Bishop (Ukrainian: yepyskop; ancient Greek: episcopos; used from apostolic times to mean superintendent or overseer). The third and highest order of priesthood (after deacon and priest) in the Christian churches. In Ukraine a bishop is also called arkhyierei (literally, archpriest) and bears the title of vladyka (ruler). In the Orthodox church a bishop, before consecration, has to become a monk. The most noted Orthodox bishops are given the title of archbishop (arkhyiepyskop), and the bishops in national ecclesiastical capitals bear the title of metropolitan (mytropolyt). In the Catholic church the title of archbishop is given to bishops administering archeparchies (archdioceses). A bishop has the right to ordain deacons and priests, to consecrate (with other hierarchs) bishops, and to bless churches, the myrrh, and the antimension. The bishop's authority consists of the power to ordain, to teach and preach, and to govern. His administrative power is limited to the territory of his eparchy—hence the name ordinary or ruling bishop (ie, having jurisdiction of his own right or by virtue of his office), as opposed to one without administrative power.
Bishops appeared in Ukraine with the coming of Christianity. Most of them were Greek and were appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople. It is assumed that the first bishop of Kyiv was Nastas of Chersonesus, who was not Greek. The Greek bishops were gradually replaced by local people, mostly by monks from the Kyivan Cave Monastery. Bishops were elected by a council of bishops headed by the metropolitan and were approved by the prince. Eventually the custom was established for the prince and representatives of the church community to elect the bishop. The metropolitan then merely consecrated him. In the 14th century the council of bishops sometimes elected three candidates, one of whom was consecrated by the metropolitan. Under Lithuanian and Polish rule the princes, and later the king, together with the boyars, priests, and even Orthodox lay leaders of the eparchy, had a considerable influence on the selection of Ukrainian bishops. Under foreign rule and the absence of Ukrainian princes the bishop became the recognized representative of the Ukrainian people in a given territory.
In the 16th–17th century Orthodox and Catholic bishops were usually members of gentry or noble families. Some of them led very worldly lives and devoted too much attention to their personal gain. The authority of the bishops declined, particularly when the so-called right of patronage became widely accepted in Lithuania and Poland. This right gave the temporal rulers control of the clergy, including the bishops. The Polish king's practice of granting bishoprics went against the tradition of electing bishops. The procedure of nominating bishops was a point of contention between secular and church authorities. Sometimes competition among candidates for the bishop's office escalated into armed conflict.
In the Russian Empire, the Holy Synod (1721–1917) maintained the exclusive right to nominate bishops. Under Austria-Hungary and then Poland and Czechoslovakia the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholics were nominated by the Holy See, with the participation of the government, according to the established tradition or concordat.
The bishop administered the eparchy with the help of the cathedral curia (klyros—an administrative-judicial, collegial body composed of presbyters) and his co-adjutors, who served at the cathedral or in the outlying areas. The bishop or his co-adjutor presided over the church court and convened eparchial pastoral councils. In 1721 the consistory replaced the cathedral curia as the bishops' administrative agency in the Orthodox church. In the 18th–19th century chapters replaced the curiae in the Ukrainian Catholic eparchies (see Chapter).
At first there were only ordinary bishops in Ukraine: auxiliary bishops (vicars-general) appeared later—in the 17th century in the Catholic church and in the 18th century in the Orthodox church. The number of auxiliary bishops increased at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Kyiv eparchy had 4, and the Kherson eparchy, 3. In 1917 there were 10 ordinary and 22 auxiliary bishops in central and eastern Ukraine; in Western Ukraine there were 8 Ukrainian Catholic bishops. Since then the number of Ukrainian bishops has grown. This is largely owing to the fact that the Orthodox church in Ukraine and outside Ukraine has split into several competing wings.
In 1945–50 all 10 bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic church in Ukraine were arrested, and most of them died in prison. Officially, within the Ukrainian SSR there were 1 metropolitan-exarch of the Russian Orthodox church, 2 metropolitans, 4 archbishops, 6 bishops, and 1 auxiliary archbishop in 1981. Outside Ukraine the Ukrainian Orthodox church had 3 archbishops-metropolitans, 5 archbishops, and 4 bishops in 1981, while the Ukrainian Catholic church (including the Byzantine Rite Catholics in the United States) had 1 archbishop major, 3 archbishops-metropolitans, 2 archbishops, and 23 bishops.
A number of Ukrainian bishops have played an important role in the religious, cultural, and political life of the Ukrainian people. In the 19th–20th century some Ukrainian Catholic bishops in Western Ukraine have made important contributions to the national awakening of the people. During this period the Orthodox bishops in central and eastern Ukraine were mostly Russian and hostile to the Ukrainian movement. Only in the 1920s–1940s did Ukrainians attain the office of bishop in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church (in 1924 there were 30 bishops). Some Ukrainians served as bishops in the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church. Bishops of both churches who had proved themselves as church leaders, theologians, and pastors became victims of Soviet terror.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]