Kuntsevych, Yosafat

Kuntsevych, Yosafat [Кунцевич, Йосафат; Kuncevyč, Josafat] (secular name: Ivan), b ca 1580 in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Volhynia, d 12 November 1623 in Vitsebsk, Belarus. Uniate archbishop and polemicist; Catholic saint. Kuntsevych entered the Holy Trinity Basilian Monastery in Vilnius in 1604. Ordained in 1609, he became the archimandrite of the monastery in 1614. He was consecrated bishop of Polatsk in 1617 and elevated to archbishop in 1618. Kuntsevych raised the educational and moral standards of the Uniate clergy in his eparchy, implementing rigorous new rules for their conduct, and together with Yosyf Rutsky, initiated a major reform of the Basilian monastic order. He was one of the most active propagators of Catholicism and the Church Union among the Orthodox population. Supported by the Polish king and the Vatican, Kuntsevych took over many Orthodox churches and transformed them into Uniate ones. The re-establishment of the Orthodox hierarchy in 1620 and the appointment of a new Orthodox bishop for Polatsk resulted in intensified religious conflict in the region. The forced implementation of Catholicism had antagonized the Orthodox archbishop Meletii Smotrytsky and many lay people, especially the burghers, and Kuntsevych was killed by enraged Orthodox followers on 12 November 1623. He was beatified by the Vatican on 16 May 1642. His canonization by Pope Pius IX took place on 29 June 1867 and he became the first eastern-rite saint in the Catholic church. Saint Josaphat's remains were moved from Biała Podlaska to Saint Barbara's Church in Vienna in 1917, and since 1946 they have been on display at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Kuntsevych wrote many polemical articles in Ukrainian and Polish; they, and many of his sermons, have been reprinted several times in various biographies and collections.

Susza, I. Cursus vitae et certamen martyrii B. Josaphat Kuncevicii (Rome 1665, Paris 1865)
Guépin, A. Un apôtre de l'Union des Eglises au XVII siàecle: Saint Josaphat et l'Eglise Gréco-slave en Pologne et en Rusie, 2 vols (Paris 1897–8)
Slipyi, I. (ed). Sviatyi sviashchenomuchenyk Iosafat Kuntsevych: Materialy i rozvidky (Lviv 1925)
Gerych, Iu. Ohliad bohoslovs’ko-literaturnoï diialnosty sv. Iosafata Kuntsevycha (Toronto 1960)
Solovii, M.; Velykyi, A. Sviatyi Iosafat Kuntsevych: Ioho zhyttia i doba (Toronto 1967)

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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