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The Ukrainian Catholic Church a Self-Governing Church in Communion with Roman Catholic Church and other Self-Governing Churches


Development of Self-Governance in the Church

The Son of God took on human flesh in a specific historical time and a concrete place. He was a son of the Jewish nation, accepting their customs, culture, and mentality. Similarly, the Gospel of Christ—the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow—is “clothed” in the preaching of the Church with the mentality and culture of various nations. In this way, distinctive church traditions are formed, and self-governing Churches are born and grow. “Moreover, within the Church particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions.”

Patriarch Josyf Slipyj describes the particular nature of the self-governing UGCC in the following way: “The Particularity (in Ukrainian, pomisnist) of our Church lies in her unity with the past; her unity as a Church in both Ukraine and the diaspora; the oneness of mind with her Patriarch; and her unity with the Universal Church and her Head, the successor of the holy apostle Peter.”260 In accordance with her particular self-governing nature, our Church possesses a synodal structure. The Synod of Bishops holds the highest legislative and judicial authority in the Church.261 It fulfils its ministry to the people of God in matters pertaining to teaching the faith, liturgical life, and pastoral governance. The Synod of Bishops is presided over by the Patriarch, the Head and Father of the self-governing (Particular) Church.

A self-governing (Particular) Church has its own sources of Christian tradition, its own theology, spirituality, and piety (or Christian lifestyle), its own liturgical and canonical heritage; in other words, and its own ways of professing the mysteries of salvation. 262 The life of a self-governing Church is crowned by her saints, martyrs, and confessors. A very important sign of a self-governing Church is her missionary orientation, which is made manifest in preaching Christ’s Gospel to non-Christians of various nations and cultures. The full stature of the development of a self-governing Church is the Patriarchate: “A Church’s patriarchate is the visible sign of the maturity and autonomy of a self-governing Church, and a powerful force in ecclesial and national life.”3

Development of Communion among Sister Churches

304 The fullness of Christ’s Church operates in every self-governing Church that remains in communion with other self-governing Churches. The visible sign of communion among Churches is the universal Pontiff, the Pope of Rome, whose primacy in love and in teaching ministry belongs to the heritage of faith of all Christianity. Extolling Pope Saint Clement, Metropolitan Ilarion of Kyiv acknowledged him to be “the praise of martyrs, the adornment of hierarchs, and the unshakable foundation of the Church of Christ, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.”264 Communion with the Church of Rome is the sign and condition for belonging to the Universal Church. “For from the coming down of the Incarnate Word among us, all the churches in every part of the world have possessed that greatest church alone as their base and foundation.”265

305 “Around the Eucharist and sacred worship, self-governing Churches were formed within the one Church of Christ.”266 In every self-governing Church, the mystery of God’s love is fulfilled in the ministry of the Eucharist, and on this basis, the custom developed to refer to self-governing Churches as “Sister-Churches.”267 Every self-governing Church has the saving faith, an uninterrupted apostolic inheritance, and true Holy Mysteries. Thus, the name “Sister-Church” signifies the recognition of these attributes in another Church. It also emphasizes the equality of self-governing Churches.

306 The communion of Churches has been clouded by the sin of ecclesial divisions. In the history of the Sister-Churches, it became necessary to overcome consequences of human sin and weakness. An example of overcoming such ecclesial division was the communion of Churches achieved at the Council of Florence—and subsequently, on the basis of the Florentine tradition, at the Union of Brest:

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice” [Ps 95[96]:11], for the wall that divided the western and the eastern church has been removed, peace and harmony have returned, since the cornerstone, Christ, who made both one [see Eph 2:20; 2:14], has joined both sides with a very strong bond of love and peace, uniting and holding them together in a covenant of everlasting unity. 268 (Council of Florence)

The path to renewal of communion among Churches depends upon a renewed awareness of the self-governing Churches that they are Sister-Churches in the bosom of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church: “And now … the Lord is enabling us to discover ourselves as ‘Sister-Churches’ once more, in spite of the obstacles which were once raised between us.”269

Development of Ecclesial Communion within the Kyivan Metropolitanate

307 Born in the Baptism of Saint Volodymyr, the Metropolitanate of Kyiv became the Daughter-Church of the Church of Constantinople, and through her remained in communion with the Church of Rome and other self-governing Churches within the Universal Church. Despite the break in communion between the Roman and Constantinopolitan Churches, the Kyivan Metropolitanate remained in communion with both Churches. In 1596, through the Union of Brest, the Kyivan Metropolitanate, faithful to her ancient traditions, reconfirmed her communion with the Church of Rome. Thus, the UGCC is the direct heir of the Kyivan Metropolitanate, in communion with the Church of Rome.

308 Christian Churches are aware of the fact that the communion of Churches “is neither absorption nor fusion … Unity is a meeting in truth and love.”270

 This encounter leads to unity in faith and common participation in the Holy Mysteries. Our Church engages in ecumenical activity for the purpose of achieving of such communion among divided Churches, as well as renewing the internal unity of the Kyivan Metropolitanate.