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Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat

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Title: Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat  
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Subject: Traditionalist Catholic, Society of St. Pius X, Stations of the Cross, Josaphat, Josaphat Kuntsevych, Monstrance, Basil Kovpak, SSPX-affiliated religious orders
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Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat

The Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych (SSJK) is a society of traditionalist priests and seminarians originating from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church which is led by the excommunicated priest Basil Kovpak. It is based in Riasne, Lviv, Western Ukraine.[1] In Lviv, the Society maintains a seminary, at which currently thirty students reside, and takes care of a small convent of Basilian sisters.[2] The SSJK is affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X and Holy Orders are conferred by the latter society's bishops in the Roman Rite. The SSJK clergymen, however, exclusively follow a version of Slavonic Byzantine Rite in the Ruthenian recension. As a Breakaway Catholics, the Society operates in direct defiance of the hierarchy of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.


The seminary of the SSJK is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady and currently is attended by thirty seminarians. The seminary, the Society says, is intended to be a modest support in the conversion to Catholicism not only of Ukraine, but of Russia as well. Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and fidelity to the Church of Rome are considered important.

Relations with the sui iuris Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Holy See

Liturgical Latinisation

The SSJK rejects the de-Latinisation reforms presently prevailing in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is in full communion with Rome. These reforms began with the 1930s under rule of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, but gained momentum with the 1964 decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum of the Second Vatican Council) and several subsequent implementing documents. The SSJK for instance opposes the removal of the stations of the cross, the rosary and the monstrance from the liturgy and parishes of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In rejecting these reforms, they also reject the right of the Church authorities to make these reforms; thus who controls the formate of liturgy becomes an important point of debate.

Critics of the SSJK point out that their liturgical practice favours severely abbreviated services and imported Roman Rite devotions over the traditional and authentic practices and ancient devotions of Eastern Tradition and particularly the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Proponents counter that these "Latin" symbols and rituals, borrowed from their Latin Catholic Polish neighbours, have long been practised by Ukrainian Greek Catholics, in some cases for centuries, and that to deny them is to deprive the Ukrainian Catholic faithful of a part of their own sacred heritage. The central point in the dispute is over what constitutes 'organic development'. The Holy See in recent decades has explicitly maintained that latinization was not an organic development, pointing out that latinization was forbidden as long ago as 1894 when Pope Leo XIII issued his encyclical Orientalium Dignitas.[3]

Church Slavonic

The SSJK also opposes the abandonment of Church Slavonic, the traditional liturgical language of the Slavic Churches (both Orthodox and Greek-Catholic) in favour of the modern Ukrainian in the Slavo-Byzantine liturgy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Society holds that Church Slavonic is essential to stress necessary Catholic unity among all Slavic peoples, and to avoid nationalism which has for a long time divided Slavic Christians. However, critics claim that the essence of Eastern liturgical practice is to pray in a language which is understood by the people, and that Church Slavonic has ceased to be such a language, becoming a pale imitation of the Western practice of using Latin to promote unity. The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has a large presence in many non-Slavic countries, with numerous eparchies and parishes in the diaspora, exacerbating the problem of parishioners not understanding what is being celebrated as well as raising issues of assimilation.


The Society of Saint Josaphat condemns ecumenism with the Orthodox currently practised by both the Holy See and the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Instead the Society promotes Catholic missionary activities among the Orthodox, who are not in communion with the Holy See.


In 2003, Cardinal Lubomyr excommunicated SSJK superior Kovpak from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Kovpak appealed this punishment at the papal Sacra Rota Romana in Vatican City, and the excommunication was declared null and void by reason of a lack of canonical form.

Ordinations in 2006

On November 22, 2006, then-excommunicated Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) illicitly ordained two priests and seven deacons in Warsaw, Poland for the SSJK, in violation of canon 1015 §2, and of canons 1021 and 1331 §2 of the Code of Canon Law, and the corresponding canons of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.The excommunication of Bishop Williamson has since been lifted by the pope in January 2009. An SSPX priest who was present remarked, "We were all very edified by their piety, and I myself was astonished by the resemblance of the atmosphere amongst the seminarians with that which I knew in the seminary - this in spite of the difference of language, nationality and even rite."[4]

Archbishop Ihor Vozniak of Lviv (the archdiocese in which Kovpak is incardinated,) denounced Williamson's action as a "criminal act", and condemned Kovpak's participation in the ceremony. He stressed that the two priests that Williamson had ordained would not be authorised to serve within the Ukrainian Catholic Church.[5] Officials of the Lviv archdiocese said that Kovpak could face excommunication, and that "'he deceives the church by declaring that he is a Greek (Byzantine) Catholic priest,' while supporting a group [SSPX] that uses the old Latin liturgy exclusively, eschewing the Byzantine tradition, and does not maintain allegiance to the Holy See."[6] Accordingly, Kovpak's excommunication process was restarted by the hierarchy of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 23 November 2007.[7]

Father Kovpak's excommunication was announced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on November 21, 2007. [7] According to the Society of St. Pius X, the new archbishop of Lviv declared in 2006 that his main task for this coming year was to eradicate the 'Lefebvrists' from his territory."[8]

Position of the Society

Kovpak and the Society of St. Josaphat maintain that, though they are in dispute with Lubomyr and, through their association with the Society of St Pius X, indirectly in dispute with the church hierarchy, they are loyal to the Pope and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and are merely resisting what they consider to be modernism, "false ecumenism" and liberalism.


External links

  • Official site of Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat
  • Ukrainian Rite: Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat in Lviv, Galicia
  • La Porte Latine: Ordinations to the Diaconate of two Ukrainian seminarians
  • Photos: Ordinations to Diaconate and Sacred Priesthood by Bishop Williamson, Warsaw, 2006. (Polish language)
  • "Persecuted Tradition", book by Fr. Vasyl Kovpak. Book review and introduction to SSJK. The Catholic - Voice of Catholic Orthodoxy, November 2003.
  • CWNews: Bishop Vozniak decries Lefebvrite inroads, says these cause "confusion" among faithful
  • Обережно!!! Обман!!! - свячення лефевристів у Варшаві (Ukrainian language)
  • Проблема лефевризму знову загострилася у Львівській архиєпархії УГКЦ (Ukrainian language)
  • Warsaw, October, 2007.
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