Time and again, we hear certain voices claiming that the Greek-Catholics ("Uniates") "devastated" three Russian eparchies in western Ukraine after the fall of communism in the 1990s. Coincidentally, these eparchies were only founded with the Soviet takeover of the area at the end of the Second World War.
Historically, western Ukraine had been part of Kyivan Rus', the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Poland, the Austrian Empire (when it took on the name Eastern Galicia) and, finally, the Second Polish Republic. It has also been a prosperous independent principality in the eleventh century (Halych) and was briefly an independent state (the Western Ukrainian National Republic) at the end of the First World War. Aside from a brief Russian occupation at the outset of both world wars, it had never in its history been ruled by Moscow, and the Russian Orthodox Church had no historical presence there. From 1945 it simply became the religion of the occupying power.
"It is clear that the violence and persecution of a despotic power with which, on more than one occasion under Catherine II, Nicholas I and Alexander II, the Greek-Uniate Church in Russia was destroyed, cannot be considered as a proper claim to the acquisition of these properties from the Uniate Church to the schismatic one. From the very beginning, the bad faith of the new possessor was so evident as not to permit a legal settlement. The schismatic church entered into possession of the properties of the Greek-Uniates without any juridical claim, but solely by violence and fraud."
|A rare example of Alexei's appeal to UGCC|
In response to this proselytism and to the arrest of the entire Greek-Catholic episcopate, Venerable Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical letter entitled Orientales omens Ecclesias, in which he stated: "Who does not know that Patriarch Alexius I, recently elected by the dissident bishops of Russia, openly exalts and preaches defection from the Catholic Church in a letter lately addressed to the Ruthenian Church, a letter which contributes much to the persecution?"