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Orientales Omnes (December 23, 1945) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII to the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. It commemorates the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Union of Brest.

In his encyclical, Pope Pius XII explains that many trials and persecutions took place in the last three hundred and fifty years, but that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church always came out strong. He reminds of the many favours and assistances the Church received from Rome and how his papal predecessors always supported the independent culture and rite of the Oriental Church. In the last part of the encyclical, he addresses the grievances facing the Ukrainians in 1945. Aware of the persecution of the faithful and expects even more:

  • We know that grievous are being set for your faith. We have reason to fear, that in the near future still greater hardships will befall those who refuse to betray their sacred religious allegiance

Encyclical background

While most Oriental Christians belong to an Orthodox Church, some like the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ruthenian Church, are united with Rome, which allowed them to keep their own Oriental liturgy and Church laws. The Ruthenian Catholic Church is located in the Ukrainemarker. Ruthenian Catholics call themselves Rusyns. They are closely related to the Ukrainians and speak a dialect of the same language. The traditional Rusyn homeland extends into northeast Slovakia and the Lemko region of southeast Poland. Until 1922, the area was largely a part of Austria-Hungary. After becoming Polish, which follows the Latin rite, Polonisation and significant problems for all Orthodox, including united Christians developed. Some Ruthenians resisting Polonisation, felt deserted by the Vaticanmarker and returned to the Orthodox Church. After World War II , in 1945, Polishmarker and Slovakian areas became part of the Soviet Unionmarker, which exerted pressure on the Ruthenians and other Ukrainians united with Rome, to sever relations and join the Orthodox Church, headed the Patriarch of Moscow.It was claimed that (1) the union with Rome was a Polish conspiracy to dominate and wipe out the culture of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church: (2) United orthodox faithful and priests had to suffer under Polish bishops of the Latin Rite and Polonisation. (3) But now they are liberated by the glorious Soviet Army under the leadership of the incomparable Marshall Josef Stalin, and therefore, continued ties to Rome are no longer necessary. The new Patriarch Alexius I called on Catholics, for a separation from Rome:

    • Liberate yourself! You must brake the Vatican chains, which throw you into the abyss of error, darkness and spiritual decay. Hurry, return to the your true mother, the Russian Orthodox Church!

Pope Pius XII answered: "Who does not know, that Patriarch Alexius I 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 contributes not a little to the persecution?" He mentions the proclaiming, that religious persecution will never happen again. “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.


The Pope knew not only about the attempts to separate the United Churches from Rome. He also was aware, that in months preceding the encyclical, all Catholic bishops of the Ukrainian Church had been arrested. Josyf Slipyj , Gregory Chomysyn, John Laysevkyi, Nicolas Carneckyi, Josaphat Kocylovskyi Some, including Bishop Nicetas Budka perished in Siberiamarker. Subjected to Stalinist Show Trials, they all received severe sentencing. The remaining leaders of the hierarchies and the heads of all seminaries and Episcopal offices were arrested and tried in 1945 and 1946. July 1, 1945, some three hundred priest of the United Church wrote to Molotov. They protested the arrest of all bishops and large parts of the Catholic clergy. After the Church was thus robbed of all its leadership, a “spontaneous movement” for separation from Rome, and unification with the Russian Orthodox Church developed. Mass arrests of priests followed. In Lemko, some five hundred priests were jailed in 1945 or sent to a Gulag, officially called, “an unknown destination because of political reasons”. In order to address this problem, Pius decided to engage in a comprehensive historical review of the reunion and its advantages to the faithful in the Ukraine.

History of the Reunion

The Pope repeats assurances of his predecessors, that the oriental rites will be honoured. There will be no attempt by the Vatican to change or abandon them. The Pope reviews the history of the Ruthenian Church, which led to the unification with Rome. The Church was in disarray and needed reform and experienced decadence and abuses. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, it became obvious that there was no hope of achieving renewal and reform of the Ruthenian Church, except by restoring union with the Apostolic See. Orientales Omnes 8 Prolonged and difficult negotiations were necessary before a unity application could be achieved in 1596. Pope Clement VIII, on December 23, 1595 met the emissaries. 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.

At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century economic conditions led to the emigration of many from Galicia to the U.S.A., Canada and South America. Pope Pius X feared, that these emigrants my loose heir religious identity and in 1907, 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 USAmarker, and another in Canadamarker, besides the ordinary bishop for the faithful of this rite who had emigrated from the Ukrainemarker, Russiamarker, Hungarymarker or Yugoslavia.

After the encyclical

From 1945-1958, six Ukrainian bishops were murdered, sentenced to death or died in the Gulag. In 1949, Pope Pius made Slipyi cardinal in pectore, that is to his on safety, it remained a secret. In 1957, he congratulated him to the 40th. anniversary of his priesthood. But Slipyi remained jailed until 1963. The Ruthenian Church continued to suffer. The Soviet authorities soon initiated persecution of the Ruthenian Church in the newly acquired region. In 1946 the Uzhorod seminary was closed. In 1949 the Ruthenian Catholic Church was integrated into the Russian Orthodox Church. Rusyns on the other side of the Czechoslovak border were also forced to become Orthodox, while those in the Polish Lemko region were deported en masse in 1947 either to the Soviet Union or other parts of Poland.


    • In these heavy calamities, where human help seems 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," that of his loving kindness he would himself calm this terrible storm and at length bring it to an end.

    • 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."

    • 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.


  • Orientales Omnes, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, AAS, Roma, Vaticano, 1946, 33
  • Richard Cardinal Cushing, Pope Pius XII, St. Paul Editions, Boston, 1959
  • Alberto Giovanetti, Pio XII parla alla Chiesa del Silenzio, Editrice Ancona, Milano, 1959, German Translation, Der Papst spricht zur Kirche des Schweigens,Paulus Verlag, Recklinghausen, 1959
  • Jan Olav Smit, Pope Pius XII, London Burns Oates & Washbourne LTD, 1951
  • Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Roma, Vaticano, 1939,1951


  1. Orientales Omnes 62
  2. Giovanetti 112
  3. Wikipedia Polonisation
  4. Giovanetti S 112
  5. Giovanetti 115
  6. Orientales Omnes 57
  7. United Nations
  8. Orientales Omnes 58
  9. Giovanetti 131
  10. Guglielmo de Vries, Oriente Cristiano, ieri e oggi, Roma, 270-275
  11. Giovanetti 90
  12. Smit, 174
  13. Orientales Omnes 10
  14. Orientales Omnes 23
  15. WIKIPEDIA Slipyi
  16. Orientales Omnes 59
  17. Orientales Omnes 60

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