pope precisely brought out in the Encyclical Epistle Orientales Ecclesias (15 December 1952): AAS 45 (1953), 7-10.

[8] Cf. Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis humanae.

[9] Cf. L'Osservatore Romano, 31 May 1995, 1-8.

[10] Ibid., n. 14, loc. cit., 2.

[11] Cf. nn. 18-19; L'Osservatore Romano, 2-3 May 1995, 4.

[12] Cf. nn. 12-14; L'Osservatore Romano, 31 May 1995, 2.

[13] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, n. 3.

[14] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen (2 May 1995), n. 20; L'Osservatore Romano, 2-3 May 1995, 4.

[15] N. 19; L'Osservatore Romano, 2-3 May 1995, 4.

[16] Cf. AAS 87 (1995), 29-30; Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 84; L'Osservatore Romano, 31 May 1995, 7.

[17] Apol. 50, 13: CCL I, 171.

[18] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 84: L'Osservatore Romano, 31 May 1995, 7.

[19] Ibid., n. 50, loc. cit., 5.

[20] N. 24.

[21] Cf. ibid.

[22] N. 15.