“Attempted Ukrainian Catholic Ecclesicide:

“Attempted Ukrainian Catholic Ecclesicide:
A Brief History, A Historical Exhibition and its Book”
Svitlana Hurkina and Rev. Andriy Mykhaleyko, ed., Leonid Rudnytzky, Nicholas Rudnytzky,
Rev. Joh Siachick, CSsR, Jeanette Scally, ed. English version, To the Light of the Resurrection
through the Thorns of Catacombs: The Underground Activity and Reemergence of the Ukrainian
Greek Catholic Church. L’viv, Ukraine: Ukrainian University Catholic Press, 2014. 104 pp. Soft
cover. ISBN 978-966-2778-19-9.
Reviewer: Joseph A. Loya, O.S.A., Villanova University
To His Holiness John Paul II, Roman Pontiff
From the Bishops, Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Ukrainian Catholic Church
We, bishops, priests, monks and nuns, and the faithful of the Catholic Church in Ukraine, who have signed this
document, declare that in the light of perestroika in the USSR, and upon more favorable conditions caused by it, and
in preparation for the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine, we consider it unreasonable to remain underground.
Thus we make this request of Your Holiness to advocate the lawful legalization of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in
the USSR by all possible means.
Through Your Holiness, we wish to address the Soviet Government and declare the emergence of the Ukrainian
Catholic Church from the underground in the USSR.
August 4, 1987
In accord with, and with the blessing of, other Catholic bishops, we hereby sign this declaration.
Bishops: Pavlo Vasylyk, Ivan Semediy
Priests: Hryhoriy Budzins’ky, Mykaylo Havryliv, Meletiy Malynych, Mykola Simkaylo, Hryhoriy Simkaylo, Petro Zelenyukh,
Volodymyr Viytytshyn, Taras Sen’kiv, Ivan Sen’kiv, Ivan Margitych, Pavlo Madyar, Myron Beskyd, Yosyp Holovach, Ivan
Lopadchak, Stepan Fedor, Mykhaylo Mykola, Mykhaylo Vinnysts’sky, Mykhaylo Vas’ko, Petro Roman, Yosyp Novak, Josaphat
Kavatsiv, Roman Esyp, Il’ko Lesiv.
Monks: Teodor Yatsychyn, Studite; Zaplatynsk’ky, Redemptorist.
Nuns: Diohena Kulynych, SSMI; Stefania Horodyts’ka, Anastasiya Plyachok, Ivanna Tserbryk, OSB.
Monks and Nuns of the Third Order of Basilians: Maria Polichan, Eva Targolych, Vasyl’ Bohovych, Nataliya Shchur, Lidiya
Pekal’s’ka (Redemptorist), Stefania Duda and 174 faithful.
From To the Light of Resurrection through the Thorns of Catacombs: The Underground Activity and
Reemergence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, L’viv: Ukrainian Catholic University Press, 2014, p. 89.
Particular historical subjects command supreme assiduity and care by the sheer gravity of their
content, power to edify in the present, and efficacious service as floodlights upon human injustices that
should never again be perpetrated anywhere, at any time. The victimization of members of the Ukrainian
Greek Catholic Church, who for forty-five years of the 20th century constituted the most numerous illegal
religious body in the world, is one such subject. To the Light of Resurrection through the Thorns of
Catacombs: The Underground Activity and Reemergence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, a
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book bearing the title of a public exhibition informing visitors since 2009, is integral to the historical
content, perspective, intents and purposes of the exhibition and the historical subject it illumines.
A Brief History of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was established at the Union of Brest (Berestia) in 1596, a mere
seven years after the establishment of the Moscow Patriarchate that assumed jurisdiction over the
Orthodox in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. (Note: the term “Greek” in the title of the Catholic
ecclesial body is a historical marker for a 9th century Byzantine evangelization effort to the Eastern Slavs,
and thus it is not an ethnic designation.) Specifically, a significant number of Orthodox Bishops in
Ukraine and Belarus (then part of the Commonwealth) accepted the Bishop of Rome’s claim to primacy
in jurisdiction. In return, the Commonwealth promised the Eastern Slav clergy equality with Roman
Catholic clergy in terms of such perquisites as tax exemption and access to seats in governmental bodies.
For its part, the Church of Rome guaranteed that the uniting faithful could retain their traditional
Byzantine-Slavonic rituals, choice of liturgical calendar, Church-Slavonic liturgical language,
administrative autonomy, married clergy, ordering of the administration of Sacraments, and traditional
Eastern Christian canonical directives and disciplines. In reaction, the Moscow Patriarchate considered
the Union of Brest both as a tool to leverage Polish ecclesiastical hegemony in traditionally Orthodox
areas and an affront to the ideal of Moscow as the “Third Rome.” Nothing that would permanently
alienate “Little Rus’” (Ukraine) and “White Rus’” (Belarus) from “Great Rus’” (Muscovy) could be
countenanced by the newly minted Moscow Patriarchate.
After the partitions of Poland near the end of the eighteenth century, Catherine II endeavored to
eliminate as best she could Byzantine Rite Catholicism in right-bank Ukraine. Nicholas I accomplished
Catherine’s intention both in the right bank and in Belarus in 1839 with the state-engineered “Polatsk
Sobor (Council).” Even further afield, Alexander II liquidated what Eastern Catholic eparchies (dioceses)
he could during his reign in the latter half of the 19th century. In post-Revolution times state authorities
acted to manipulate what it could not or chose not to destroy. In December 1939 the district of
Kremianets was transferred from Volhynia to Galica so that the local Pochaiv monastery, a concentrated
powerhouse of conservative Orthodoxy, could be utilized to gain purchase in an intended Galician
jurisdictional offensive on behalf of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church that had
been persecuted into subjugation by the beginning of the World War II emerged as a pliable tool of the
state by the end of the war. The Greek Catholic Church in western Galicia, strongly rooted as it was in the
local population’s allegiance to the Church of Rome, was a tougher nut to crack.
On the eve of the war, the Greek Catholic Church was still a vital and popular institution, with
nearly 3,000 priests and 3.6 million faithful in Ukrainian territories and in inter-war Poland. Another
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360,000 believers in Eastern Czechoslovakia and Zacarpathian Rus practiced their faith in their
homelands. With the Red Army’s reoccupation of Western Ukraine in June 1944 came the forced seizure
of churches and their properties. Soviet propaganda portrayed support for the Catholic Church in Ukraine
and any semblance of Ukrainian nationalism as evidence of pro-Nazi proclivity. Pope Pius XII’s appeals
for respect for religious freedom in Soviet-dominated parts of Europe were rejected by central and local
Communist authorities in Ukraine and elsewhere. The UGCC was forced underground in 1946; it would
reemerge amidst the collapsing Soviet Union in 1989.
The key instrument in the suppression of Eastern Catholicism was the infamous, totally uncanonical
1946 “Sobor” of L’viv presided over by Protopriest Gabriel Kostelnik. Born in 1886, Fr. Gabriel was
Carpatho-Russian by origin. He had studied in Zagreb, then at the Theological Academy in L’viv and
Freiburg University, where he had obtained a doctorate in philosophy. He enjoyed the reputation of being
an accomplished academic theologian, Church historian, poet and philosopher. Ordained a priest in 1913
in L’viv, he served at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration there and worked as Professor at the L’viv
Theological Academy. As he led the pro-easternizing (i.e, anti-latinizing) wing of his Byzantine Rite
Catholic Church, Soviet authorities acted on the assumption that Kostelnik could be co-opted into its
effort to destroy the Eastern Catholic Church in its home territories. Irenic Eastern Catholic readings of
Kostelnik’s motivations imputed to him the premonition, shared anonymously in private talks with his
fellow priests, that the Soviets would commit to the complete suppression of their Church in any event.
Under such circumstances Kostelnik concluded that the clergy should lead their flocks into Orthodoxy in
order to forestall the influx of “Muscovite” priests into Galicia. Such proactivity on the part of the clergy,
so his thinking supposedly went, could be advantageous in obtaining consecrations of local former Greek
Catholics to the episcopacy, the reduction of non-Galician liturgical changes to a minimum, and perhaps
permission to establish a theological seminary in L’viv. Kostelnik’s chosen “reunion” plan involved the
calling of a special Sobor to accomplish the transfer of ecclesial allegiance; this instead of the utilization
of a series of regional conferences that was the course being favored by the Moscow Patriarchate. Within
a year of the 1946 “Sobor” that proclaimed renewed allegiance to Orthodoxy, 997 priests, or 78% of the
total in Galicia, had joined Fr. Gabriel into membership in the Moscow Patriarchate. By 1959, of 3,431
Catholic parishes registered in 1946, 3,222 had become Orthodox. By 1961, of 1,643 former Catholic
priests, 1,243 had become Orthodox, while 347 continued to adhere to their Catholic identity. During this
period the visible structure of the UGCC was totally dismantled by arrests and the internal exile of
hierarchs, pastors, monastics and religious educators.
As underground priests were greatly hampered in their ministry, priest-less liturgical services and
religious activities were adopted to respond to the pious sense of religious obligation. Home churches in
which the Eucharistic elements were preserved and distributed became the rule. Monastic life in the
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underground developed its own survival mechanisms and strategies. Monks and nuns sought employment
in the secular labor force on all professional and practical skill levels. Civil attire, of course, substituted
for monastic habits and headwear. Religious community life was practiced by small groups of two or
three monastics that were hosted in lay households. Baptisms were administered, marriages blessed, and
confessions were heard in carefully guarded, opportune circumstances. Knowledgeable clergymen
provided informal, clandestine seminary instruction to willing aspirants for ordination.
Andrew Wilson, in his Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s (Cambridge University Press, 1997),
credited the UGCC for its quickness in reestablishing itself in the liberalizing political climate of the
1980s. The self-styled Initiative Committee for the Defense of the Rights and Believers of the Church, in
operation in western Ukraine since 1982, organized a series of mass demonstrations in support of the
Church in 1988-1989, culminating in a mass rally of 150,000 in L’viv in September 1989. These grassroots movements, in conjunction with other beneficial high-level initiatives such as Mikhail Gorbachev’s
historic Vatican meeting with Pope John Paul II the following December, resulted in the re-legalization, if
not re-establishment, of the UGCC. (See Sabrina P. Ramet’s Nihil Obstat: Religion, Politics, and Social
Change in East-Central Europe and Russia, Duke University Press, 1998, p. 253.) The Soviet authorities
continued to obstruct every attempt by the Church to reclaim property lost to the Russian Orthodox
Church during the deep and dark years of persecution. For Wilson, pro-Ukrainian momentum leading to
victory in Galician local elections in March 1990 was the catalyst for the further stoking the Church’s
revival. Within a few short years, Ukrainian Catholics could claim over 2,800 active parishes.
The state never acknowledged the unlawfulness and invalidity of the attempt to liquidate the Ukrainian
Greek Catholic Church. It is not known--and therefore judgment must be reserved—regarding the degree
to which the Russian Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate was complicit in this evil project, even as the
Patriarchate itself suffered at the hands of the state. (In a variety of public forums and publications the
Patriarchate has been variously portrayed as a totally reluctant instrument of the state, an eager
opportunist, and something in between.) The American-born UGCC monk Serge Keleher (1942-2011)
sounded a correct note in enjoining all to support a patient effort to help the Russian Orthodox Church
find the strength to accept and recognize in mutual joy the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and pray
that these two Churches that share such a bitter history may finally discover one another in love.
The Exhibition and its Book.
The Institute of Church History of the Ukrainian Catholic University (L’viv) commemorated the 25th
anniversary of the official legalization of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with an exhibition
covering the years 1939 to 1991. The Institute is a nonprofit research institution founded in L’viv in 1992
by Harvard University graduate Borys Gudziak, Ph.D., as a realization of the project, “Profiles of
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Fortitude: An Oral History of the Clandestine Life of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.” The Institute
subsequently contributed to the revival of the L’viv Theological Academy (1994). In 2002 the Academy
was restructured into the Ukrainian Catholic University, the first Catholic university to open in the
territory of the former Soviet Union and also the first university opened by one of the Eastern Catholic
Churches, of which ICH is now a subdivision. The Institute’s scientific activities are based on the
methodology of “oral history” and include the systematic collection of personal lived testimonies about
the underground religious life of clergy, hierarchy and laity, plus scholarly interpretations of these
testimonies. Research of the historical inheritance of the Ukrainian Churches is ordered to the broader
context of Global Christianity and critical re-thinking of various aspects of Ukrainian religious life in the
past. In the beginning of 2013, the ICH archive included 2,200 audio interviews, 100 video interviews,
more than 5,000 documents, over 5,000 photographs and approximately 800 authenticated museum
artifacts.
The “Light of Resurrection” exhibition includes materials from the Institute, including memoirs of
eyewitnesses and active participants of the underground collected during 1992-2009, documents from
state archives, and pictures from private collections. Exhibits tell the stories of Greek Catholic clergy,
monasticism, and the laity – each group having had its unique human fate. The exhibition is structured to
treat three important stages of the history of the UGCC of the 20th century: violent liquidation,
underground life, and finally, legalization in 1989. The exhibition’s book and the subject of this review
was first debuted in America during an international study conference on the subject sponsored by
LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA, in early May 2014.
The aforementioned Most Reverend Borys Gudziak, currently Bishop of the UGCC Eparchy of Paris,
authored the book’s Foreword. He prays that the “Light of Resurrection” exhibit will serve to inspire
profound spiritual thinking and a re-examination of personal values and attitudes. He poses the alwaysrelevant question: Can one rise to meet the challenge of living faith in one’s time and place as did the
ancient martyrs of long ago in far removed places? The exhibition and its book augment Englishlanguage studies on the subject pioneered under such titles as Soviet Persecution of Religion in Ukraine
(Commission on Human Rights of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, 1976), The Ukrainian
Catholic Church, 1945-1975 (St. Sophia Association, edited by Miroslav Labunka and Leonid
Rudnytsky, 1976), Passion and Resurrection: the Greek-Catholic Church in Soviet Ukraine 1939-1989
(Serge Keleher, Eastern Christian Publications, 1993), the masterful The Greek Catholic Church and the
Soviet State (Bohdan Rostyslav Bociurkiw, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1996) and
Finding a Hidden Church (Christopher Zugger, Eastern Churches Publications, 2009). As with many of
these efforts, the content of the text and commentaries in To the Light, with its array of black and white
photos, does not convey any middle-register grayness in moral judgment and conclusions about the way
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the UGCC was treated by Soviet authorities. More temperately, nothing in the text expresses animus
regarding the Ostpolitik of the popes of Rome—the strategy that disadvantaged Ukrainian Catholics in
favor of achieving Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical reconciliation. (For insight into just how virulent
academic-level Ukrainian commentary on the Ostpolitik strategy can get, see George Weigel’s The End
and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II--The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, Image
Books, 2011, page 181.) Extant in some academic quarters is the perspective that state attacks on the
UGCC were but a small part of the more encompassing Soviet assault on the Vatican and on Catholicism
in general on the territory of the USSR, not a campaign aimed specifically against UGCC. Such broad
circumspection is not much in evidence in To the Light.
This book conveys the sense of a measured, guided walking tour through a series of display rooms.
The layout can be described as a captioned picture album (captions are in brown italic typeface) interlaced
with a double-columned narrative text (in both italic and non-italic typefaces). This amalgam of styles
requires concentration in tracking the story line. For example, the narrative paragraph on the bottom of
column two of p. 19 has its continuation in the middle of column two on page 21. (A significantly smaller
font size for photo captions would have been welcomed.) This said, it should be realized that this
publication is not meant to be a breezy page-turner; any more than one should quick-shuffle through the
actual exhibition. “Stop-learn-reflect” is the watchword for both the physical exhibition place and its print
medium extension.
Readers stand to be impressed, as this reviewer was, by the extent to which the undergrounders refused
to suffer in silence. In 1972, eighty believers from Stryi (L’viv region) issued a complaint to the Supreme
Council of the USSR demanding the opening of their church and protesting the persecution of the faithful.
In the following year, Fr. Volodymyr Prokopiv delivered to Moscow a petition requesting legalization of
the UGCC that was signed by 1200 faithful of the Church. Especially appreciated is a photo of Studite
priest Herman Budzins’ky (1905-1995) and a close up picture of one of the many letters he sent out to
protest the illegitimacy of the 1946 L’viv Sobor and the liquidation of his Church. An English translation
of an excerpt of the pictured letter on p. 53 conveys steely resolution:
To the Editor of the Free Ukraine Newspaper, L’viv.
To Most Reverend Nikolay (Yuryk), [Orthodox] Metropolitan of L’viv.
…. Comrade Myhal’ insists that when Ukrainians were forcibly converted to the Russian faith,
they returned to the roots of their ancestors. But this was not so …. It is not true that the Sobor of
the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of 1946 liquidated the Union of Brest’, because the UGCC
did not convoke its Sobor that year. Sobor is convened by the Metropolitan and the bishops. It is
unheard of for a priest to convoke such a gathering as it is in contradiction with the Cannon [sic]
Law and ancient traditions of the Church. Therefore, the so-called “L’viv Sobor of 1946” cannot
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be referred to as a Sobor. It was merely a gathering of priests who could only decide matters
pertaining to themselves, and not the fate of the entire Church.
The photo gallery/flow chart two-page spread of the Church’s various hierarchs who served from 1945,
when the Greek Catholicism was still legal, to 1989, is instructive. The exhibit incorporated materials
from an earlier exposition entitled "The Church in the Underground" which opened in the summer of
2001.
(As
of
this
writing,
the
exposition’s
website
is
still
accessible
at
http://www.ichistory.org/churchex/church19.html). The “Light of Resurrection” exhibition expanded the
listing of hierarchs from the prior exposition to include in its flow chart bishops of the neighboring Slovak
Eparchy of Pryashiv, Pavlo Goydic (1888-1960, died while imprisoned), and Vasyl Hopko (1904-1976,
fourteen of those years having been spent in prison, and four years under police surveillance). Also of
interest is the presentation of the “Geography of Imprisonment,” a section on “Formation of the
Underground Clergy,” and a special chapter on Patriarch Josyf Slipyj.
Special to this reviewer is a 1963 photo of Bishop Vasyl’ Velychkovs’ky standing at what is
apparently his personal writing desk (p. 73). At the moment of depiction government authorities are
searching his apartment. Thrusting into the picture from the photo’s left edge is a hand and pointing
finger belonging to an unseen government agent. It is a strikingly mordant twist on the “Hand of the
Unseen and Almighty God (Dextera Dei)” motif in sacred iconography: the finger in the government file
photo points accusingly, the Divine finger in an icon identifies the one upon whom the Favor of the Lord
rests.
In only one instance did the editors or production staff of this introductory-level publication trip
themselves up in trying to be a bit too helpful. A “Translator’s note” on the bottom of p. 81 states, “wine
and unleavened bread are essential matter for Consecration [of the Eucharist] during the Liturgy.” The
note pertains to specific items that the oft-imprisoned and exiled Slipyj continued to order from the
Sisters of St. Vincent. These were required to celebrate the Divine Liturgy: texts of prayers, ingredients
for chrism (anointing oil, usually mixed with balsam or balsam and spices), raisins and white rusks for
Eucharist. The translator must have availed himself or herself to a Roman Catholic resource by defining
the Eucharistic matter as “unleavened” bread. In fact, the Byzantine Rite used by UGCC stipulates
leavened Eucharistic bread. Indeed, the photo on p. 81 labeled “Investigation materials pertaining to the
second criminal case against Slipyj” plainly shows squares of leavened bread on a round metal liturgical
paten.
Specialists’ studies in this area--as exemplified by Bocuirkiw’s book--generally exercise the
methodological discipline of vigilance against the sentimentality, exaggerations, and superficialities of
émigré “martyrology.” This work under review does at times employ somewhat pietistic formulas (e.g.,
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Studite nun Josyfa Viter is stated to have “miraculously managed to escape from the ‘Brygidka’ prison in
L’viv,” p.33), but such a sense is appropriate to the founding principle of the exhibit.
The next point will be registered after this quick reference to a particularly pernicious temptation to
which Churches of the Byzantine Tradition have proven to be especially susceptible. “Phyletism” is the
blurring, if not outright fusion, of faith and ethnic identity, or of church and nation. As John Anthony
McGuckin cautions, the notion of “nation” is a modern concept superficially overlaid on the bedrock of
apostolic faith. (See his book, The Orthodox Church: an Introduction to its History, Doctrine and
Spiritual Culture, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, p. 26.) A laudable patriotism and pride in ecclesial identity
certainly can both be maintained separately without shading one into the other. On p. 99 the text of To the
Light reads as follows: “The lengthy existence of the underground Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
became a manifestation of the spiritual and moral maturity of the Ukrainian people; it was a sign of the
indestructibility of the national spirit.” [Reviewer’s emphasis.] This reviewer would prefer that the
tenacity of the underground UGCC be singularly accorded to the indestructibility of its Catholic faith.
The underground Church in Ukraine was populated by believers who were neither voiceless nor
faceless. Each pair of eyes of the faithful in the book’s photos profoundly homilize on constancy and
perseverance—or “long suffering,” to employ the classic catechetical term for such virtue--for readers
who themselves have eyes to see. This work is an absolute treasure for visual learners. The year 2016 will
mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet suppression of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in western
Ukraine and the 370th anniversary of the Mukachiv eparchy in the Zacarpathian region. It is hoped that
commemoration preparations entail more such studies, exhibitions, and books on the subject of the
catacomb experience of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
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Lucian N. Leustean, ed. Eastern Christianity and Politics in the Twenty-First Century. (London & New
York: Routledge, 2014.) ISBN 978-0-415-68490-3. 831pp. Biblio.
Reviewed by Walter Sawatsky, Professor Emeritus of Church History & Mission, Anabaptist Mennonite
Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, IN.
This massive and very impressive volume presents an unusually broad and contemporary picture
of Eastern and Oriental churches, now spread globally, with a primary focus on politics, or the
relationship between Orthodoxy and state formations. There are virtually no American authors, instead
the contributors tend to be British and German scholars who are specialists, but perhaps more crucially,
many of the chapters were written by the new scholars from Eurasia and eastern Europe. As a collective
work, it is held together rather well, by a key set of focused questions. Writers were also required to add
short historical sketches, biographies of key current leaders, current statistics. The final bibliography,
going beyond what was cited in footnotes, caused me to mark obviously crucial books on each of the five
pages, which I should have known about. That is, this volume covers so much ground that all of us need
to learn, that the usual criticisms one finds with specific entries pale against its overall contribution to
scholarship.
Divided into five parts of uneven size, it can be read through consecutively, could even serve as a
course text for the seriously interested, or it can be browsed through and scanned many times, as will
likely be this writer’s frequent return to it - a trove of necessary data for comparisons, and for clues to
scarce sources for the period covered--1989-2012 approximately. When reading selectively, checking the
primary themes as identified in Leustean’s opening essay, and demonstrated in his own essay on the
Ecumenical Patriarchate, the reader can quickly pick out the parallels in other chapters to discover both
commonalities and crucial contextual differences. Leunstean’s overview essay is selective in theme,
expecting the reader to check his 2010-edited volume Eastern Christianity and the Cold War, 1945-91.
The four primary themes addressed are presented as questions: 1) Is there a specific model of
church state relations in Eastern Christianity? 2) How did Orthodox churches survive “the fall of
communism”? 3) How have Eastern churches engaged with national and international political actors
after 1989? 4) Which are the main challenges faced at the dawn of the third millennium? Among the key
developments Leunstean listed as general summary, was the reality (here limited to eastern Europe &
Eurasia) that “churches became part of social and political realities” in ways unlike the pervasive
pluralisms of the West, at least at first. Often therefore heads of churches sought to influence beyond the
spiritual domain in the new contests of nationalism or for the soul of a people. This ranged from clergy
joining political parties, becoming cabinet minister (Poland), hierarchs became members of Parliament
(Belarus). More widespread as legacy from the communist era of religious oppression, were the tensions
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over church splits as old and new churches, or old compromised and new leaders failed to cooperate.
Among the longest lasting have been the Bulgarian new and old synod, and the competing jurisdictions in
Ukraine. Another broad theme was the growing contest for influence after an initial period of mutual
recognition, between the Ecumenical Patriarchate (often issuing Tomos recognizing the autonomy of
churches thought to be in the Russian Orthodox sphere) and the Russian Patriarchate reverting to Third
Rome themes. Leunstean’s point was that along the way both the Ecumenical and Russian Patriarchs
underwent considerable shift in their policies over the course of two decades, with the outcome still
unclear, given the other limits to control that the passing of the Soviet Union, now brought to light-including a much more democratized public and multiplicity of ethnic loyalties. Yet that section also
concludes with a reference to Patriarch Kirill’s plea to President Putin to use his influence in aid of two
kidnapped Syriac Orthodox hierarchs, a sign of further rapprochement of Orthodox and Oriental
churches. Seldom do the chapters reach beyond 2012, and Leunstean also ended his chapter before the
announced plans for a Pan-Orthodox Council in 2015, with tones of common prayers for all Eastern and
Oriental Christians in the spring 2014 planning meeting attended by Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch
Kirill.
Leunstean’s overview also includes detailed lists to “map Eastern Christianity”: 1) Chalcedonian
churches, the fifteen autocephalous churches in full communion, but listed under four sub-headings, the
4th group listing 19 churches “not in communion with” the first 15 or the 14 “autonomous” Chalcedonian
churches listed under the 3rd sub-heading. Then follow 2) Autocephalous non-Chalcedonian churches,
‘Oriental’ or ‘Monophysite’ in Leunstean’s terminology. These include 7 major Orthodox communions,
often with sub-headings for regional branches. Also listed as main categories #5-7 are Greek Catholic,
‘Uniate’ or ‘Eastern Catholic’ churches (21 jurisdictions), ‘True Orthodox’ or ‘Old Calendarist’ (7), and
‘Old Believers’ (6 branches listed, all within former Soviet territory). Another category #8-9 named and
described “Orthodox sects” and Protestant churches emerging from Orthodox/Oriental churches and
ethnically connected to them. Category #3 named around 7 “religious missions” of Orthodox/Oriental
traditions “in the process of becoming autonomous”, as well as listing separately as category #4 the
“Assyrian Church of the East” and its branches. This already covered more of the Orthodox world than
the book chapters manage to do, and were Leunstean to include the indigenous free churches (not
meaning Orthodox sects) the Pandora’s box would have opened to excessive complexity. What comes
through instead in so many chapters is a sense of how leaders and faithful think and perceive the changing
social dynamics, when accustomed mostly to “everyone” being Orthodox in their society, even atheists
who claimed Orthodox culture.
That latter point helps one catch better the nuanced changes for the book’s primary theme, asking
what church-state model is in place. Summarized in short, in some churches the tendency to revert to state
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recognition of Orthodoxy as religion of the nation/state, almost in a caesaro-papist style, or some form of
“traditioned” church seeking to have a voice in culture, but in a more modern way limiting itself to a
spiritual sphere. That of course should evoke questions about the status of the Symphonia concept of
temporal and spiritual power, as articulated long ago by Emperor Justinian or Patriarch Photius. That
language re-emerged in many places, but Symphonia was too often a cover for church subordination to
state authority, even when Tsarist authority in 1721, for example, asked for more for Caesar for purposes
of state security, than what was allowed for God. This book’s focus on 1989-2012 presents a shifting
away from, or major modification of the notion, given the totalist challenges of preceding times, and the
diverse geographic settings when including Eastern and Oriental churches--the fact of over 50% of
Orthodox Christianity living in Muslim dominated areas, often for centuries, renders the Symphonia
model more impossible, than a future hope. In Leunstean’s helpful summary, he remarks that “most
churches claim that the concept does not fully represent their approach to contemporary social and
political realities”, adding that the concept remain controversial because it “does not impose a clear
distinction between religious and political leaders.” (p. 11)
Also more generally using Leunstean’s overview, where the major specific chapters addressing
the post 1989 developments within Eurasia and eastern Europe (more indirectly globally) flesh out
national details, the primary activities of Orthodox churches are examined under seven further topics: 1)
theological education and publication (also media); 2) reemergence of monastic life; 3) “interecclesiastical contact” at national and international levels; 4) relations with religious minorities as a
proselytism problem; 5) relations with diaspora and migration - an issue placed near the top of the
forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council’s agenda; 6) Orthodox Churches and the European Union; 7) The
impact of secularism, nationalism and globalization.
On this latter point, the book’s organization ends with Part V, four thematic chapters on migration
(Kristina Stoeckl), role of Greek Catholic Churches in Catholic-Orthodox relations (Thomas Bremer),
secularism issues including human rights (Kristen Ghodsee), and globalization (Victor Roudometof). The
Stoeckl and Bremer chapters offer broad sketching out of the developments and issues, including how
migration (less so outright mission) have also produced a globally dispersed Orthodox world, not easily
captured under a “canonical territory” mindset. Bremer’s thorough review of the post 1989 Uniate
problematic, is formulated to enable the reader to grasp central dilemmas for each of the three church
groups--Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Greek-Catholic--making a return to some status quo ante no
longer feasible. It could also be seen as a way of taking seriously the long developed separate formations
of liturgy, prayers, and sense of “the true church” that laity have embodied, and make further ecumenical
rapprochement about as problematic to think about, as relations with Protestants and the many worlds of
indigenous Christianities around the globe.
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Impossible to cover adequately in a brief review, here follow a few quotations from a few major
chapters to whet the appetite to read further. The Russian Orthodox chapter (Zoe Knox & Anastasia
Mitrofanova) approaches their task by showing “different internal currents in contemporary Orthodoxy”
through describing the activities of clergy and laity. The focus on clergy shows “the diversity of opinion
within church structures”, attention to laity reveals “the highly contested politics of popular Orthodox
belief” (p.39) In fact the chapter draws on numerous major works to advance arguments on politics and
religion (Papakova), stylize the achievements of Patriarch Aleksei II and Patriarch Kirill’s first years,
especially the intentions behind new synodal departments, and a common policy since 1989 of “drawing
church and society closer together” (p. 57). Here and in many other chapters, one would have expected
authors to draw on a broader range of journal articles than they do. Klaus Buchenau’s closing remark that
“currently the Serbian Orthodox Church no longer functions as a uniting factor among the Serbs in
Bosnia-Herzegovina”(p.87) force rethinking. Daniela Kalkandjieva’s chapter on Bulgarian Orthodoxy,
with its persistence of competing synods draws attention to more recent revelations of collaboration of
present church leadership with the Bulgarian security services to claim that the collaboration legacy from
the communist years (an issue identified for most Eastern Orthodox churches) as well as the lack of
transparency about church finances, caused her to wonder whether “the cure of the Bulgarian Orthodox
Church is in the hands of the laity”, still not well prepared for the task.(p.131) American readers in
particular may find it helpful to read John Erickson and Alexei Krindatch’s chapter on Orthodox
Churches in America, including fascinating charts on shifts in language for homily and liturgy. It is an update on progress toward a common Orthodox Church in America (the technical name for the Russian
Orthodox parishes linked to the Russian Patriarchate) given the continuities of ethnic loyalties for the
diaspora churches, many of which are key supporting bodies for mother churches in Europe and Asia. For
the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America “over half of all the
priests in these two jurisdictions entered the Orthodox Church as adults.” (p. 268) That is, converts, who
“are present in all Orthodox jurisdictions”, plus there is a “rapidly growing proportion of intermarried
families” (p. 269), a common feature of diaspora churches, evident in so many other sections of the book.
Erica C. D. Hunter’s chapter (30) on the Assyrian Church of the East includes the line that because of two
Gulf Wars the Christian population of Iraq in 2003 estimated at 1.3 million has dropped to 3-400,000, and
“Christians account for an estimated 40% of all people fleeing Iraq to settle in diaspora communities” (p.
601), a 2012 statistic.
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