Pray for the Russian Church

Much to my surprise (and delight), the Wall Street Journal ran a story today covering the plight of the Russian Greek Catholic Church (RGCC) and their ongoing synod in Italy which, among other things, is seeking greater recognition of their rights from Pope Francis. Here are some excerpts.

A group of Russian Catholics is demanding greater recognition from Pope Francis, saying the Vatican’s appeasement of Moscow threatens its very existence.

. . .

On the agenda is a longstanding request for their own bishop and resources for training their own clergy. Church leaders say the pope has ignored their appeals as he pursues closer ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, which is dominant in the country.

. . .

The complaints of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church echo those of other groups who feel Pope Francis is willing to sacrifice their well-being for the sake of other priorities.

Catholics in Ukraine accuse the pope of playing down Russian aggression toward their country in order to placate the Russian Orthodox Church, which has criticized Ukrainian Catholics’ opposition to Russian-backed separatists. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cultivated a close relationship with the Orthodox Church as part of a nationalist campaign.

Lamentably, Francis and Vatican hyper-ecumenists are not the only Catholics willing to overlook the plight of Greco-Catholics. As I have discussed elsewhere several times, far too many traditional Latin Catholics romanticize the Russian Orthodox Church and the secular Russian state on the belief that both represent twin pillars of Christian virtue. While the Russian Orthodox Church should be commended at times for its public witness against numerous liberal pathologies, no one should ignore the hard truth that many Russians remain nominally Orthodox and the Russian nation itself is steadily depopulating. Although the RGCC is small, it will never have any chance for ground-level growth unless it is given proper recognition and support from the Roman authorities. Now more than ever the RGCC needs the prayers of all of the faithful. With more and more Russians realizing that Orthodox Church has been compromised by secular politics, there is a moment of opportunity for the RGCC to bring souls into the Catholic fold. But will the Vatican let them?



  1. Aethelfrith
    June 7, 2017

    I’m waiting on John Beeler to post that stereotype about the Russian Greek Catholic Church being a fake/dead church made up of nerds and hipsters.

    1. Diane
      June 7, 2017

      Um, he attends a Ukrainian Catholic parish about once a month or so. I don’t agree with John about everything, not by a long shot, but I have never (personally) seen him diss Eastern Catholics….?

      1. Aethelfrith
        June 8, 2017

        Not Easterners generally, just the particular Russian Greek Catholic Church. And perhaps I being too harsh, but I will let my words stand for the record.

        It is true that the RGCC was very small when and virtually obliterated by the Bolsheviks. Any adherents of the RGCC today are likely converts due to the miniscule numbers of clergy who escaped liquidation. John’s jabs are typically focused on those converts moreso than the Church.

        1. 123
          June 8, 2017

          Isn’t the RGCC miniscule, though, as opposed to simply small? Isn’t it like a handful of parishes? I remember someone telling me there were only two, but maybe that’s just in the U.S. And regardless of that, if most of its members are not Russian, well, can it actually be the Russian Greek Catholic Church as a sui generis church? At most, wouldn’t it really just be an historic rite at that point?

          1. Gabriel Sanchez
            June 8, 2017


            First, “church” and “rite” are not the same thing. The RGCC happens to be a sui iuris church which officially uses two forms of the Byzantine Rite: Synodal and Old Ritualist.

            Second, the RGCC has between 30-50k members worldwide, which means it’s probably the size of the OCA.

            Third, the reason the numbers are so tiny is because the Russian Orthodox, working with the Soviets, nearly obliterated it. And then pathetic Vatican ecumenical sensibilities left it as an orphan church, which is what it is trying to correct.

            While converts to the RGCC have sustained its existence over the decades, that does not invalidate its establishment nor the fact that it should be allowed to fulfill its apostolic mission in Russia and abroad. That is what the RGCC is asking for now, and I pray they get what they want.

          2. Aethelfrith
            June 9, 2017

            That is right and just.

          3. 123
            June 9, 2017

            I understand church and rite are different, and 30-50k is more than the Orthodox Church in Japan and about the same as Finland – so it’s not necessary unviable. My point was simply if there were only two parishes (mistaken assumption) and everyone in the church is a convert with no personal tie to the locality of that local church, then whatever it may be officially (sui iuris church) it would then really be little more than an somewhat autonomous rite. There are a number of miniscule local or autonomous churches among the Orthodox (i.e., Czech Republic & Slovakia, Jerusalem, Finland, Japan, China, Sinai) and it’s an equally valid question for them, too. At a certain point, though, it doesn’t matter the cause (Islam, Communism, heresy) if the church in question ceases to exist (e.g. Church of Nubia) or is about to.

  2. Fr. Yousuf Rassam
    June 14, 2017

    The status of the RGCC is, of course, an internal matter for the Roman Catholic Church. Does the Annuario Pontifico (sp?) consider the RGCC to be a sui juris church? It, of course, only becomes an ecumenical issue if the RGCC is used to entice Orthodox to leave the Church.

    Ecclesiastical demographics are hard metrics to get precise, and don’t always prove anything. However, while getting an exact count is difficult, there seem to be around 30 communities (parishes or monasteries) world wide. (It’s kind of hard to tell, for instance, the websites will have different lists of parishes in Russia, and also they list communities of the UGCC in Russia, as communities of the Byzantine Rite in Russia. Unless the average parish has thousands of parishioners (which they don’t), the RGCC has far fewer than 30,000 members. A (very) generous estimate of 150 – 200 parishioners in a very generous estimate of 40 parishes gives 8000 members. a more realistic estimate would be an average of under 100 in 30 communities maximum: 3000 members.

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