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The Ruthenian Catholic Church is a sui iuris (i.e., self-governing) Eastern Catholic Church (see particular Church), which uses the Divine Liturgy of the Constantinopolitan Byzantine Eastern Rite. Its roots are among the Rusyns who lived in the region called Carpathian Rutheniamarker, in and around the Carpathian Mountainsmarker. This is the area where the borders of present-day Hungarymarker, Slovakiamarker and Ukrainemarker meet. The Ruthenian Catholic Church is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome who is spiritual leader of the 23 sui iuris particular churches which compose the Catholic Church.


Ruthenian Catholics are descended from those to whom Saints Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity and the Byzantine Rite in their missionary outreach to the Slavic peoples in the ninth century.

The inhabitants of the region were forced to take refuge in the mountains by the invasion of the Magyars in the 10th century. With the 1646 A.D. Union of Ungvár, the Ruthenian Church reunited with the rest of the Catholic Church but was to retain its Byzantine rite and liturgical traditions, its bishops would be elected by a council composed of Basilian monks and eparchial clergy.

The region became, in part, incorporated in Czechoslovakiamarker after World War I. Annexation to the Soviet Unionmarker after World War II led to persecution of the Ruthenian Catholic Church. However, since the collapse of Communism the Ruthenian Catholic Church in Eastern Europe has seen a resurgence in numbers of faithful and priests.

Relations with Latin-Rite Catholics in the United States

In the 19th and 20th centuries, various Byzantine-Rite Catholics arrived in the United Statesmarker, particularly in coal mining towns. The predominant Latin-Rite Catholic hierarchy did not always receive them well, being disturbed in particular at what they saw as the innovation, for the United States, of a married Catholic clergy. At their request, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith applied on 1 May 1897 to the United Statesmarker rules already set out in a letter of 2 May 1890 to François-Marie-Benjamin Richard, the Archbishop of Paris. These rules stated that only celibates or widowed priests coming without their children should be permitted in the United States. This rule was restated with special reference to Catholics of the Ruthenian Church by the 1 March 1929 decree Cum data fuerit, which was renewed for a further ten years in 1939. Dissatisfaction by many Ruthenian Catholics in the United States gave rise to the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America and American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. (See also Archbishop John Ireland, Saint Alexis Toth).

Relations with Latin-Rite Catholics have improved, especially since the Second Vatican Council, at which the Ruthenian Church influenced decisions regarding language in the liturgy. (Unlike the former custom in the Latin Church, the Ruthenian Church always celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Church Slavonic language, an ancient Slavic language.) In its decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum the Second Vatican Council reiterated: "The Catholic Church holds in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches, for in them, distinguished as they are for their venerable antiquity, there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church."

The Ruthenian Catholic Church today

The Ruthenian Church now consists of the Metropolia of Pittsburgh — comprising the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (originally established in 1924) with its three suffragan eparchies of Parma, (1969) Passaic, (1963) and Van Nuys (1981) — the Eparchy of Munkácsmarker in Ukraine (dating from 1771 and immediately subject to the Holy See), and the Apostolic Exarchate of the Czech Republicmarker (founded in 1996).

One problem preventing organization of the Ruthenian Catholic Church under a single synod is the desire of some of the priests and faithful of the Eparchy of Mukachevo that it should be part of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Ruthenian parishes stress unity with the Pope and the whole Catholic Church albeit with an Eastern expression. [69436] The Second Vatican Council directed this Church to remove much of the "Latinization" in an attempt to return to its Eastern Christian identity. This directive has been met with some success. In June 1999 the Council of Hierarchs of the Byzantine Metropolitan Church Sui Iuris of Pittsburgh U.S.A. promulgated the norms of particular law to govern itself. In January 2007 the Council of Hierarchs promulgated revised versions of the Divine Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great.

Members of the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Church of the United States of America are not limited to immigrants from Eastern Europe or their descendants.

See also

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External links


  1. Dreamwater Free Web Space: ERROR 404
  2. John Paul II 18 April 1996 Apostolic Letter
  3. Ruthenian Church
  4. Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  5. Byzantines
  6. Collectanea No. 1966
  7. Acta Sanctae Sedis, vol. 1891/92, p.390
  8. Byzantine
  9. Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, 1
  10. Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh
  11. Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma
  12. Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic
  13. Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo

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