The Background of the Union of Brest
Analecta OSBM, Section II, Volume XV (XXI) 1-4, 1996,
THE BACKGROUND OF THE UNION OF BREST*
The Greek patriarchs Joachim of Antioch and Jeremias II of Constantinople, who for the first time in the history of the Church in Ukraine visited its lands in 1585-6 and respectively 1588-9, could observe many defects in its church life, but also a vitality denied the Christians living under the crescent. Joachim was simply a guest on Ukrainian territory, which did not belong to his jurisdiction, though this did not prevent him from issuing instructions to the Orthodox faithful living there. Jeremias, on the other hand, was the hierarchical superior of the metropolitan province of Kiev; until his visits, however, neither he nor his predecessors since the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 had exercised any direct authority over the Kievan Church. Both patriarchs turned up in Ukraine not intentionally, but because it lay on their route to Moscow. From the Orthodox tsar they hoped to receive generous alms to payoff the contributions the Turkish authorities imposed on the holders of the patriarchal thrones.
During Joachim's stay in Lviv in 1586 he issued a letter to the brotherhood confirming its statutes.1 Clauses giving the brotherhood extensive spiritual authority free of episcopal supervision made a clash between the bishop and the brotherhood inevitable. The brotherhood was empowered to excommunicate its members, to watch over the mores of laity and clergy alike, and, most novel of all, to examine the bishop's actions and oppose them if the brotherhood thought fit. The granting of such spiritual rights to a lay group was contrary to all orthodox tradition. Ruthenian hierarchs, whatever their personal character and abilities, were too conscious of the authority with which they were invested at ordination to tolerate supervision from a portion of the flock they were to guide. Gedeon Balaban, the second member in succession of a prosperous noble family to be bishop of Lviv (1568-1607), was decidedly not one to acquiesce meekly in the usurpation of his authority.
Two years later, in 1588, Jeremias II made the brotherhood totally independent of the bishop by granting it (and the Vilna brotherhood) stauropegial status, that is, subordinating it directly to the patriarchs of Constantinople.2 The local bishop was to have no further say in the affairs of the brotherhood, even on liturgical and doctrinal matters.
The Bishop of Lviv and the Brotherhood
In the meanwhile, relations between Balaban and the brotherhood, quite amicable at the beginning of Balaban's episcopacy, had been steadily deteriorating. At the bishop's suggestion the brotherhood in 1585 began to buy Ivan Fedorov's press, left pawned at his death in Lviv in 1583. The matter proceeded slowly, since the brotherhood was interested first in finishing the rebuilding of its church of the Dormition and the building of a school. Though already in 1586 the first signs of a rift between the two parties appeared, Balaban for some time yet continued to support the brotherhood in its efforts to set up a school and a typography.
In November 1589 patriarch Jeremias, who also supported the setting up of the press, granted the brotherhood a privilege to print liturgical books and school manuals. Though this privilege was countersigned by Gedeon Balaban, as well as by bishop Cyril Terlec'kyj of Luc'k as exarch, the Lviv bishop must soon have repented of his signature. The privilege meant that the books, with which hopefully the churches of his eparchy, as also of other eparchies, would be provided, thus ending a chronic shortage, would be issued without his supervision and approbation.3 Since the manuscript copies of these texts contained endless variations, some due to scribal errors, others to local differences in usage, correct texts for printing had to be prepared, otherwise inferior or even erroneous texts and rubrics would be propagated, and even doctrinal deviations could creep in. Now, in virtue of the patriarch's privilege, the texts would be prepared and disseminated in print by a lay group and without episcopal authorization.
Thus, the brotherhood was entirely withdrawn from the bishop's jurisdiction, and he was powerless to supervise its doings. For its part, though, the brotherhood needed no urging to make use of the patriarch's authorization to oversee the bishop. Balaban found this double injury to his episcopal authority unendurable and began to look around for means to bring the bratchyky to proper submission.
One solution, drastic as it might appear at first, brought into focus vague ideas that had been in the air not long before. The unity of all Christendom was too abstract and remote. However, the union of the metropolitan province of Kiev with the Apostolic See, once it began to be considered seriously, appeared both desirable and possible.
The Church in Decline
Apart from private griefs, like Balaban's, the Ruthenian Church was suffering from evils and deficiencies that boded no contented future. It was an object of derision in the Polish-Lithuanian state; its clergy and hierarchy enjoyed none of the privileges accorded churchmen of the state Latin Church. The Ruthenian Church possessed no schools worth mentioning; its clergy as a consequence were ignorant and its upper classes were abandoning it in droves, generally as a result of spending their formative years in Latin (or Protestant) schools. First reforming Protestantism, then restored Catholicism, led by the Jesuits, aggressively penetrated into Ruthenian lands. The attacks of both one and the other against the teachings and usages of the Greek Church could not be met on the same level they were made, which left the Greek Church still more discredited. Monastic life had declined in spirit and showed little sign of rebirth. The mass of the people was uninstructed even in basic Christian truths and prayers.
Reforms within and defense of the Church outwardly needed something more than the Ruthenian Church could produce of itself.
The patriarchate of Constantinople, to which the Kievan Church belonged, far from being able to offer assistance, was itself in need of aid. The patriarch could not be expected to denounce injuries against the Ruthenian Church when he himself was a guest in the Polish-Lithuanian state and dependent on the alms he received there to retain his position. As for the problem of education in the church and of dealing effectively with western polemics, the Christians under the Turks were even further removed from the intellectual currents of the times than the Ruthenian Church.
Interest in the Ruthenian Church on the Part of the Latins
The Roman Church had always retained a concern for Christian unity, and the thought had occurred in Rome that some Ruthenian bishops might be induced to seek union with Rome.4 This hope was frequently voiced in the 1570s and 1580s, but took no concrete form and led to no results. In 1578 nuncio Giovanni Andrea Caligari was concerned about bringing to the attention of Ruthenian bishops the Acts of the Council of Florence as a means of predisposing them for a union with Rome.5 But nothing came of these and other vague plans.
Though at the time of the passage through Ruthenian lands of patriarch Jeremias II a plan was proposed to nuncio Annibale de Capua of involving both the patriarch and the Ruthenian hierarchy in talks that might foster union, this matter too was not further pursued. Interestingly, this plan was proposed not from the Catholic side, but by the Orthodox Ruthenian castellan of Brest, Adam Potij. Authorities in Rome held that the only place for theological disputes on doctrinal differences were ecumenical councils, and furthermore that the differences between Greeks and Latins had been settled once and for all in Florence in 1439.6 This position continued to be consistently maintained in Rome and after the Union of Brest prevented any joint formal meetings of the Ruthenian Catholic and Orthodox hierarchy.
In 1582-1584 the Jesuit Antonio Possevino, sent by pope Gregory XIII at the request of tsar Ivan IV to negotiate a peace between Poland and Muscovy, had conversations with prince Constantine Ostroz'kyj. The prince was by far the wealthiest and most influential Ruthenian Orthodox magnate; he was palatine of Kiev, hence senator in virtue of his office. The conversations between Ostroz'kyj and Possevino touched on the topic of Christian unity, discussed in a manner that left both parties pleased.7 But a pious hope for unity expressed in a talk between a Jesuit diplomat and an Orthodox layman, however influential both parties were, did not bring that unity concretely one step further. Possevino appears to have had a greater interest in the individual conversions of wealthy Ruthenians to the Latin Church than in an ecclesiastical union and he did not spare the Ruthenian hierarchy unjust accusations.8
A stir had been caused in 1577 by the publication of a book by another Jesuit, the noted preacher and polemicist, Peter Skarga. The work was entitled, On the Unity of the Church of God under One Pastor and was dedicated to prince Ostroz'kyj, in view of his open-minded attitude towards the Catholic Church.9 To do Skarga justice, he did lay a good part of the blame for the low level of religious culture among the Ruthenians on the oppression of them by the Latin lords, secular and religious. The Polish Jesuit had good intentions and was sincerely dismayed at the decadence of the Ruthenian Church, but he saw the primary causes of that decadence in the married clergy, the Slavic language of the liturgy, and the lack of authority of the hierarchy among the laity, rather than in the historical vicissitudes of the Kievan, as of the entire Eastern Church. His caustic expressions, tempered in the second edition of 1590, his attacks on Ruthenian ritual practices, and his call for individual conversions to the Latin Church were hardly apt to win influential Ruthenians to the idea of church union with Rome.10 Ostroz'kyj was not flattered by the dedication of the book. He bought up all the copies he could and had them burned, as Skarga complains (without naming the prince) in the preface to the second edition, Ostroz'kyj also had a reply to Skarga's book prepared at the school founded by him in his family seat Ostrih.
The Brest Synod of 1590
In June 1590 metropolitan Michael Rahoza convoked a synod of the Ruthenian Church at Brest, chosen for its central location in the metropolitanate. Rahoza had been elevated to the metropolitan see by patriarch Jeremias on 1 August 1589. His predecessor, Onysifor Divochka, had been deposed by the patriarch on the canonical grounds of bigamy, that is, Divochka had been married twice before his ordination.11 Michael Rahoza was known to be a monk of exemplary life and devoted to his Church and was the choice of the Orthodox Ruthenian nobility; at the time of his elevation he was archimandrite of Minsk.12
Strangely, on 6 August the patriarch named the bishop of Luc'k, Cyril Terlec'kyj, as his exarch, that is, a personal representative with special powers. Jeremias, in a letter to the Orthodox clergy informing them of this appointment, writes that his exarch has "superior authority in ecclesiastical matters, according to which he is to correct all bishops, to assure good order among them, to admonish them, and to depose the unworthy ones, as our vicar". 13
The nomination of Terlec'kyj as patriarchal exarch was obviously a slight against the new metropolitan. The Orthodox polemical tract Perestoroha of 1605 ascribes this appointment to the farsightedness of Jeremias, who supposedly was mistrustful of Rahoza's constancy in Orthodoxy.14 Had such doubts arisen in Jeremias' mind, it would have been simpler not to make Rahoza metropolitan. Ironically, the patriarch's exarch would turn out to be the first among the Kievan hierarchy to promote a union that would break his Church's ties with Constantinople.
The metropolitan province of Kiev at the time of the 1590 Brest synod consisted of eight eparchies, including the metropolitan's: Kiev, Volodymyr-Brest, Luc'k-Ostrih, Turiv-Pinsk, Xolm-Belz, Lviv-Kamjanec', Peremyshl'-Sambir, Polock- Vicebsk. The title of Halyc was contested between the metropolitan and the bishop of Lviv.
The bishops of Polock and Peremyshl' did not come to the 1590 synod. To avoid similar absences in the future the synod threatened with fines and eventual deposition any bishop who failed to participate without a justifiable excuse.
In their synodal letter the bishops explained that they met to remedy the many ills besetting their Church - persecutions without and disorders within. Because of the gravity of the problems, henceforth synods would be held at Brest every year on 24 June.
Though other internal conflicts existed, the greatest discord at the moment involved the bishop versus the brotherhood of Lviv. The town of Lviv also offered vivid examples of the persecution that the bishops complained about. The Lviv town administration, wholly in the hands of the Latins, restricted public religious observances by Ukrainians. Processions, even funerals, were limited to certain streets, church bells could not be rung if Latin services were in progress, Ukrainian servants in the homes of Latins were obliged to attend Latin services.15
Religious-ethnic conflicts were exacerbated after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in Poland in 1583. Now even those feasts and fasts that were common to both Greeks and Latins fell on different days, and joyous celebrations of one coincided with penitential observances of the other. Inobservance of Latin holy days by the Ukrainians was intolerable to the Latin archbishop of Lviv Demetrius Solikowski (1582-1603), and attacks on Ukrainian churches ensued.16 In 1584 bishop Balaban entered a protest in the courts against Solikowski's rabble-rousing actions.17 The two bishops made peace the following year, though the causes of conflict remained. 18 In 1590 Balaban even appealed to the Latin archbishop to help free him from "slavery" to the brotherhood, which had become an overseer of the bishops through the imprudent privileges of the patriarchs.19
The bishops in synod strictly prohibited the specific abuse of lay persons holding monasteries. The practice of presenting monasteries to lay people had brought on a disastrous decline in numbers and especially in the spiritual vitality of monastic life. While the Latin kings and magnates could be accused of fostering this abuse, a great part of the blame lay with the Orthodox nobility, who procured and used monasteries and their properties for their personal enrichment.
The synodal letter did not go beyond prohibiting these evils. The synod's one concrete proposal regarded the legal protection of church properties. At the following 1591 synod all participants were to bring whatever documents they possessed that granted endowments and rights to the Church, and the synod would decide where to establish a central archive for their safekeeping.
The First Steps towards Union
Four of the bishops, however, took a far more radical stand concerning a remedy for the troubles besetting their Church. Cyril Terlec'kyj of Luc'k, Leontij Pel'cyc'kyj of Pinsk, Gedeon Balaban of Lviv, and Dionisij Zbirujs'kyj of Xolm met in Belz, a cathedral town of the last. The meeting took place just before the Brest synod, but the statement the bishops prepared is dated 24 June, four days after the close of the synod.20 The bishops agreed in writing to seek the unity of the Church and to acknowledge the pope of Rome as their head. They laid down as a condition that the rites and discipline of their Church would remain as they were, and that the king would confirm their privileges, according to articles which they would submit.
The four bishops declared that their pastoral obligation to seek their own and their flock's salvation imposed on them the task to seek concord and unity. The situation of the Ruthenian Church was certainly critical enough to suggest various means to concerned hierarchs. We do not know what personally prompted each of the four bishops to look towards Rome for aid. Only in Balaban's case are his motives evident: the insubordination of the Lviv brotherhood had become intolerable to him and he was willing to try anything too reassert his authority over its members.
Cyril Terlec'kyj of Luc'k remains a controversial figure. To form a just opinion of his character it would be necessary to examine archival materials concerning him in their entirety, not only the highly partisan ones that were chosen for publication in the nineteenth century. Terlec'kyj has been accused of ambition and greed in seeking the union, and of far graver crimes in the discharge of his episcopal office. To what extent these accusations are just cannot be verified. Patriarch Jeremias' choice of Terlec'kyj as his exarch points to a different kind of person. It is certain, moreover, that Terlec'kyj was attached to the Eastern Church; his education had been traditional, and he knew no Latin. A favorable disposition towards Rome may have developed through acquaintance with the Latin bishop of Luc'k, Bernard Maciejowski, who throughout his episcopate (1591-1608) showed understanding and sympathy for the Ruthenian Church rare among the Polish hierarchy and assisted it, even financially. Maciejowski may have suggested to Terlec'kyj to seek consensus among the bishops for union with Rome.21
Pel'chyc'kyj and Zbirujs'kyj remain shadowy figures; we know hardly anything about them personally or about their pastoral activities. Like Terlec'kyj. they too persevered in working for the union until their deaths.
Terlec'kyj, who in the next few years appears constantly as spokesman for the other bishops, presented the Belz proposal to king Sigismund III; this may have been done not immediately, but in 1591. A response from the king came only on 18 March 1592. In his letter, the first royal statement concerning the union of the Ruthenian Church with Rome, the king praised the bishops' intention and promised his protection. The king added the significant phrase that they and others who would accept the union would enjoy the same privileges and immunities (svobody i volnosti) as Latin ecclesiastics.22 The king, however, does not appear to have taken any further steps, directly or indirectly, to encourage the bishops' action, and Rome, as we shall see, was quite ignorant as yet of the bishops' intention.
A synod met the following year, 1591, not in June, however, but in October. Reforms within the Church were considered, but no mention was made of relations with Rome.23 Though the four bishops who resolved to work for unity with Rome did not publicize their resolution, it could not be kept secret. The topic was in the air and commonly talked about. A letter of 7 September 1592 from the Lviv Stauropegian brotherhood to patriarch Jeremias reports exaggerated rumors. The letter describes the same kind of troubles in the Ruthenian Church as what the hierarchy had noted in 1590 (though the brotherhood rather onesidedly lays all the blame on the hierarchy) and notes that to remedy these evils "people consider" that it might not be a bad idea to submit to the Roman pontiff; all the usages of the Greek Church would be maintained and order would be restored.24
Potij Becomes Bishop
In January 1593 the bishop of Volodymyr-Brest, Meletij Xrebtovyc, died. Prince Ostroz'kyj began strongly to urge his friend Adam Potij, castellan of Brest, to accept the vacant episcopal post.25 Ostroz'kyj promised to seek the royal charter of nomination for the widowed Potij; in Potij, who was a senator in virtue of his office, the Ruthenian Church would obtain a well-educated and influential hierarch. Sigismund III had already promised he would give the nomination to Ostroz'kyj's candidate, in accordance with the privilege granted the prince on 21 October 1592 to act as a kind of protector over the Ruthenian Church and to recommend candidates for vacant episcopal posts.26
Potij was undecided at first and refused to make a personal request of the king for the nomination, but he knew that his powerful friends, Ostroz'kyj, Radziwill, Sapieha, would press his candidacy. As could be expected, the king's' choice fell on Potij.27 Since eastern custom demanded that all bishops be chosen from among monks, Potij before ordination received monastic tonsure, with the monastic name Ipatij.
Potij's presence as bishop was desired at the synod in June, to be held in his see of Brest. As it turned out, however, the synod had to be postponed to 1594 because of the king's absence from the country, during which no public assemblies could meet.
Potij, like many nobles, both Latin and Greek, had been attracted to the new faiths propagated in the Commonwealth and had turned Calvinist. As the Catholic revival gained strength, many of these persons returned to the Latin Church or converted to it if they had been Greek formerly. Potij, under what influences we do not know, almost alone among Ruthenian nobles gave up Calvinism not for the Latin Church, but returned to the Greek Church in which he had been baptized. Potij's return demonstrates his attachment to the faith of Rus'. From his own experience and from what he witnessed in other noble Ruthenian families he understood that his Church had to keep pace with the West and needed assistance from the West if it wanted to retain the educated classes.
Already in 1588 Potij saw in the presence of patriarch Jeremias II in Ruthenian lands a providential occasion for fostering a union of his Church with the Roman by the possibility it offered of theological discussions involving all the parties concerned: the patriarch, the Ruthenian hierarchy, and Latin bishops and theologians. He urged the Latin bishop Maciejowski of Luc'k to promote such a meeting.28
Nothing further came of this suggestion, but these ideas of Potij were surely known to Ostroz'kyj and seem to have been at least one reason why the prince wanted to see Potij bishop. After Potij's ordination Ostroz'kyj indicated that he expected to see him take concrete steps to promote church unity.
Ipatij Potij was the best-educated among the hierarchy, with wide experience; he was also attached to his Ruthenian Church and its traditions. He recognized the potential forces for renewal in the brotherhoods and when he was still castellan, around 1589, he founded a brotherhood in Brest on the model of the one in Lviv and promoted the "Ruthenian school" it conducted.29 As bishop of Volodymyr-Brest and later as metropolitan Potij continued to be concerned about Ruthenian schooling.
Prince Ostroz'kyj's Proposals
A letter of Ostroz'kyj to Potij just before the synod was scheduled to meet exhorted the new bishop to strive with all his "force and might" that at least the first steps be taken towards achieving understanding and unity with the Church of Rome.30 Little did the prince suspect how soon the day would come when he would rue the "force and might" with which the bishop of Volodymyr pursued union with Rome.
Ostroz'kyj's letter, like the brotherhood's cited above, demonstrates how widely, without arousing ire, the possibility of church union was being discussed in Ruthenian circles. In the light of this letter, in which the prince expresses his interest in accord between the Churches and proposes that Potij urge this matter before the synod and even take it to Moscow, it is clear that Potij's inclinations towards union were known and had been a factor in his elevation to the bishopric.
The prince, whose right to take a voice in church matters went unquestioned, proposed eight points for the consideration of the hierarchy. A number of these coincided with the strivings of the bishops: that all rites of the Eastern Church be preserved; that churches and church properties be protected from seizure by Latins; that after a union is concluded the Latin Church not accept any Ruthenians who might want to join it; that Ruthenian bishops and priests enjoy the same privileges as their Latin confreres and that at least some members of the hierarchy be granted seats in the Senate; that 'schools should be promoted, especially so that there might be learned priests and preachers.
Other of Ostroz'kyj's points could strike Potij only as light-minded. Ostroz'kyj's proposal that the synod send out representatives of the Kievan Church to the four oriental patriarchs (the one in Moscow was a parvenu as yet unrecognized) to promote a general union could not be taken seriously by anyone who was aware of the precarious position of the patriarchs under Turkish rule. Ottoman authorities did not view feelers in the direction of Christian unity benignly, seeing in any such inclination a threat to their rule over Christian populations. The suggestion, further, that Potij venture to Moscow with the same mission of promoting church union with the West must have struck the bishop as rash unconcern for his safety and life. Potij, who was well-versed in the history of his Church, remembered what had happened to Isidore in Moscow.
The two suggestions to extend the scope of union were unrealistic and fanciful and only for that reason unsound. What perplexed Potij and the other bishops the most, however, was Ostroz'kyj's comment that the synod concern itself with correcting certain things "thought up by men" in their Church, and the Polish text cites, by way of example, the sacraments. These words gave Potij and every other bishop cause to ponder. For all his protestations of concern for the Orthodox church, Ostroz'kyj was wavering over orthodox doctrine. The dedicatory verses of Herasym Smotryc'kyj in the Bible printed through the prince's initiative and support at his press in Ostrih in 1581 had hailed him as the person "whom God Himself has chosen to be a faithful protector of the orthodox faith received by his ancestors".31 Since those words were written, however, Ostroz'kyj had succumbed so much to the influence of the heterodox that he held up the Socinians as a model for the bishops to imitate. Potij remonstrated:
As for what your grace recommends: the way the heterodox do things, however good it may seem, if it is not on the true foundation, then as far as I'm concerned, it's only rubbish - their schools and their typographies and all their preachers. If they themselves are hostile to the Son of God and rob Him of the praise of His divine majesty, then certainly even those fruits are not pleasing to God and all their building is on sand, not on a firm support, which is Christ the Son of God, true God and Man.
With his characteristic directness Potij then remarks:
I don't like it that what your grace sees in them you find so appetizing and I'm not a little horrified to hear these things from your grace.32
Ostroz'kyj's Growing Dissatisfaction
Discussions and reflections about proceeding to a union with Rome over the next year have left little trace in documents. The metropolitan convoked a regular synod for 24 June 1594, but again it could not be held because of the king's absence from the country. Nevertheless, those who had come to Brest for the designated day in the hope that Sigismund would return in time (Rahoza, Potij, Terlec'kyj, superiors of some major monasteries, protopopy [deans], and representatives of the brotherhoods) met in a judicial session, not prohibited by the constitution, to regulate the relation of the brotherhoods to the hierarchy.33
In the course of this year a cautious feeling-out of positions and deliberations on further steps were best done orally. Yet decisions of great moment were taken at this time, and it is a pity we shall never fully know the underlying motivation.
The hierarchy drew up several documents before its two final texts, the articles of union presented in Rome and to the king and the letter asking for communion with the Church of Rome. Through the various documents we can trace a crystallization of the bishops' thoughts concerning the ills in their Church and remedies for them as well as the gradual maturation of the idea of union from the first vague allusions to a firm decision to take the momentous step. The editing of the texts from 1593 on at least was carried out chiefly by Cyril Terlec'kyj, later with the aid of Ipatij Potij, but the thoughts expressed belong to the hierarchy jointly.34
The chief discussions regarding a concrete agreement with the Roman church were conducted by Potij and Terlec'kyj with the Latin bishop of Luc'k Maciejowski. The discussions dealt with concrete matters of concern to the bishops: reinstituting order in the church by upholding the authority of the metropolitan and the bishops, removing the effects of internal anarchy fostered by the letters of Greek patriarchs that freed the brotherhoods from all control, and even considered ways of providing adequate revenues for the metropolitan see. The two Ruthenian bishops strove to arouse rnetropolitan Rahoza from his natural indecisiveness and timidity to commit himself wholeheartedly to the cause of union with Rome.35
In the course of working out an apologia of their step the bishops refer to the spread of heresy, principally Arianism, among their faithful, in combating which they have no assistance. The hierarchy was mindful of forming but a part of the Eastern Church. In itself, Ostroz'kyj's view that any union should involve the entirety of East and West was the right one. Acknowledging the position of their Church as a part of the patriarchate of Constantinople, the bishops justify their independent attempt at union with the West by citing the subjugation of the Eastern patriarchates to the infidel. Their ecclesiastical superiors (meaning the patriarchs of Constantinople) are unlikely to take any step, because even if they would, they could not. On the other hand, their Kievan Church through its own representative and together with the Constantinopolitan had already come to an agreement with Rome at Florence. Their step, therefore, was not an unheard of novelty, but a return to the traditions of their Church.36
Sometime over the next fifteen or sixteen months, by June 1595, all the bishops were won over to the idea of church union with Rome. Synodal discussions and private conversations led to a unanimous decision by the hierarchy of the Kievan Church to take steps in making the union a reality.
At the same time prince Constantine Ostroz'kyj, the protector of the Ruthenian Church, the powerful Orthodox magnate who first had broached the question of union with Rome and who had exhorted his bishops to seek a universal union of the Eastern and Western Churches, from supporter had turned into a dangerous opponent. Why benevolence turned into bitter hostility can only be guessed at; the real key to understanding the prince's motives, one feels, eludes exact analysis.
Many factors played a part. The prince enjoyed the role of an influential partner in discussions on church unity, such as those with Possevino, as long as they were on a theoretical plane, but was not sincere in desiring it when concrete measures began to be taken. He bitterly resented the conversion of his sons Constantine (1583) and Janusz (before 1587) to the Latin Church, to the extent of considering disinheriting them and of refusing to see them or even to receive letters from them, and now his resentment took hold of him.37 The prince's sense of self-importance was wounded at not playing the chief role in the discussions and negotiations undertaken and at not even being kept abreast of them. Though he had promoted Potij, he had not anticipated that Potij as pastor would take charge of the flock and consider him only as one of the sheep to be guided. Ostroz'kyj also fell under the influence of Protestants and protestantizers, and their anti-Catholic animus rubbed off on him. Finally, he lacked both strong convictions and a firm character and was easily swayed.38 Already in 1594 the bishops begin to express their fear of Ostroz'kyj and the consequent necessity for secrecy and circumspection in preparing for the union.39
Rome Learns of the Decision
The request on the part of the hierarchy for union with the Roman Church, often represented as an imposition brought about by crafty Roman and Polish machination, actually took Roman authorities by surprise. The nuncio, Germanico Malaspina, who, had there been a secret project in course to draw the Kievan Church into the Roman net, would have been directing operations, in a letter to Rome of I5 October 1594 reports with surprise the unexpected news of the Ruthenian hierarchy's decision to seek union with Rome. Two Ruthenian bishops, whose names and sees the nuncio does not give (one was Terlec'kyj, the other probably Potij) had called on the chancellor of the Crown, Jan Zamojski, and shown him a letter with the signatures and seals of all the bishops but one (to whom it had not yet been taken), in which they express their unanimous decision to acknowledge the Roman primacy and to submit to it. The bishops at the same time ask for protection from Ostroz'kyj. When Zamojski notified Malaspina of this visit, the nuncio wrote back, asking him to send the two bishops as soon as possible to him.40
This was the first that the nuncio, and through him authorities in Rome learned of the intent of the Ruthenian hierarchy. While nuncios, Jesuits, and authorities in Rome in the past had considered how to bring the Ruthenians to union with the Roman Church, by 1590 such projects, devised on too theoretical a plane, appear to have been forgotten. If authorities in Rome thought of Ruthenian lands at all now, it was not in connection with union negotiations, but negotiations with the Cossacks concerning a cause dear to Rome: an anti-Ottoman league of Christian states. The letters of nuncios in this period abound with notices concerning the successes (or defeats) of Cossack arms in skirmishes with the infidel, testifying with what interest they were followed and what hopes they raised. Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini, replying to the nuncio's letter, allowed himself some expressions of hope, but added that it was best to wait to have more definite information41
Early in February 1595 Cyril Terlec'kyj, who was in Cracow on union negotiations, paid a visit to the nuncio.42 Malaspina, as is clear from his report to Rome, found it difficult to form an opinion about this initiative of the hierarchy.43 Above all, he was afraid that the declarations by the bishops of their desire for union were being made without serious intent and was afraid to compromise the Holy See by appearing to be anxious. He encouraged Terlec'kyj, but discussed with him no concrete steps.
The letters of the bishops that Terlec'kyj brought to Cracow were submitted to a specially appointed royal commission.44 The commission finished its examination of the documents and its talks with Terlec'kyj before 17 February and recommended the matter to the king. Sigismund III issued letters to the bishops that Terlec'kyj was to take to them. If all went well and the hierarchy persevered in its intentions, around Pentecost Terlec'kyj with another bishop was to return to Cracow and from there proceed to Rome.
The correspondence of the next few months between the nuncio and Rome confirms that preparations for a union by the Kievan hierarchy, though welcomed, were in no way initiated or even directed by Rome. When it was learned that the bishop of Luc'k might come to Rome, provisions were made to receive him with all due honor, and the Secretariat of State was anxious to know all particulars on how the deliberations on the union were proceeding.
But these deliberations in themselves were underrated. In mid-April 1595 a letter was sent to the nuncio, asking for news concerning Moldavian affairs and about the union of the Ruthenians. The first matter was rather pressing, connected as it was with projects of the anti-Turkish league. As for the union, the letter asks the nuncio to take the matter up again "when more important concerns have been taken care of".45
The nuncio was equally restrained. His most revealing letter is that of 15 May 1595.46 He writes: "though nothing was easier than to urge the bishops who came to me a few months ago to proceed to Rome, I considered it more suitable to the dignity of an Apostolic Minister to avoid appearing overeager and hasty". The nuncio goes on to make the prudent observation that he first would like to be assured of the bishops' and clergy's constancy in desiring union, so that the union, once concluded, would not give rise to tumults. The nuncio, clearly, had no premonition that the hierarchy would formally decide to seek union with Rome in less than a month's time.
The Decision of the Hierarchy
In June 1595 a regular synod was held in Brest, concluded on 12/22 June. Since a document called "Articles for which we require guarantees from the Romans before we accede to unity with the Roman Church" is dated 1/11 June, discussions, at least informally, had begun already at the end of May. Public synodal discussions, as we shall see, probably lasted a few days.47
The Articles were doubtlessly first drawn up in Ruthenian. The copy sent to Rome is in Polish, signed in Slavic by five prelates: metropolitan Rahoza, bishops Potij of Volodymyr, Terlec'kyj of Luc'k, and Leontij Pel'chyc'kyj of Pinsk, and archimandrite Jonas Hohol' of Kobryn'. Eight seals are appended to this document, today in the Vatican archives; not all the seals are intelligible, but that of Balaban of Lviv is easily identified. The bishops may have added their seals as they arrived in Brest for the synod. The synod itself drew up the formal letter to the pope, stating the hierarchy's decision to seek union with the Holy Apostolic Roman See and delegating Potij and Terlec'kyj to conclude the union in Rome. This letter, drawn up in Slavic, today also in the Vatican archives, bears the signatures and seals of all eight members of the hierarchy of the Kievan Church and of Jonas Hohol', who at the synod was nominated to succeed the ailing Pel'chyc'kyj, who was to die the same year, as bishop of Pinsk.48
Though the bishops and Hohol' as bishop-designate alone signed the synodal document, it is reasonable to suppose that as usual the higher diocesan and monastic clergy (protopopy and archimandrites) also attended the synod. We can be all the more sure of their participation, since we know that even laity attended.
A letter of the nuncio to Rome from 7 July 1595, reporting on the synod and its outcome, provides valuable particulars.49 Present at the synod were many nobles (signori di qualità) - "Catholic, heretic, Ruthenian", that is, they were all Ruthenians, but belonging to three confessions; Latin Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy (rus'ka vira). The participation, or rather presence of Ruthenian nobles at synods and at elections of ecclesiastical dignitaries was an established feature of Ruthenian Church life, thus is not surprising here. That Latins and Protestants should be present may seem strange, but it must be recalled that such persons had only recently left their faith and had not as yet become fully polonized. Consequently, they retained a lively interest in the affairs of the gens Ruthena, to which they still felt they belonged, and above all in the affairs of its embodiment, the Church.
The nuncio goes on to give an example. Nicholas Sapieha, palatine of Vicebsk, a Calvinist, after listening to the spirited disputes concerning the union (hardly concluded in one day, declared he would return to the Ruthenian faith provided that the union really transpired, otherwise he would become a Latin. The nuncio also mentions that both bishops and lay people who promoted the union were threatened.
From the nuncio's letter it emerges that at the 1595 synod discussions for and against union with Rome were heated. The division of minds that was evident and the less than certain results to be expected from the union caused the metropolitan to have second thoughts about it.
Shortly before the synod Rahoza had failed to keep an appointment with Potij and Terlec'kyj at Kobryn'. The bishops, who had waited for him in vain, then wrote to him, urging him to be more resolute, though they let him know that they realized it was fear of Ostroz'kyj that kept him from exposing himself.50
Rahoza dearly would have liked to place all responsibility for the union on others — Ruthenian bishops, the king, Ruthenian nobles. Very enlightening about the metropolitan's character is his letter to the Ruthenian magnate, the palatine of Navahrudek, Theodore Skumyn Tyshkevych, written immediately after the synod, on 14 June 1595. Rahoza states that the bishops were preparing the union without him and that he asked for six weeks to think matters over before signing the Articles of Union; he goes on to ask Tyshkevych how he is to proceed.51 Tyshkevych, who responded promptly on 29 June 1595, was taken aback by Rahoza's letter, since at the same time he received from others the news that the bishops had already presented the Articles to the king in Cracow; the Articles bore Rahoza's signature and were accompanied by credentials from Rahoza. A copy of the Articles had even been sent to Tyshkevych. Since the hierarchy had already made up their mind about the union, Tyshkevych's advice was no longer of any worth, but was asked "only for derision". Tyshkevych then explains his position: being a sheep of Christ's flock, under the pastoral care of the metropolitan and the other bishops, he, like the other faithful, can only follow his pastors, and the pastors will have to give an account how they led the sheep.52
Metropolitan Rahoza's character is not alone the cause of his lack of resoluteness in the matter of the union. As metropolitan of Kiev, head of the Ruthenian Church, he must have felt the burden of the responsibility for a decision to break the ties with Constantinople that bound his Church since the baptism of Rus' and to submit it to the Roman pontiff. The pressing needs of his Church urgently called for remedies, while it was hopeless to look for any remedies in the East. But the consequences of an act of union with Rome were unforeseeable. The good to be expected was intangible, while an inkling of troublesome effects was already in the air: threats of excommunication and deposition by the patriarch, which would impress the masses and might lead to sharp conflicts within Ruthenian society, in addition to the already present fear of harm to one's person. At the end of August another letter to Tyshkevych still shows Rahoza fearful of the possible consequences ("a great turmoil, little short of bloodshed") of the union.53
Last Efforts to Convince Prince Ostroz'kyj
Four days after the synod Ipatij Potij wrote to his onetime friend and protector, prince Constantine Ostroz'kyj, in an attempt to regain him for the union cause.54 The bishop states that he had refrained from writing before anything certain had been decided or even discussed, and ridicules the rumors that were circulating that the bishops had turned traitors to their Eastern Church and were now celebrating the Latin mass on azymes. Potij reiterates his own attachment to the Ruthenian Church. He defends the deliberations of the hierarchy, and alluding to Socinians and others who meet freely, he claims the same liberty for the bishops, "who possess orderly and unbroken succession beginning from Christ Himself, the supreme pastor, and from His holy apostles". The bishops are concerned about preserving the orthodox faith and passing it on to future generations.
Potij reminds his old friend that not too long ago he himself had exhorted the bishops to seek union with Rome. The Articles of Union, a copy of which he is sending Ostroz'kyj, will demonstrate that no innovations are considered, except for the new calendar, "which is not an article of faith, but a usage which God's Church can change without harm to conscience". All feasts even with the new calendar would be celebrated as heretofore. This means that the contents of the feasts would remain the same, as shown in the example the bishops give of Epiphany (in the East — the baptism of Christ, in the West — the adoration of the Magi).
Early in July Ipatij Potij met with prince Ostroz'kyj in a final attempt to win him over to the union cause.55 Ostroz'kyj declared he was willing to reconsider his position if a new synod were held. At about the same time, however, the prince was attacking the proposed union in a letter to the Calvinist Christopher Radziwill; he was already considering joining forces with the Protestants to prevent the union from becoming a reality.
After Potij and Terlec'kyj arrived in Cracow on 17 July 1595, Potij presented Ostroz'kyj's demand for a new synod to the king. Ostroz'kyj was not the only one to desire a new synod; from a letter to him from Theodore Tyshkevych of 18 July we learn that the palatine of Navahrudek together with the Ruthenians of Vilna also wanted a meeting with the hierarchy.56
The king wrote to Ostroz'kyj on 18/28 July 1595.57 He urged the prince to reconsider his position and to support the union.58 Sigismund, like Potij, saw little profit in another synod, when one had been concluded only a month previously, but he sent two representatives to Ostroz'kyj to discuss the matter.
Ostroz'kyj, however, had not intended his proposal seriously. Already on 24 June 1595 he had sent out a circular letter to the Ruthenian population, calling upon it to oppose the hierarchy who were working for the union. In August he also sent a message to the Protestant gathering in Torun', inciting its participants to armed opposition jointly with the Orthodox against the union. 59
The nuncio meanwhile was becoming concerned about the very real threat posed by Ostroz'kyj's hostility. The prince's proposal at the Torun meeting became known. Though dissension among the various religious bodies present prevented them from forming a united front, the possibility of Protestant action in concert with Ostroz'kyj's against the union was something to be reckoned with. The nuncio was seriously worried about the danger to the two bishops chosen to go to Rome, as his weekly reports testify. The expediency of sending the bishops to Rome at this time was discussed once again. Nevertheless, the two bishops' resoluteness and hope in the success of the union overcame all fears.
Before the bishops left for Rome the nuncio considered it prudent again to have a commission hear them out and examine the documents they carried, "to be well assured of their intention and constancy". 60 All participants, cardinal George Radziwill of Cracow, the Latin bishop of Peremyshl' Laurence Gorlicki, the grand chancellor of Lithuania Leo Sapieha, with several theologians and the nuncio agreed that the bishops were proceeding "canonically, not departing from the Council of Florence".