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Background materials on Exarchate of Russian Uniate church


The first council of clergy of the Russian Catholic church of the Byzantine rite in the past eighty years was held at the end of August in the settlement of Sargatskoe, Omsk province, where the Greek Catholic parish of Saints Cyril and Methodius is registered. Participants in the council included the rector of the Omsk Greek Catholic parish, the priest Sergii Golovanov, Members of the Monastic Brotherhood of St. Basil the Great (Basilians) Hegumen Filipp Maizerov and Hieromonk Alipii Medvedev, as well as monastics outside the society, Hegumen Rostislav Kolupaev and Hieromonk Kirill Mironov.

The council acknowledged that the administration of the exarchate of the Russian Catholic church of the Eastern rite had been transferred in accordance with the code to the rector of the Omsk parish, the priest with most seniority, Fr Sergei Golovanov.

"Priest Sergii Golovanov, as the acting administrator of the exarchate, enjoys all authority and privileges of exarch, granted by the Apostolic See to Confessor Exarch Leonty (Leonid) Fedorov, Holy Martyr Exarch Kliment Sheptitsky, and Bishop Andrei Katkov. In accordance with canon 320, from the moment of assuming this responsible ministry Fr Sergii Golovanov has accepted the ministry of protopresbyter, which has privileges and distinctions in first place after a bishop." (tr. by PDS)

Press secretariat of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, 3 September 2004

As reported at the exarchate of the Russian church of the Byzantine rite, on 23-25 August the Russian Greek Catholic clergy conducted their council in Siberia (the parishes are officially registered there). Participants in the council (sobor) included the priest Sergei Golovanov, Hegumen Rostislav Kolupaev, Hegumen Filipp Maizerov (MSVV--Monk of St. Basil the Great), and Hieromonk Alipii Medvedev (MSVV), Hieromonk Kirill Mironov.

The council confirmed an acting exarch of the Russian church of the Byzantine rite. The exarchal throne had been vacant since 1995, after the death of Bishop Andrei Katkov. According to the code of canons of the eastern churches, in the event of vacancy in the post of exarch, the administration passes over to  his protosinghel, and if there is no protosinghel, to the parish rector with most seniority. Thus, Fr Sergei Golovanov became the exarch of the Russian church of Byzantine rite, who serves in Omsk, where there is a small Ukrainian parish, and in the village of Sargatskoe, Omsk province, at the officially registered Russian Greek Catholic parish of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

The council participants write an appeal to the Holy Father John Paul II, the Roman pope, and a communication to His Blessedness Patriarch Ignaty, prefect of the Congregation of eastern churches, regarding entering amendments into the statistical record of the exarchate.

To His Holiness Pope of Rome John Paul II

Your Holiness! Divinely Wise Ecumenical Archpastor and Merciful Father!

Humbly I sent to you the present request for a pontifical blessing upon the rebirth of the exarchate of the Russian church of Byzantine rite.

Our Suffering Church

Is based on the corner stone of the apostolic confession of faith by Peter.

Really derives its existence from the font of the Dniepr and the holy baptism of Vladimir through the local church headed by Kiev, the mother of Russian cities.

Was blessed by your holy predecessor, St. Pius X.

Received its canonical bases through the zeal and prophetic gift of God's servant, His Eminence Metropolitan Andrei Sheptitsky.

Has been watered by the tears left on Siberian stones, in Mordvinian camps, and in the Kazakh steppes by our Confessor Patrriarch Joseph Slipy and those who suffered with him.

Is certified by the martyr's witness of our exarchs Confessors Leonid Fedorov and Kliment Sheptitsky.

Bore the fruit of labors and suffering even unto blood and the prayerful signs of its faithful children, sons and daughters of the Russian people.

We also are children of this people. We beseech, we urge, and we await your personal intercession, for our strength has given out and or means are exhausted.

The faithful ones of the Holy Catholic church in Russia are in need on their life's journey leading to salvation in eternal life of the sacraments, archpastors and pastors, monastics, churches, and genuine rebirth.

The call raised by the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary in her Fatima appearance has still not been heard in Russia.

The humble servant of Your Holiness and earnest pilgrim, Archpresbyter Sergei Golovanov, with clergy, monastics, and faithful believers.

To His Blessedness Patriarch Ignaty, prefect of Congregation of Eastern Churches

Your Blessedness, Archpastor and Father!

I am sending to you this notification of entry of amendments into documents of a statistical nature relative to information about the exarchate of the Russian Catholic church of Byzantine rite for the Annuario Pontificio and other official documents:

Protopresbyter, 1
Hegumens, 2
Hieromonks, 2
Stauropigial monastery, 1
Parishes and congregations, 15


At the end of August in the settlement of Sargatskoe, Omsk province, in the Greek Catholic parish of Saints Cyril and Methodius a "Council of clergy of the Russian Catholic church of Byzantine rite," that is, Uniates, was held. Gathered at the council were not Ukrainians living in Russia and professing the faith of their ancestors who were resettled "to not so distant places." The parish priests, hegumens, hieromonks, and believers who were discussing the establishment in Russia of an exarchate of the "Russian Catholic church of Byzantine rite" were Russian people.

The first council of Russian Greek Catholics addressed the Roman Pope John Paul II with a request to take them under his omophor. The Russian Orthodox public is extremely upset by these event and considers them a manifestation of dangerous Catholic proselytism, which has long been disturbing true Orthodox. Meanwhile, today Russian Greek Catholics are very small in number. They do not have their own hierarchy, although their parishes are officially registered and are members of the Roman Catholic dioceses on Russian territory. (tr. by PDS)

Russian original posted on Religiia i SMI site, 9 September 2004


According to reports of the news media, on 23-25 August a council of the clergy of the Russian Catholic church of the Byzantine rite was held in the settlement of Sargatskoe, outside Omsk.  Soon there began to appear excited commentaries on the part of official representatives of the Moscow patriarchate. Even believing Catholic tried to figure out what happened. In order to resolve questions that have arisen for readers, we decided to turn to Pavel Parfentiev, a prominent representative of the Russian Greek Catholic church, who has devoted himself for several years to a study of its history and canonical status, who kindly agreed to share his thoughts with us.

Pavel Alexandrovich, what actually happened?

Events occurred that we, Russian Orthodox believers in fellowship with Rome (which is how we prefer to identify ourselves who are Russian Catholics of the Byzantine rite), have been awaiting for a long time and for which we have long been praying. The inevitable rebirth of our church occurred. It was inevitable because in the years of persecution by bolsheviks against the faith of its children, believers and priests, Russian Greek Catholics bore abundant martyr's testimony. Christians have known for a long time, since antiquity, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seen of new Christians" (Tertullian). And so today this seed has borne its fruit.

--Does that mean that the Russian Greek Catholic church is not something new for Russia?

--Precisely so. Properly speaking, much depends on one's point of view. We trace our tradition to the time of the baptism of Rus, which happened before the tragic Great Schism that separated the majority of eastern Christians from their western fellow believers. Serious investigators know that there never was a final rupture of fellowship of Russian Christians from the western traditions. Among historians it has rather long been known that the veneration of, for example, Saint Nicholas came to Rus from the West. Recent studies give every reason to affirm that the popularity in Rus of St. Panteleimon has western roots. In essence, the tragic rupture of fellowship with the Catholic, that is, the Universal church never reached its limit. There is much historical confirmation for this.

Properly speaking, the history of the Russian Greek Catholic church and its currently existing exarchate began at the end of the nineteenth century, when a number of priests and laity began realizing that true Orthodox is possible only in communion with Rome. At a council in 1917, the exarchate was created, uniting these believers, Russian Orthodox believers in communion with the Roman See. Unfortunately, a wave of brutal church persecution began afterward. All of our priests and active believers were suppressed. Today our believers are people who walk in the footsteps of these martyrs for church unity who were their spiritual predecessors. The last legal exarch, Bishop Andrei Katkov, died in 1995 without have the possibility of normal communion with the Russian flock. Since then, and until recently, that is, until the council in Sargatskoe, the Russian Greek Catholic church has not had normal church administration and its faithful have been, with rare exceptions, deprived of pastors.

--You said that Russian Greek Catholics recognized that "true Orthodoxy is possible only in communion with Rome." But many suggest that Uniates have converted from Orthodoxy to Catholicism.

--No, that is not so. If in Orthodoxy we have in mind the faith of the holy fathers and the ecumenical council, the it is impossible to maintain that fiath in its integrity without recognizing the primacy of the Roman bishop. This primacy was confirmed and confessed by such ancient saints who have supreme authority in Orthodoxy as St. Theodore the Studite, St. Maxim the Confessor, and many others.

Here, for example, is what St. Maxim the Confessor wrote:  "All the ends of the earth and each of its parts, whoever purely and faithfully confesses the Lord, looks directly to the Holy Roman church and to its confession and faith as upon the sun with undimmed light, awaiting from it the rays of sacred dogmas of our fathers, in accordance with this, as the inspired and holy councils infallibly and piously determined. For, from the time of the advent of the Incarnate Word, all churches in every part of the world have maintained only one great church as their support and basis, seeing that, in accordance with the promise of Christ, our Savior, the gates of hell will never overcome it, and that it holds the keys of true confession and true faith in him, and that it reveals the tru and only religion to such people as come to it with piety, and it closes and forbids any heretical lips which speak against the Almighty." This extremely great father says that Rome was given by the Incarnate Word of God himself, that is, Christ, the right to bind and loose all churches throughout the world.

Unfortunately, such views of the fathers (incidentally, they are reflected even in contemporary Orthodox services) are hushed up today in the Russian Orthodox church. This is a sad tradition that is being continued from the prerevolutionary synodal period of its history. At that time a whole series of texts of the words of the fathers and the acts of the ecumenical councils were simply intentionally distorted by comparison with the Greek originals. There is a multitude of conclusive examples of this.

Also, this is continuing even now. Here, for example, I have in my hands a book, "Our Faith:  Orthodoxy and world religions," published in Moscow with the blessing of Bishop of Tulchinsk and Bratslava Ippolit. In its attacks upon Catholicism it goes so far as to affirm that "not a single one of the holy fathers and teachers of the church ever recognized Peter as the chief of apostles and vicar of Christ." It is not clear what this is--blatant ignorance or intentional lying. If it is the former, then why should we listen to the ignorant one? If it is the second, then we, as Christians, should recall that the father of lies is the devil. You cannot affirm a good matter with a lie. . . .

--What happened in Sargatskoe?

--Priests of our church met together in order to ascertain how, in accordance with the canons of the church, they should operate in the current situation and which authority to submit to. Participants in the council reviewed all the rules and which law is established for the church for our current situation. It turned out that the functions of acting administrator of the exarchate are supposed to be fulfilled by the parish priest who has seniority. This turned out to be Fr Sergii Golovanov. All priests who were present, on the basis of the canons, decided to submit to him. Since in this case the canons of the church require that the acting administrator report his assumption of office and the development of the situation to the supreme church authority, this was done. Such authority of the exarchate is the bishop of Rome, that is, the pope. A letter was sent to him from the Uniate council.

That is, from a normal church point of view, nothing especially sensational happened. Everything happened in accordance with prescribed canonical procedure. This could more likely be a sensation for conscience-less church politicians. How many times have they tried to suffocate these "inconvenient" Russian Greek Catholics, but they still life and even dare to declare themselves, regardless of the unpropitious conditions. Well, what does one do; this is how the history of the church has always been. Even the apostle Paul said: "We are considered dead, but lo, we are alive."

--But at the time of his visit in March, Cardinal Walter Kasper said that Russian Greek Catholics should subordinate themselves to the local Latin bishops.

--That was a mistake. Evidently Cardinal Kasper did not fully grasp the situation, or he did not have enough time to think about his response. Perhaps there were some other reasons. But from the point of view of the canons of the church, this was a mistaken opinion, at least for the time. . . .

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