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The Ruthenian Catholic Churches

In 1996 Pope John Paul II established an Apostolic Exarchate for Catholics of the Byzantine rite in the Czech Republic and appointed Fr. Ivan Ljavinec, until then the syncellus of the Prešov Slovak Catholic diocese, as its first bishop. One reason for the establishment of this jurisdiction – which was officially classified as belonging to the Ruthenian rite – was to regularize the situation of married Latin priests secretly ordained in Czechoslovakia under communist rule. Sixty of these priests had been accepted by the church but had been allowed to minister only as permanent deacons in the Latin rite because of their marriages. In 1997, 18 of these men were re-ordained Greek Catholic priests by Bishop Ljavinec. There are about 178,000 Greek Catholics in the Czech Republic.

Many Ruthenian Catholics immigrated to North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Because of strained relations with the Latin hierarchy and the imposition of clerical celibacy on the Eastern Catholic clergy in the United States in 1929, large numbers of these Catholics returned to the Orthodox Church. In 1982 it was estimated that out of 690,000 people of Rusyn descent in the United States, 225,000 were still Ruthenian Catholics, 95,000 belonged to the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox diocese, 250,000 were in the Orthodox Church in America, 20,000 were in Orthodox parishes directly under the Moscow Patriarchate, and 100,000 belonged to various other Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Protestant denominations.

In the United States today, the Ruthenians constitute a separate ecclesiastical structure with four dioceses, 222 parishes, 231 priests, 50 permanent deacons, and about 100,000 faithful. It is headed by Most Reverend William Charles Skurla (born 1956, appointed 2012), Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh (66 Riverview Avenue, Pittsburg, PA 15214). The official website of the Archeparchy is This church, generally known simply as Byzantine Catholic, emphasizes its American character, and celebrates liturgy in English in most parishes. Candidates for the priesthood are trained at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Pittsburgh. In 1999 the Vatican approved a new particular law for the Ruthenian Metropolitanate which allowed for the ordination to the priesthood of married men who had received a proper dispensation from the Holy See.

In other areas of the diaspora, including Australia, Great Britain, and Canada, Ruthenian Catholics are not distinguished from Ukrainian Catholics.

In sum, today there are three distinct Ruthenian Catholic jurisdictions: (1) the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Metropolitanate in the United States, a metropolitan church sui iuris, (2) the eparchy of Mukačevo in Ukraine, which is immediately subject to the Holy See, and (3) the Apostolic Exarchate in the Czech Republic. The relationship between the three has not been clarified. The bishop of Mukačevo is listed below as head of the church, but he has no authority over the other two jurisdictions. The membership figure includes the combined statistics for all three entities.

Location: Ukraine, United States, Czech Republic
Head: Bishop Milan Šašík (born 1952, appointed 2010)
Title: Bishop of Mukačevo of the Byzantines
Residence: Užhorod, Ukraine
Membership: 598,000

Last Modified: 30 Mar 2012

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