New Greek-Catholic Exarchate Erected in Ukraine

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II consented to the erection of the new archiepiscopal exarchate of Odessa-Krym, Ukraine.



According to the custom of the Eastern Churches, the decision was made by the synod of bishops of the Catholic Ukrainian Church, and received the consensus of the Pope -- a pledge of its communion with the universal Church.

The new exarchate, will cover the southeast of the country, regrouping the regions of Odessa, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Kirovohrad, and Crimea (Krym in Ukrainian). It has a population of 8,712 million inhabitants, with 70,000 Greek-Catholics served by 11 priests.

Out of respect for the Russian Orthodox Church, comprising the majority in Ukraine, the Greek-Catholic synod preferred to give the new circumscription the status of exarchate, meaning it will not be considered as part of the territory of the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine.

The Pope has also given his consent to the election of Reverend Vasyl Ivasiuk, 43, as first exarch of Odessa-Crimea, assigned to the Titular Episcopal See of Benda.

Monsignor Ivasiuk studied clandestinely in the seminary and also was ordained a priest clandestinely on August 16, 1989.

The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui juris. It has over 5.5 million faithful.

The UGCC is a church of the Byzantine rite which is in full ecclesial communion with the Pope and acknowledges his spiritual and jurisdictional authority. In this context, "rite" means liturgical, theological, spiritual, and canonical tradition.

The name Greek-Catholic Church was introduced by the Empress Maria Teresa in 1774 to distinguish this Church from the Roman Catholic and Armenian Catholic Churches.

According to statistics given by the Ukrainian Government's Committee on Religious Matters, as of January 1, 2001 the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has: 3,240 communities; 78 monasteries (1,188 monks and nuns); 12 educational institutions (1,588 students); 1,976 priests; and 2,721 churches (306 under construction).

The head of the UGCC is Major Archbishop Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, metropolitan of Lviv and Galicia.