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Soviet Union

Ukrainian Catholic Church

The Ukrainian Catholic Church was established in 1596, when a number of Ukrainian and Belorussian bishops, clergy, and faithful of the Orthodox Church recognized the supremacy of the Roman Catholic pope at the Union of Brest. Nevertheless, the Uniates (see Glossary) retained the administrative autonomy of their church and preserved most of their traditional rites and rituals, as well as the Old Church Slavonic (see Glossary) liturgical language. Belorussian Uniates were forced to reconvert to Orthodoxy after the partitions of Poland in the late eighteenth century when Belorussia became part of the Russian Empire. The Ukrainian Catholic Church, however, continued to function and grow in western Ukraine, which was ceded to the Austrian Empire in the partitions. By the twentieth century, it acquired standing as a national church in western Ukraine. Its close identity with the national aspirations of the Ukrainian people and the loyalty it commanded among its 4 million faithful aroused the hostility of the Soviet regime. In 1945 Soviet authorities arrested and deported the church's metropolitan and nine bishops, as well as hundreds of clergy and leading lay activists. A year later, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which at that time had some 2,500 parishes, was declared illegal and forcibly united with the Russian Orthodox Church. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian Catholic Church continued to survive underground (see Policy Toward Nationalities and Religions in Practice , this ch.).

Data as of May 1989