Thursday 22 August 2019

Yosyf Botsian:
 Bishop of Lutsk and Dreamer of the Revival of Eastern Catholicism

Imagine the suffering to the heart of a bishop to see those faithful which God had entrusted to him, perishing without pastoral assistance, while he was bound hand and foot. — Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, November 1926

Yosyf Botsian (1879–1926) is one of the important figures in the twentieth-century revival of Eastern Catholicism in Ukraine. Following his formation in several intellectual centers of Austria-Hungary, Botsian was brought into the chosen circle of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky's disciples.  Appointed rector of the Lviv Theological Seminary, he helped reform the institution according to Jesuit models, emphasizing spiritual development over external discipline. He also continued scholarly work and encouraged the social engagement of both seminarians and clergy. During the First World War, Botsian was sent into exile in Russia; before they were separated, Sheptytsky secretly ordained him as bishop of Lutsk, thus closely associating Botsian with his own dream of the restoration of Eastern Catholicism throughout the historical lands of the Kyivan Metropolia. Unfortunately, Botsian was never able to occupy his see. While Lutsk was incorporated into the new Polish republic following the First World War, neither Sheptytsky and Botsian nor the Oriental Congregation could overcome the opposition of the Polish government and of some Polish Roman Catholic hierarchs to the renewal of the Byzantine rite in eastern Poland. Effectively deprived of his episcopal rank in the last years of his life, Botsian endured disappointment, persecution, illness, and an untimely death. Groomed as Sheptytsky’s successor, Botsian never fulfilled this role, and his dream of the spread of Eastern Catholicism beyond Galicia and its return to the rest of Ukraine would not be fulfilled until after his death.