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The Russian Catholic Church (Russian: Российская греко-католическая церковь) is a Byzantine Rite church sui juris in full union with the Catholic Church. Historically it represents a schism from the Russian Orthodox Church. It is now in full communion with and subject to the authority of the Pope as defined by Eastern canon law. As of 2006, Russian Catholics have no hierarchy; their few parishes are served by priests ordained in other Byzantine Catholic Churches, former Orthodox priests, and Catholic priests with biritual faculties, many of them Jesuits.
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 Churches of Europe and the U.S., who 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 dear and essential, or its relation to the current Russian (Rite) Catholic Church is unclear.
The modern Russian Catholic church owes much to the inspiration of visionary 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 ecclesial 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 last holy communion 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'.
The Russian Catholic Church formally united with Rome in 1905. Old Believers were very prominent in the early years of the movement. Prior to the fall of the Monarchy, Russian Catholics were forced to endure severe persecution and harassment by the police and Okhrana, even though Nicholas II and especially the 1905 Revolution and February Revolutions relaxed a bit of this. 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.
In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, some Russian Catholics have cautiously begun to appear in the open. In a 2005 article, Russian Catholic priest Sergei Golovanov stated that three Russian Catholic priests serve on Russian soil celebrating the Russian Byzantine Divine Liturgy. Two of them use the recension of the Russian Liturgy as reformed by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow in the 1666. The other priest uses the medieval rite of the Old Believers, that is to say, as the Russian liturgical recension existed before Patriarch Nikon's (minor) 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. As of 2006, the two Exarchates are still at least officially extant but have not yet been reconstituted, neither have new Russian Rite bishops been appointed to head them. All Eastern Catholics in the Russian Federation remain under the jurisdiction of Bishop Joseph Werth.
There are also Russian Catholic parishes and faith communities in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, San Francisco, New York, El Segundo, Denver, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Meudon, Paris, Chevetogne, Lyon, Berlin, Munich, Rome, Milan, and Singapore.
- Eastern Catholic Churches
- Florentine Union
- Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov
- Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev, All Russia and Moscow
- Patriarch Ignatius
- Byzantine Rite
- Church Slavonic language
- Byzantine Rite Catholics in Russia
- The website of Saint Michael's Russian Catholic Church in New York City is a must for anyone desiring to delve deeper into the history of the Russian Catholic Movement.
- “A Brief History of The Russian Byzantine Catholic Church and the Russian Catholics.”
- The Servant of God Exarch Leonid Feodorov. An online biography of Exarch Leonid Feodorov, with little known details of how Russian Catholics survived in the bolshevik GULAG.
- An online article about a visit to Moscow's Russian Catholics shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union.
- A visit to the same Russian rite Catholic community from 2001.
- The Catholic Newmartyrs of Russia
- Normalization of the Position of Byzantine Rite Catholics in Russia