Russian Greek Catholic Church

The Russian Greek Catholic Church (Russian: Российская греко-католическая церковь, Rossiyskaya greko-katolicheskaya tserkov), or Russian Catholic Church, is a sui iuris Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Church. Historically, it represents the first reunion of members of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church. It is now in full communion with and subject to the authority of the Pope as defined by Eastern canon law.

Russian Catholics historically had their own episcopal hierarchy in the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Russia and the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Harbin, China. However, these offices are currently vacant. Their few parishes are served by priests ordained in other Eastern Catholic Churches, former Orthodox priests, and Roman Catholic priests with bi-ritual faculties.

Russian Greek Catholic Church
Russian: Российская греко-католическая церковь
ClassificationEastern Catholic


In Russia, it is purported that after the gradual development of the East-West Schism, a tiny group of Russian families maintained themselves as "Old Catholics" (Rus: старокатолики (starokatoliki)), a name which should not be confused with the Döllingerite Old Catholic church of Europe and the United States, which formally split with the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the reforms of the First Vatican Council. The status of this group of Russian "Old Catholics", families and groups of individuals to whom the union with Rome remains essential, and its relation to the current Russian Catholic Church, still remains unclear.

The modern Russian Catholic Church owes much to the inspiration of poet and philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (1853–1900), who urged, following Dante, that, just as the world needed the Tsar as a universal monarch, the Church needed the Pope of Rome as a universal ecclesiastical hierarch. Following Solovyov's teachings a Russian Orthodox priest, Nicholas Tolstoy, entered into full communion with the See of Rome under the Melkite Greek-Catholic, Byzantine Rite Patriarchate of Antioch. Solovyov received sacramental Extreme Unction from Father Tolstoy believing that in doing so he remained also a faithful member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Orthodox authorities refer to Tolstoy as an apostate and “ex-priest,” but tend to imply that Solovyov still died an Orthodox Christian. Nevertheless, Solovyov never retracted his sentiments in favor of union with the Catholic Church and the See of Rome, and to this day, many Russian Catholics refer to themselves as members of the 'Russian Orthodox Church in communion with Rome'.


Byzantine-rite Catholicism was illegal in the Tsarist Russian empire through the 1800s and until 1905, when Tsar Nicholas II granted religious tolerance. Thereafter, communities of Greek Catholics emerged and became organized.[1] Old Believers were prominent in the early years of the movement. In 1917, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky appointed the first Apostolic Exarchate for Russian Catholics with Most Reverend Leonid Feodorov, formerly a Russian Orthodox seminarian, as Exarch. However, the October Revolution soon followed, dispersing Russian-Rite Catholics into the Siberian prison camps and the centers of the Russian diaspora throughout the world. In the spring of 1923, Exarch Leonid Feodorov was prosecuted for counterrevolution by Nikolai Krylenko and sentenced to ten years in the Soviet concentration camp at Solovki. Released in 1932, he died three years later. He was beatified in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

In 1928, a second Apostolic Exarchate was set up, for the Russian Catholics in China, based in Harbin, the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Harbin.

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, some Russian Catholics began to appear in the open. In a 2005 article, Russian Catholic priest Sergei Golovanov stated that three Russian Catholic priests served on Russian soil celebrating the Russian Byzantine Divine Liturgy. Two of them used the recension of the Russian Liturgy as reformed by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow in 1666. The other priest used the medieval rite of the Old Believers, that is to say, as the Russian liturgical recension existed before Patriarch Nikon's reforms of the Russian Liturgy. All Eastern Catholics in the Russian Federation strictly maintain the use of Church Slavonic, although vernacular Liturgies are more common in the Russian diaspora.


With the religious freedom experienced after the fall of Communism, there were calls from the small number of Russian Catholics to appoint an Exarch to the long existing vacancy. Such a move would have been strongly objected to by the Russian Orthodox Church, causing the Holy See to not act out of ecumenical concerns. In 2004, however, the Vatican's hand was forced when a convocation of Russian Catholic priests in the territory of the vacant exarchate used their rights under canon law to elect a temporary administrator. The Vatican then moved quickly to replace the temporary administrator with Bishop Joseph Werth, the Latin Church Apostolic Administrator of Siberia, based in Novosibirsk. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Ordinary for all Eastern Catholics in the Russian Federation. As of 2010, five parishes have been registered with civil authorities in Siberia, while in Moscow two parishes and a pastoral center operate without official registration. There are also communities in Saint Petersburg and Obninsk.[1] By 2018, there have been reports of 13 parishes and five pastoral points in Siberia with seven parishes and three pastoral points in European Russia. Some parishes serve the Ukrainian community. The Ordinariate has minimal structure. A Byzantine priest serves as Secretary to the Ordinary. There is a priest coordinator for the parishes in Siberia and a liturgical commission and a catechetical commission.[2]

Outside Russia, there are Russian Catholic parishes and faith communities in San Francisco, New York City, El Segundo, Denver, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Meudon, Paris, Chevetogne, Lyon, Munich, Rome, Milan, and Singapore. They are all under the jurisdiction of the respective local Latin Church bishops. The communities in Denver, Dublin and Singapore do not have a Russian national character - but exist for local Catholics who wish to worship in the Russo-Byzantine style.

As of 2014, the two Exarchates of Russia and Harbin are still listed in the Annuario Pontificio as extant, but they have not yet been reconstituted, nor have new Russian-Rite bishops been appointed to head them.

See also


  1. ^ a b Ronald Roberson. "Other Eastern Catholic Communities: Russians". Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
  2. ^


External links

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The Catholic Church in Russia is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome.

According to the most recent figures in Annuario Pontificio, there are approximately 773,000 Catholics in Russia, which is 0.5% of the total Russian population. However, a 2012 survey has determined that there are approximately 240,000 Catholics in Russia (0.2% of the total Russian population), accounting for 7.2% of Germans, 1.8% of Armenians, 1.3% of Belarusians, and just under 1% of Bashkirs. The survey also found Catholics to be more observant than Orthodox, with 45% praying every day versus 17% of Orthodox.Due to the long-held views of the Russian Orthodox Church, Catholicism is not recognized by the state as a legitimately Russian religion, and Catholics have often been seen as outsiders, even if they are ethnically Russian. The Soviet Union, which persecuted all religions, also saw Catholicism as a non-Russian allegiance.

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It is located near the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, separated from the Pontifical Oriental Institute by the Church of Saint Anthony, and is known informally as the Russicum.

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the Albanian Greek Catholic Church

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the Macedonian Greek Catholic Church

the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

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