Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat

Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat

The Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych (SSJK) is a society of putatively traditionalist priests and seminarians of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic tradition led by the priest Basil Kovpak. It is based in Riasne, Lviv, Western Ukraine. [ [ Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat - Ukrainian Rite] ] In Lviv, the Society maintains a seminary, at which currently thirty students reside, and takes care of a small convent of Basilian sisters. [ [ A Convent for Tradition in the Ukraine] Web site of the Transalpine Redemptorists] 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. 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


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 (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 to make these reforms. Who controls the liturgy becomes an important point of debate.

Critics of the SSJK point out that the SSJK's liturgical practice favours severely abbreviated services and favours imported Roman Rite devotions over the traditional and authentic practices and devotions of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Proponents counter that these "Latin" symbols and rituals, borrowed from their Roman Catholic Polish neighbors some time ago have long been practiced by Ukrainian Greek Catholics, in some cases for centuries now, 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 Vatican in recent decades has explicitly maintained that latinization was not an organic development.

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, for the SSJK holds that Church Slavonic is essential to stress necessary Catholic unity among all Slavic peoples, and to avoid particularist nationalism which has for a long time divided Slavic Christians. However, critics point out that the essence of Eastern liturgical practice is to pray in a language understandable 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 today 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 preached as well as raising issues of assimilation.


The SSJK condemns the ecumenism with the Orthodox currently practiced by both the Holy See and the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Instead the SSJK 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 however appealed this punishment at the papal Sacra Rota Romana in Vatican City. The excommunication was thereafter declared null and void by the Holy See for reason of a lack of canonical form. The excommunication process has been redone by the Cardinal. SSJK superior Kovpak's excommunication was announced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on November 21, 2007. [ [ Ukrainian priest excommunicated] ] Catholic World News, November 21, 2007. The new archbishop of Lviv declared in 2006 that his main task for this coming year was to eradicate the 'Lefebvrists' from his territory." [La Porte Latine, March 31, 2006 [ Interview with 'La Porte Latine'] La Porte Latine, March 31, 2006, by Father Jenkins, Prior of Warsaw ] ]

Ordinations in 2006

On November 22 2006, 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 direct violation of canon 1015 §2, although the Holy See has declared Williamson excommunicated, and additionally in violation 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. 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." []

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. [The Holy See has likewise declared SSPX priests to be "suspended from exercising their priestly functions" ( [ Letter of Monsignor Camille Perl, Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission] ). A minority of them - ordained before 1976 by archbishop Marcel Lefebvre for the SSPX - were and remained until now incardinated in several European dioceses. They are thus in the same position as Kovpak, who is incardinated in the Ukrainian Archdiocese of Lviv. The newly-ordained clergy, however, are not incardinated into any Ukrainian Catholic diocese, and thus are not clergy of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.] 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." [ [ Catholic World News: Byzantine Catholics decry Lefebvrite inroads into Ukraine] The accusation of "eschewing the Byzantine tradition" refers to Father Kovpak's championing of Latinising elements which were allowed into Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church practice since the 17th century, but slowly purged from it since the late 1980s.] 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 [ [ Ukrainian priest excommunicated] ]

Position of the Society

Kovpak and the SSJK maintain that, though they are in dispute with Lubomyr and, through their association with the Society of St Pius X, indirectly with Pope Benedict XVI, they are loyal to the Holy See, the Pope and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and are merely resisting 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]
* [;4472/ Обережно!!! Обман!!! - свячення лефевристів у Варшаві] (Ukrainian language)
* [ Проблема лефевризму знову загострилася у Львівській архиєпархії УГКЦ] (Ukrainian language)
* [ Priestly Ordinations of SSJK] conferred by Bishop Bernard Fellay in the Roman Rite at Warsaw, October, 2007.

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