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Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo

Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo — the oldest eparchy among Eastern Christians in the Hungarian Kingdom. Until the early nineteenth century it included over 800 parishes in *Abov, *Borshod, Gemer, *Hajdu, *Maramorosh,*Sharysh, Sotmar (Hungarian: Szatmar), Sobolch (Szabolcs), *Spish, Turna,*Ugocha, and *Zemplyn counties. The origins of the eparchy are in dispute. Some scholars have argued that the eparchy was created by Sts. Cyril and Methodius or by their disciples in the second half of the ninth century (863 is given as the symbolic founding date). Others suggest it was created either in 1360 at the time that Fedor Koriatovych allegedly founded the *Mukachevo Monastery of St. Nicholas, or in the first half of the fifteenth century (between 1439 and 1445), when the archimandrite Luka administered the monastery. The earliest surviving written evidence about the eparchy, however, dates from the year 1491, when there is clear reference to Ioann as the first bishop (r. 1491-1498). Mukachevo was a monastic eparchy, that is, its seat was the Monastery of St. Nicholas on Chernecha Hora near Mukachevo, whose superiors/archimandrites were simultaneously bishops. The eparchy’s archimandrites/bishops were until the end of the seventeenth century elected by a monastic council (sobor), then consecrated by archimandrites/bishops from the surrounding area, all of whom were in communion with the Orthodox ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople.

As a result of the movement on behalf of the *Unia, or Church Union, the eparchy became Uniate/Greek Catholic (1646-1649). Nevertheless, its first bishops, Vasylii *Tarasovych (r. 1634-1648) and *Parfenii Petrovych (r. 1649-1665), who were in office during the crises of the Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and the revolts of Transylvania against Habsburg rule, remained caught in the middle of conflicting religious and political factions. For instance, following the episcopate of Bishop Parfenii, who was a strong proponent of the Unia/Union, various parts of the Mukachevo eparchy were still being administered by Orthodox bishops—Ioanykii *Zeikan (r. 1658-1687, intermittently), the wandering Iosyf Voloshynovs’kyi (r. 1670-1673), Porfirii Kul’chyts’kyi/Ardan (r. 1681-1686)—as well as by Uniate/Greek Catholic bishops—Dymytrii Monastelli (r. 1685-ca. 1688) and Mefodii Rakovets’kyi (r. 1687-1689).

In an attempt to bring some order into the Mukachevo Eparchy the Catholic Primate of Hungary, Leopold Kollonits, was able to convince Rome to appoint the Basilian monk from Italy of Greek origin, Joseph *De Camelis, as bishop (r. 1690-1706). In keeping with Roman practice (Fourth Lateran Council of 1215) that there cannot be two bishops within one diocese, De Camelis and his immediate successors—Ioann Hodermars’kyi (r. 1707-1715), Iurii Genadii *Bizantsi (r. 1716-1733), Symeon Ol’shavs’kyi (r. 1734-1738), Havriil *Blazhovs’kyi (r. 1738-1742), Mykhail Manuil *Ol’shavs’kyi (r. 1743-1767), and Ioann *Bradach (r. 1767-1772)—were only vicars (auxiliary bishops), jurisdictionally subordinate to the Roman Catholic bishop of *Eger. After several efforts made by these bishops, in 1771 the Austrian Empress *Maria Theresa finally issued a decree, subsequently approved by Rome, that created a jurisdictionally independent Mukachevo Eparchy no longer subordinate to Eger. It was also at this time that the eparchy was formally renamed Greek Catholic. Until 1766, all bishops of the Mukachevo Eparchy had their residence at the Basilian monastery on Chernecha Hora just outside Mukachevo, then from 1766 within the city of Mukachevo itself. During the episcopate of Bishop Andrii *Bachyns’kyi (r. 1772-1809), the eparchy retained its historic name but its seat was moved to Uzhhorod (1780), where it remains to this day.

Following Bachyns’kyi’s death the Mukachevo Eparchy experienced its first division: 192 parishes were removed from its western counties (Abov, Borshod, Gemer, Spish, Sharysh, and part of Zemplyn) to create in 1818 the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Presov. Five years later 72 parishes from Sokmar/Szatmar county in the south were transferred to the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Oradea/Nagyvarad, and in 1853 another 94 parishes were transferred to the Eparchy of Gherla/Szamosujvar. Finally, in 1912, 68 parishes from the southwestern part of the Mukachevo Eparchy were transferred to the newly created *Eparchy of Hajdudorog. Thus by the outbreak of World War I the Eparchy of Mukachevo was basically limited to the territory of *Subcarpathian Rus’ and far eastern Slovakia, which after the conflict was to become part of the new state of Czechoslovakia (see Map 6).

During the period of Czechoslovak rule the Mukachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy faced a serious challenge, as nearly one-third of its parishioners left to join the Orthodox Church. This movement, called “the return to the old faith,” was particularly strong during the 1920s. Relations with the Czechoslovak government were also initially strained. Many of the eparchy’s priests were accused of being magyarones, and Bishop Antonii *Papp left his seat in Uzhhorod and settled permanently in Hungary after refusing to swear the required oath of allegiance to the new Czechoslovak state. Other problems concerned church dues and priests’ salaries, which remained unregulated until the passage of special laws in 1926.

It was the post-World War II era, however, that brought the greatest challenges. In 1949 the Soviet regime in Subcarpathian Rus’/Transcarpathia declared the 1646 Union null and void and formally abolished the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo. The reigning bishop, Teodor *Romzha, was murdered (1947) and those priests who refused to renounce Catholicism and join the Orthodox Church were arrested and imprisoned. Greek Catholic churches were turned over to the *Orthodox Eparchy of Mukachevo for its use; other Greek Catholic property (episcopal palace in Uzhhorod, seminary, schools, landed estates) was confiscated by the state. Despite such repression, the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo continued to survive during the Soviet era as an “underground” church with a secret hierarchy.

In the late 1980s, as a result of the political changes that rocked the Soviet Union, the hierarchy came “out from the underground,” and in 1989 the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo was allowed to function as a legal entity with 209 registered parishes (in comparison to 289 at the time of its liquidation in 1949). With the help of the *Greek (Byzantine Ruthenian) Catholic Church in the United States a new Greek Catholic Seminary was opened in Uzhhorod (1995). In terms of jurisdiction, the eparchy was restored on the basis of historic tradition and canon law, whereby it retains its status as a distinct church community (ecclesia sui juris) directly under the authority of the Holy See in Rome. This status was criticized by Ukrainian nationalists within and beyond the church, and it has resulted in internal division among the hierarchs. A portion of the priests, who are pro-Ukrainian and led by the auxiliary bishop of Khust, Ivan Margitych (b. 1921), demanded that the Eparchy of Mukachevo become part of the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Metropolitanate of L’viv, based in neighboring historic Galicia. The other and larger portion of priests led by Bishop Ivan Semedi (b. 1921) argued against changing the traditional jurisdictional status of the eparchy. After investigating this problem the Vatican investigated this problem and declared (1993) that the jurisdictional status of the Eparchy of Mukachevo shall remain unchanged and that the auxiliary bishops existing at the time be given specific responsibility for the faithful of Rusyn and Hungarian background (Holovach) and of Ukrainian orientation (Margitych). Recognizing the multinational composition of the eparchy the Holy Liturgy may be conducted in Church Slavonic, Ukrainian, or Hungarian.

Traditionally, the Eparchy of Mukachevo has been associated with the Rusyn people. This became the case especially after the territorial restructuring in the nineteenth century; by 1912 the eparchy had been reduced primarily to Rusyn-inhabited villages. In terms of its relationship to the Rusyn nationality, however, the eparchy has at different times adopted a positive, a negative, or a contradictory position. By the second half of the nineteenth century several of its bishops (Shtefan *Pankovych, Iulii *Firtsak, Antonii *Papp) and their close associates in the eparchial administration were Hungarian state patriots and supporters of magyarization. At the same time, virtually all the leading Rusyn national awakeners and the strongest opponents of magyarization were Greek Catholic priests (Aleksander *Dukhnovych, Aleksander *Pavlovych, Ivan *Sil’vai, Ievhenii *Fentsyk, and Avhustyn *Voloshyn, among others). Until World War I, Rusyn newspapers, organizations, and the widely read annual almanacs/*misiatsoslov were all either operated by or closely linked to the Eparchy of Mukachevo.

In the interwar period of Czechoslovak rule, as well as during the World War II period under Hungary, the eparchy’s hierarchs (Petro *Gebei, Aleksander *Stoika) and many of its priests (Emilian *Bokshai, Ivan *Muranii) were among the strongest supporters of the view that Rusyns form a distinct nationality. Since the restoration of the Eparchy of Mukachevo in 1989 opinion with respect to the Rusyn national idea among its hierarchs and priests has continued in the tradition of either a positive, negative, or contradictory position regarding the Rusyn national idea.

Bibliography: Antal Hodinka, A munkacsi gorog-katholikus puspokseg tortenete (Budapest, 1910); Antal Hodinka, ed., A munkacsi gorog-szertatasu puspokseg okmanytara, Vol. I: 1458-1715 (Uzhhorod, 1911); Vasylii Hadzhega, “Dodatky k istorii Rusynov y rus’kykh tserkvei: v Maramoroshi,” Naukovyi zbornyk Tovarystva “Prosvita,” I (Uzhhorod, 1922), pp. 140-228, “. . . v Uzhanskoi zhupi,” II (1923), pp. 1-64 and III (1924), pp. 155-239, “. . . v zhupi Ugocha,” IV (1925), pp. 117-176 and V (1927), pp. 1-62, “. . . v zhupi Zemplynskoi,” VII-VIII (1931), pp. 1-167, IX (1932), pp. 1-67, X (1934), pp. 17-120, XI (1935), pp. 17-182, XII (1937), pp. 37-83; Aleksander Baran, “Podil mukachivs’koi eparkhii v XIX storichchi,” Analecta OSBM, IV, 3-4 (Rome, 1963), pp. 534-569; Atanasii Pekar, Narysy istorii tserkvy Zakarpattia, 2 vols. (Rome, 1967-97)—English-language revised ed. of Vol. I: A History of the Church in Carpathian Rus’ (New York, 1992); Ivan Myhovych, Relihiia i tserkvy v nashomu krai (Uzhhorod, 1993); Uzhhords’kii Unii—350 rokiv: materialy mizhnarodnykh naukovykh konferetsii (Uzhhorod, 1997); Jozsef Botlik, Harmas kereszt alatt: gorog katolikusok Karpataljan az ungvari uniotol napjainkig, 1646-1997 (Budapest, 1997); Ivan M. Hranchak, ed., Vazhlyvi vikhy v istorii Mukachivs’koi hreko-katolyts’koi ieparkhii (Uzhhorod, 1998); Paul Robert Magocsi, “Adaptation Without Assimilation: The Genius of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo,” in idem, Of the Making of Nationalities There is No End, Vol. II (New York, 1999), pp. 194-204.

Paul Robert Magocsi

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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