This article argues that taking the ‘long view’ of 1596–1946 simultaneously creates and solves problems. It gives context to the pseudo-sobor, but the past is also used to justify the sobor, allowing actors in the twentieth century to evade their responsibility. 1946 is thus a microcosm of a problem for Christians outside the Soviet context grappling with the relationship between historical truth and theological claims while avoiding the traps of confessionalism, nationalism, and historical relativism.
One of the most contentious issues concerning the reception of the events of 1946 is the question of canonicity and legitimacy. This paper examines the his-tory and canonical regulation of church councils in the first millennium and compares this with the gathering in Lviv. Both church representatives and scholars have noted that the sobor was not convened by a legitimate Church authority, the ‘Initiative Group’ leaders were no longer members of the Church for which they pretended to act, the delegates were not elected, no bishop of the UGCC was present, arbitrarily appointed representatives of the ROC participated, and the Soviet authorities intimidated the participants. These critiques are analysed in the context of early canonical legislation, such as the Council of Trullo and the Seventh Ecumenical Council (ad 787), where the intrusion of civil authorities in church life was a problem, as well as Catholic canon law at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, which established the norms by which a synod or council of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in 1946 should have been convened. In no way can the gathering of 1946 be considered a legitimate church council.
This paper traces the history of the ‘Lviv Sobor’ of 1946, examining its preparation, the details of the gathering itself, and its aftermath. Archival documents of the Council for the Affairs of Religious Cults of the USSR, the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, and other state and secret service archives provide detailed information on the planning and preparation of the gathering by the ‘Initiative Group’. Personal memoirs of participants and observers also round out the picture of these events. From a Catholic perspective, the gathering can be viewed only as a pseudo-sobor, it was an act of violence and injustice in regard to many Greek Catholics, and the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in this movement, initiated by Soviet state authorities and security services, was wrong and unjust.
Despite the attempted liquidation of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church (UGCC) in 1946, the church continued its existence in Western Europe and North America. This paper analyses responses to the pseudo-sobor of Lviv by the UGCC between 1946 and 1989, and for the same period, the attitudes of the UGCC to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Three periods are examined, namely the initial responses in Exile (1946–1963), the Second Vatican Council and the return of Cardinal Josyf Slipyj from Soviet exile (1963–1984), and the period after Slipyj (1984–1989). Initial responses lacked unity and coherency, but with the return of Slipyj a more unified position on various issues was developed, although not always accepted by the UGCC. The 1980s witnessed the first public attempts at reconciliation with the ROC, which can be judged as a break-through to developing a more nuanced, even ecumenical, position. However, those first steps at the highest ecclesiastical level were made with great hesitancy and even fear.
This paper presents all papal pronouncements on the events of 1946, from Pope Pius XII to Pope Francis. Before 2006, the Holy See had never spoken officially and directly on the ‘Lviv Sobor’ as such, let alone on its canonicity. Nevertheless, the Holy See has always recognized the existence of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, not only in the diaspora, but in Ukraine itself, which may be considered as an indirect recognition of the invalidity of the synod of Lviv. Pope John Paul II elaborated on the role which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is called to play today in the ecumenical movement, while Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis were the first to refer to the Lviv gathering as a ‘pseudo-synod’. The paper also presents exchanges between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church regarding the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and ecumenical dialogue.
This article looks at the context of the Union of Brest of 1595/1596 to document many and varied changes in Galicia, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Tsarist Russia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries involving Greek and Latin Catholics and various Orthodox churchmen as well those on the political stage. What becomes clear is that this is a period and a region very familiar with dramatic (and often coerced) changes in religious and political allegiance, and that the Union achieved in Brest would be regularly contested and nearly defeated on a number of occasions well before 1946. With the exception of the Chełm (Kholm) eparchy in the 1870s, the union that would be defended so strongly after 1946 across Western Ukraine had in that territory often struggled to survive over the previous centuries.
This paper examines the publication of the book Lviv Church Council, a commemorative volume on the ‘Lviv Sobor’ of 1946—both its content and its context. The publication did not arise by chance in 1982, during a new phase of the Cold War including a political crisis in Poland following the election of Cardinal Wojtyła as pope and the death of Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) in 1978. The commemorative book contained official documents and articles that had been published earlier on anniversaries of 1946 in various issues of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate. In the Soviet period, the Uniate question, of course, was a political issue. The Russian Orthodox Church, as shown by the materials of the book Lviv Church Council, being a hostage of the circumstances, involuntarily followed public policy. In the context of the ideological and military-political confrontation between the USSR and Western countries, the Russian Orthodox Church could do little more than talk about peace in the world, distracting the readers of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate from the true state of Church affairs in the country. The book Lviv Church Council is a clear illustration of the humiliating dependence in which the Russian Orthodox Church remained during the whole Soviet period.