Patriarch. Initially an honorific title in the early church for distinguished bishops of any rank. By the 6th century it was accorded to the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Traditionally the pope or patriarch of Rome was recognized as the first or highest patriarch, and the patriarch in Constantinople as the ‘ecumenical’ patriarch, or patriarch of the entire Eastern Roman Empire. The term patriarch was later applied also to the chief bishops of churches which did not concur with the Council of Chalcedon (451), that is, the Nestorian and Monophysite. Since the Middle Ages various Eastern Christian churches have become patriarchates, and their head bishops patriarchs.
The church of Kyiv enjoyed quasi-patriarchal autonomy under a metropolitan, but was dependent on the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople until 1686, when he transferred this authority to the patriarch of Moscow.
In 1583, while traveling to Moscow, the papal representative A. Possevino met with Ukrainian princes in Cracow to discuss the possibility of the establishment of a patriarchate in Kyiv by Pope Gregory XIII. Even though it was supported by Roman and Polish forces, nothing came of this initiative. After the Church Union of Berestia a plan to establish a patriarchate in Kyiv was prepared in 1635–6 by the Uniate metropolitan Yosyf Rutsky. The patriarch of Kyiv would accept the dogmatic teaching of the Roman Catholic church, which it was agreed would be identical with that of the Orthodox church, but would be free to govern according to Eastern canon law, which gave recognition to the pope and the patriarch in Constantinople in accordance with the ecumenical councils and the Church Union of Florence (1439). Rutsky proposed the Orthodox metropolitan of Kyiv, Petro Mohyla, as candidate.
In the 19th century, after the suppression of the Ruthenian (Ukrainian-Belarusian) Catholic church in the Russian Empire and the flourishing of the same church under Austria, Popes Gregory XVI, Pius IX, and Leo XIII considered the possibility of establishing a patriarchate for all the Slavic ‘Greek Catholic’ dioceses of Austria-Hungary. The combined opposition of the Hungarians and Poles, however, doomed these proposals from the outset.
When a Ukrainian state was formed in 1918, the idea of creating a Ukrainian patriarchate under the Greek Catholic metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky was proposed. Sheptytsky's condition—that he could accept only if the church would unite itself with the Catholic church—was unacceptable to most Orthodox Ukrainians.
In 1963, at the Second Vatican Council, Metropolitan Yosyf Slipy, as major archbishop of Lviv and head of the Ukrainian Catholic church, proposed the creation of a Ukrainian patriarchate under Rome. Although supported by most Ukrainian and some Latin church bishops, this proposal was not realized. Later Slipy approached Popes Paul VI and John Paul II with the same request, but it was rejected as untimely. Nonetheless, in 1975 Slipy declared the Ukrainian Catholic church a patriarchate with himself as its patriarch. In this action he was supported by only a minority of his bishops; others followed the instruction of the Vatican, based on the Decree for Eastern Catholic Churches of the Second Vatican Council, that only an ecumenical council or the pope can establish a patriarchate. The Ukrainian Major Archiepiscopate of Lviv-Halych is now recognized by the Vatican as an autonomous (sui iuris) church, and is administered as a patriarchal church (can. 152).
The Ukrainian Patriarchal Society in the United States and the Ukrainian Patriarchal World Federation for Unity of Church and People were formed to work toward the creation of a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate. The Vatican Council did make efforts to restore the dignity of the Eastern Catholic patriarchs within the framework of the Catholic church. Still, the codification of the Eastern Catholic canon law, the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, promulgated on 18 October 1990, has not re-established the patriarchates in their full ancient role. It has also denied all Eastern Catholic churches direct jurisdiction over their own faithful outside the historical boundaries of their churches.
The revival of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church (UAOC) in Ukraine in the late 1980s raised the issue of an Orthodox Ukrainian patriarchate. At a sobor held in Kyiv in 1990, Metropolitan Mstyslav Skrypnyk, head of the UAOC in the West, was elected Patriarch of Kyiv and all Ukraine; he was formally installed in Kyiv in November 1990.
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Pospishil, V.; Luzhnycky, H. (eds). The Quest for an Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate (Philadelphia 1971)
Nahaievs’kyi, I. Patriiarkhaty, ïkh pochatok i znachennia v Tserkvi ta ukraïns’kyi patriiarkhat (New York–Munich–Toronto 1973)
Bilaniuk, P.B.T. Patriiarkhal’nyi ustrii pomisnoï (particularis) Ukraïns’koï Katolyts’koï Tserkvy: Tekst i komentar (Toronto 1974)
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine