The Ruthenian Catholic Church is a sui iuris Catholic Church of the Byzantine Eastern Rite. Its geographical roots are in the region called Carpatho-Ukraine and the Carpathian Mountains. Saints Cyril  and Methodius  visited the region in the 9th Century and transmitted the Christian faith in the Byzantine Rite. 
Geography and faith
The geography of this area, sometimes called Ruthenia, had a profound effect upon the faith of the region. The invasion of the Magyars in the 10th Century forced the inhabitants to take refuge in the mountains, effectively expelling the Byzantine rite and giving greater reach to the Latin Rite throughout Eastern Europe;  various rites lived side-by-side.  Portions of this region became Czechoslovakia after World War I,  and some Ruthenian Catholics "decided to become Orthodox."  Subsequent annexation to the Soviet Union after World War II involved persecution of the Ruthenian Catholic Church.  Since the collapse of Communism the Ruthenian Catholic Church in Eastern Europe has seen a resurgence in numbers of faithful and priests.
Understanding between Eastern and Latin rites
In the 19th and 20th centuries, various of the Byzantine-rite Eastern Catholics arrived in the United States of America, particularly to mining towns,  where the predominant Latin-rite Catholic hierarchy did not always receive them well. For example, Pope Pius XI issued a decree "forbidding the service of married Greek Catholic priests in the United States, requiring them to return to Europe."  While apparent misunderstandings between Eastern- and Latin-rite hierarchies occurred, the Holy See maintains that it has always held an open hand toward "the orientals [who] need have no fear at all of being compelled to abandon their lawful rites and customs if unity of faith and government is restored" (Pope Pius XII OOE §2, in which he quotes Pope Leo XIII, 1894). Over the centuries following the East-West Schism segments of the Orthodox Churches sought reunion with the Holy See; Pope Pius XII commemorated the 350th anniversary of the Ruthenian return in the quoted 1945 encyclical: "[W]e have the happiness of seeing not a few of our sons from those countries; these, since they have recognized the Chair of Peter as the center of Catholic unity, persevere with the greatest tenacity in defending and strengthening this same unity" (§3).
Perhaps especially since the Second Vatican Council, relations have improved further. The Ruthenian Church always celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Slavic language, i.e., the vernacular, which was different from the custom in the Latin Church. At the Council, the Ruthenian Church influenced decisions regarding language in the liturgy.  Furthermore, the Council reiterated: "The Catholic Church holds in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches, for in them, distinguished as they are for their venerable antiquity, there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers (Leo III, 1894) and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church" (OE §1).
Growth of Ruthenian Catholic Church
Ruthenian parishes throughout the world are open to new members, and stress acceptance of the Pope and of Catholic Church teachings,  and are not limited to immigrants from Eastern Europe, or others who are already Ruthenian. The Byzantine Ruthenian Church has become more organized in the United States of America in the late 20th Century, forming, by papal decree, requested by the Byzantine Catholic Bishop already established, "a new eparchy composed of the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming".  The various sui iuris Churches of the Catholic Church may exist in each others' respective territories: "[w]herever an hierarch of any rite is appointed outside the territorial bounds of the patriarchate, he remains attached to the hierarchy of the patriarchate of that rite, in accordance with canon law" (OE §7).
Last updated: 08-17-2005 13:58:20