Congregation for Eastern Churches

Congregation for Eastern Churches (full name: Sacred Congregation for Eastern-Rite Catholic Churches). The branch of the Roman Curia responsible for the Eastern churches. Until 1862 these churches were under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, established in 1622; they later came under the jurisdiction of a separate section of this congregation created by Pope Pius IX. In 1917 Pope Benedict XV made the Congregation for Eastern Churches an independent body, still under papal control. Its secretary was one of the curial cardinals: from 1936 to 1959 the post was held by Cardinal Eugène Tisserant. In 1967 Pope Paul VI made the congregation completely independent under the authority of a cardinal-prefect. The congregation’s powers are defined in canon 195 of the apostolic letter of 11 June 1957, which proclaimed the existence of the Eastern church as a legal entity. The congregation is empowered to permit individuals to transfer from one church rite to another; it is also authorized to publish books for the Eastern churches. The Ukrainian Catholic church is under the congregation’s jurisdiction. Since the 1970s there have been strivings within the Ukrainian Catholic church to obtain independence of the congregation and to create a patriarchate with a synod of bishops empowered to make episcopal nominations and to create new ecclesiastical entities.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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