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Union of Brest (Belarusian: Берасцейская унія, Ukrainian: Берестейська унія, Polish: Unia brzeska) or Union of Brześć refers to the 1595-1596 decision of the (Ruthenian) Church of Rus', the "Metropolia of Kiev-Halych and all Rus'", to break relations with the Patriarch of Constantinople and place themselves under the Pope of Rome, in order to avoid the domination of the newly established Patriarch of Moscow. At the time, this church included most Ukrainians and Belarusians who lived in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The hierarchs of the Kievan church gathered in synod in the city of Brest composed 33 articles of Union, which were accepted by the Pope of Rome. At first widely successful, within several decades it had lost much of its initial support[1], mainly due to Imperial Russian persecution, though in Austrian Galicia, the church fared well and remains strong to this day, most notably in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The union was solemnly and publicly proclaimed in the Hall of Constantine in the Vatican. Canon Eustachy Wołłowicz, of Vilna, read in Ruthenian and Latin the letter of the Ruthenian episcopate to the Pope, dated 12 June, 1595. Cardinal Silvio Antoniani thanked the Ruthenian episcopate in the name of the Pope, and expressed his joy at the happy event. Then Adam Pociej (than Bishop of Vladimir), in his own name and that of the Ruthenian episcopate, read in Latin the formula of abjuration of the Greek Schism, Bishop Cyryl Terlecki of Lutsk read it in Ruthenian, and they affixed their signatures. Pope Clement VIII then addressed to them an allocution, expressing his joy and promising the Ruthenians his support. A medal was struck to commemorate the event, with the inscription: "Ruthenis receptis". On the same day the Bull "Magnus Dominus et laudabilis" was published, announcing to the Roman Catholic world the return of the Ruthenians to the unity of the Roman Church. The Bull recites the events which led to the union, the arrival of Pociej and Terlecki at Rome, their abjuration, and the concession to the Ruthenians that they should retain their own rite, saving such customs as were opposed to the purity of Catholic doctrine and incompatible with the communion of the Roman Church. On 7 Feb., 1596, Pope Clement VIII addressed to the Ruthenian episcopate the Brief "Benedictus sit Pastor ille bonus", enjoining the convocation of a synod in which the Ruthenian bishops were to recite the profession of the Catholic Faith. Various letters were also sent to the Polish king, princes, and magnates exhorting them to receive the Ruthenians under their protection. Another Bull, "Decet Romanum pontificem", dated 23 Feb., 1596, defined the rights of the Ruthenian episcopate and their relations in subjection to the Holy See.[2]

It was agreed that the "Filioque" should not be inserted in the Nicene Creed, although the Ruthenian clergy professed and taught the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son (Jesus Christ). The bishops asked to be dispensed from the obligation of introducing the Gregorian Calendar, so as to avoid popular discontent and dissensions, and insisted that the king should grant them, as of right, the dignity of senators. [2]

The union was strongly supported by the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Sigismund III Vasa, but opposed by some bishops and prominent nobles of Rus', and perhaps most importantly, by the nascent Cossack (Kozak) movement for Ukrainian self-rule. The result was "Rus' fighting against Rus'," and the splitting of the Church of Rus' into Greek Catholic (also known as Uniate – though Catholics generally regard this term as derogatory – or sui juris church) and Greek Orthodox jurisdictions.

See also


  • Magocsi, Paul Robert and Ivan Pop (2005). Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3566-3. 

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

be:Берасцейская унія be-x-old:Берасьцейская унія hr:Brestska crkvena unija id:Persatuan Brest ja:ブレスト合同 pt:União de Brest ro:Uniunea de la Brest ru:Брестская уния (1596) sr:Брестовска унија uk:Берестейська унія fi:Brestin unioni