St Josaphat and East-West Ecumenism

St Josaphat (feastday November 12/25) has been called a controversial figure in the history of East-West relations (as he was martyred by Orthodox in response to his efforts aimed at converting them to Catholicism).

St Josaphat represented the “uniate” model of church reunification i.e. to “convert” individual Orthodox and Orthodox parishes to union under Rome. He therefore represented all that Rome today rejects in its relations with Orthodoxy.

Is his veneration in the Eastern Churches eventually doomed as a result? Is he too controversial for today’s East-West ecumenical spirit?

What say you, Vox Populi?


Just as a question, how does Rome view its relation with Orthodoxy? How about the UGCC?

Hi Alex. There was a thread on this St. Josaphat on another part of CAF – I posted twice on it myself – but it didn’t generate a lot of discussion.

Possibly this thread with go farther. It’s certainly a topic that I, and many other I imagine, wonder about.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that veneration of St. Josaphat is doomed in the Eastern or Western Catholic Churches. I believe, for example, that St. Josaphat is even mentioned in the new Ukrainian Catholic Catechism, published last year in Ukraine.

Of course, I’ve heard that there are some Eastern Catholics who have icons of St. Alexis Toth in their icon corners as well. Just wondering if some Eastern Catholics might be venerating both St. Alexis and St. Josaphat already?

I dunno about St. Josaphat and his relation to modern day East-West ecumenism. All I know is that one of my beloved Catholic friends asks the intercessions of St. Josaphat “the Soul Snatcher”, that I would convert to Catholicism.

I think you are absolutely right about it - it is really a central topic in East-West relations.

On the parish level, I’ve noticed a division of our people on St Josaphat. There are those with whom his veneration is very popular (as it is in Ukraine) and then there are those who wonder why we even bother to commemorate him . . .

During a Litia service where he is mentioned, as you know, I overheard two elderly ladies mutter “Do we still honour that so and so?”

So you are dead on in having raised this issue.


I don’t know if St Josaphat was into converting anyone other than Orthodox. :wink:

I’ve heard even Ukrainian Catholic priests say critical things about his legacy. One such priest once told me, quite frankly, that the Orthodox threw themselves on him because he had “gotten under their skin so much” with all his proselytizing.

His canonization cause was apparently not popular among the people and had nasty political overtones (as did the promotion of the original Union of Brest).

In fact, the Orthodox St Athanasius of Brest, martyred by Latins for his opposition to the Union of Brest, was much more popular with Eastern Catholics who went to his shrine at Brest for his feastday on September 18th. This upset the Polish Jesuits who then concocted a feastday for St Josaphat on Sept. 16th to try and deflect devotion to Athanasius.

I have a prayerbook from the 19th century that lists the feast of St Josaphat on Sept. 16th - a date that had no connection with his life. It was later changed back to November 12/25.


St Josaphat is mentioned in all official church documents and his veneration is popular in many circles.

That doesn’t mean that his veneration isn’t a sticking point in East-West relations or that his cultus doesn’t reflect a form of ecclesial union that is no longer accepted by Rome.


Having never been a fan of ecumenism, I’m all for encouraging even more veneration of St Josaphat.

Yes, you’re correct about that. While I still have an ecumenical streak in me, I find it hard to believe any real union is near at hand for at least two reasons: 1) Saints like Josaphat and Alexis Toth present some challenges to find a way to reconcile their veneration among the faithful and 2) I see no real evidence that Rome really wants to re-write Vatican I on papal authority – and without that no Orthodox would ever sign on to any reunion scenario.

St. Josaphat is part of the UGCC’s history and we can not just pretend he didn’t happen nor that he was not canonized. I say continue to venerate him, but I also beleive that St. Athanasios of Brest deserves some recognition in the UGCC as well. In paradise, the dispute between our two Communions will seem like nothing before the everlasting glory of Our Lord. These two men of good will and courage ended up on different sides of the conflict, but they both loved the Lord with all their hearts.

You mean you disagree with Rome? That is very courageous of you sir! :wink:


You raise an important and wider point regarding saints in the lives of reunified Churches sir.

Right now, the rule is that if a community unites with Rome, it must expunge from its calendar anyone it venerated who was “anti-Rome” such as St Mark of Ephesus etc. The Ethiopian Catholics had to remove “St Pontius Pilate” from their calendar as well.

EC’s becoming Orthodox would not be expected to continue venerating St Josaphat :wink: . But I’ve spoken to Ukrainian Orthodox priests who have told me that in the event of a reunion, there is no reason why St Josaphat could not be locally honoured by those who have always honoured him. In fact, the Ukrainian Catholic bishops in Ukraine invited the Ukrainian Orthodox of the Kyivan Patriarchate to join them in commemorating an anniversary of St Josaphat - those “noncanonical” Orthodox bishops actually did come and were present in the Church during a prayer service in his honour!

However, the Western Rite Orthodox tend to continue venerating many of the Catholic post-schism saints and, in some cases, Orthodox bishops will allow their liturgical veneration. This is something that is new in Orthodoxy’s experience with Western converts.

With regard to St Josaphat, no one is suggesting that his cult will somehow be cancelled by Rome.

But there has been a lot of negativity associated with it. One way the UGCC is dealing with that is to alter the liturgical services in his honour and expunge the negative phrases aimed at the Orthodox. And the Studite Fathers will publish his service under separate cover. Their rule is that their liturgical books that they issue should be able to be used by Orthodox as well as Eastern Catholics - and in Ukraine, they are.

In fact, I think one could see in the life of St Josaphat that he was quite irenical toward the Orthodox while much of the “anti-Orthodox” sentiment expressed especially in his liturgical cultus was created later by those whose attitude is no longer the one shared by Rome.

Rome can be infallible while at the same time admitting its historical errors in this regard.


Well, I think you are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven! :slight_smile:

In fact, St Athanasius did enjoy the veneration of Eastern Catholics (for having stood up to Poland at the time). He went into the Polish Sejm and distributed little icons of the Kupyatitsky Mother of God to all the parliamentarians and then told them all that if they continued to impose the Union of Brest militarily, God would punish them etc. After the first victory by Hetman Khmelnitsky over the Poles, he was arrested by them, tortured for a long time to force him to become an EC and when he wouldn’t, he was taken into the woods, forced to dig his own grave, and was then shot twice before being buried . . . alive.


I personally do not believe that his veneration among Eastern (particularly Ukrainian) Catholics should be any more of a stumbling block to unity than the veneration of those Orthodox saints who are venerated primarily (not exclusively) because of their opposition to Rome and/or (re)union with the Roman Patriarchate. If the Orthodox can venerate the likes of St. Mark of Ephasus, why should Eastern Catholics not be permitted to venerate the likes of St. Josaphat? In a similar vein, even Western Catholics venerate certain saints who were supporters of anti-Popes during the time of the Great Western Schism.

The point is that saints ought not to be venerated because of their support or opposition to this or that person or institution. Saints ought to be venerated because of the holiness of their lives. Holiness does not mean that they are incapable of error and wrong judgment.

So, for my own two cents I’d say, insofar as he led a holy life St. Josaphat ought to continue to be venerated. But his actions of proselytism should be understood within their historical context, and then condemned as a misguided effort at achieving Church unity dependent on the historical model of Church unity in his day.

St. Josaphat, pray for us!

Master Beadsman, a blessed Pascha to you and yours!



A blessed Pascha to you too, Alex! Christ is risen!

Well, we certainly shouldn’t assume that his opinions, now that he’s in heaven, are the same ones he held while on Earth.

I don’t think this should surprise us. We live in a time of much-improved ecumenical relations, particularly (though not limited to) those between ECs and EOs.

Having spent a good deal of time around Orthodox, I can imagine what they would say about that comparison.

I know that the comparison is not a popular comparison, but it is appropriate. Again, I’m not doubting the sanctity of the likes of St. Mark of Ephasus. The point is that on the popular level he is typically revered primarily (again, not exclusively) because of his opposition to the reunion drafted at the Council of Florence. One could also say something similar about the likes of St. Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople.

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