mercredi 14 novembre 2012

Saint JOSAPHAT KONCÉVITCH (KUNCEWICZ), archevêque et martyr



Saint Josaphat

Archevêque de Polotsk et martyr

(1584-1623)

Saint Josaphat

Josaphat naquit à Wladimir, ville de Pologne, d'une famille modeste. Il reçut le nom de Jean au baptême. Sa pieuse mère déposa dans son coeur les germes d'une vertu précoce. Lorsqu'elle n'apercevait pas son fils à la maison, elle était sûre de le trouver en prière dans l'église. Ses parents le proposaient à ses frères et soeurs comme un vivant modèle de vertus. Il entrait à vingt ans dans l'Ordre des Basiliens-Unis de Pologne où il prit le nom de Josaphat.

Secrètement vendu au schisme, le supérieur de la communauté tenta vainement de porter Josaphat à la révolte contre le Saint-Père. Au grand mécontentement des schismatiques qui accablèrent le Saint d'injures et de sarcasmes, Josaphat dénonça l'archimandrite au métropolitain qui fut déposé de sa charge. Quoique simple diacre, Josaphat fit preuve d'un zèle ardent pour la conversion des non-unis et en ramena un bon nombre dans le giron de l'Église. Ordonné prêtre, le saint basilien se fit l'apôtre de la contrée, s'appliqua au ministère de la prédication et de la confession tout en pratiquant une exacte observance de ses Règles. Dieu avait doté saint Josaphat d'un talent particulier pour assister les condamnés à mort. Il visitait aussi les malades pauvres, lavait leurs pieds couverts d'ulcères et tâchait de procurer des remèdes et de la nourriture à ces miséreux.

Nommé archimandrite du couvent de la Trinité qui se composait surtout de jeunes religieux, il les forma à la vie monastique avec une vigilance toute paternelle. A l'âge de trente-huit ans, saint Josaphat Koncévitch fut sacré archevêque de Polotsk à Vilna.

Pendant que le saint archevêque se trouvait à la diète de Varsovie où plusieurs évêques avaient été convoqués, un évêque schismatique s'empara de son siège à l'improviste. Saint Josaphat s'empressa de revenir vers son troupeau pour rappeler les brebis rebelles à l'obéissance. Au moment où il voulut prendre la parole, la foule excitée par les schismatiques se rua impétueusement sur lui. Il aurait été impitoyablement massacré si la force armée n'était intervenue pour le dégager des mains des insoumis.

Le matin du 12 novembre 1623, alors qu'il priait dans la chapelle du palais épiscopal de Vitebsk, la foule en furie envahit la sainte demeure. Saint Josaphat accourut promptement au bruit de l'émeute: «Si vous en voulez à ma personne, dit-il aux assassins, me voici.» Deux hommes s'avancèrent alors vers lui; l'un d'eux le frappa au front avec une perche et l'autre lui asséna un coup de hallebarde qui lui fendit la tête. Enfin, deux coups de fusil lui percèrent le crâne. Saint Josaphat avait quarante-quatre ans lorsqu'il fut victime de ce crime sacrilège.

Résumé O.D.M.

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_josaphat.html


Saint Josaphat



Extrait de la lettre encyclique “Ecclesiam Dei”



de S.S. Pie XI (12 novembre 1923),



à l'occasion du troisième centenaire de la mort de saint Josaphat

Pour que cette unité et cette bonne entente pussent se maintenir à jamais, la Providence si sage de Dieu les marqua du sceau de la sainteté et du martyre. Cette auréole était réservée à l'archevêque de Polotsk, Josaphat, du rite slave oriental, que nous saluons à juste titre comme la plus belle gloire et le plus ferme soutien de l'Orient slave ; car on trouvera difficilement quelqu'un qui ait fait plus honneur au nom slave et plus efficacement travaillé au salut de ces populations que Josaphat, leur pasteur et apôtre, qui a versé son sang pour l'unité de la Sainte Eglise.

Puisque nous voici au troisième centenaire de ce très glorieux martyre, ce Nous est une très vive joie de rappeler le souvenir de ce si grand saint ; daigne le Seigneur, cédant aux prières plus ferventes des fidèles, susciter dans son Eglise l'esprit qui remplissait le bienheureux Martyr et Pontife Josaphat... et qui le porta à donner sa vie pour ses brebis ; puisse s'accroître le zèle du peuple chrétien pour l'unité, et ainsi l'œuvre principale de Josaphat se poursuivre jusqu'au jour où se réalisera le vœu du Christ et de tous les saints : Et il n'y aura qu'un seul bercail et qu'un seul Pasteur.

Né de parents séparés de l'unité catholique, Josaphat, qui reçut au saint baptême le nom de Jean, se consacra à la piété dès sa plus tendre enfance. Tout en suivant la splendide liturgie slave, il recherchait avant toutes choses la vérité et la gloire de Dieu ; à cette fin, et en dehors de toute considération humaine, il se tourna tout enfant vers la communion de l'unique Eglise œcuménique ou catholique, se considérant comme appelé à la communion de cette Eglise par le baptême même qu'il avait validement reçu. Bien plus, se sentant poussé par une inspiration du ciel à travailler au rétablissement de la sainte unité dans le monde entier, il comprit qu'il pouvait y contribuer dans une très large mesure s'il conservait dans le cadre de l'unité de l'Eglise universelle le rite slave oriental et l'Ordre des moines basiliens.

C'est pourquoi, reçu en 1604 parmi les Basiliens et ayant échangé le nom de Jean pour celui de Josaphat, il s'adonna tout entier à l'exercice de toutes les vertus, particulièrement de la piété et de la mortification. La vue de Jésus crucifié avait fait naître en lui, dès son enfance, l'amour de la croix, qu'il ne cessa ensuite de pratiquer à un degré éminent.

D'après Joseph Velamin Russky, métropolite de Kiev, qui avait été archimandrite de ce monastère, il fit en peu de temps de tels progrès dans la vie monastique qu'il put servir de maître aux autres. Aussi, à peine ordonné prêtre, Josaphat est lui-même nommé archimandrite et placé à la tête du monastère. Pour accomplir sa charge, il ne se contenta point de maintenir en bon état le monastère et l'église attenante et de les fortifier contre les attaques des ennemis ; mais, constatant qu'ils étaient presque abandonnés par le peuple chrétien, il résolut de s'employer à l'y ramener.

Entre temps, préoccupé avant tout de l'union de ses compatriotes avec la chaire de Pierre, il s'enquérait de tous côtés des moyens soit de la promouvoir, soit de la consolider ; surtout, il étudiait sans répit les livres liturgiques dont les Orientaux, y compris les schismatiques eux-mêmes, avaient accoutumé de se servir en accord avec les prescriptions des saints Pères.

Le “ravisseur d'âmes”

Après cette si active préparation, Josaphat se mit à l'œuvre de restauration de l'unité avec tant de force tout ensemble et de douceur, et il y réussit à tel point que ses adversaires eux-mêmes l'appelaient ravisseur d'âmes. Le nombre, en effet, est étonnant de ceux qu'il ramena à l'unique bercail de Jésus-Christ, convertis de toutes condition et origine, gens du peuple, commerçants, nobles, préfets même et administrateurs de provinces, comme nous savons que ce fut le cas pour Sokolinski de Polotsk, pour Tyszkievicz de Novgrodensk, pour Mieleczko de Smolensk.

Josaphat sur le siège de Polotsk

Mais il étendit bien plus encore son action apostolique du jour où il fut nommé évêque de l'Eglise de Polotsk. Cet apostolat a dû avoir une influence incroyable ; car on vit Josaphat donner l'exemple d'une extrême chasteté, pauvreté et austérité ; il se montrait envers les pauvres d'une telle générosité qu'il alla jusqu'à mettre en gage son omophorion pour secourir leur indigence ; se renfermant strictement dans le domaine religieux, il ne s'ingérait en rien dans les affaires politiques, encore que par des instance vives et réitérées on le pressât de se charger d'intérêts et à prendre parti dans des conflits d'ordre temporel ; enfin, il apportait à son œuvre le dévouement accompli d'un très saint évêque, travaillant sans relâche par sa parole et ses écrits à faire pénétrer la vérité. Il a publié en effet nombre d'ouvrages merveilleusement mis à la portée du peuple, entre autres sur la Primauté de saint Pierre et le baptême de saint Vladimir, et encore une apologie de l'unité catholique, un catéchisme selon la méthode du bienheureux Pierre Canisius, et d'autres travaux du même genre.

Se multipliant pour rappeler l'un et l'autre clergé à l'accomplissement attentif de ses devoirs, il obtint peu à peu, en réveillant le zèle pour le ministère sacerdotal, que le peuple, régulièrement instruit de la doctrine chrétienne et nourri de la parole divine par une prédication appropriée, se reprît à fréquenter les sacrements et les cérémonies liturgiques, et fût ramené à une vie toujours plus chrétienne.

Le témoignage du sang ; fruits du martyre

C'est ainsi que, par une large et abondante diffusion de l'esprit de Dieu, Josaphat consolida merveilleusement l'œuvre d'unité à laquelle il s'était voué. Cet affermissement, on peut même dire cette consécration, il la donna surtout le jour où il tomba martyr de cette cause, par un acte de sa pleine volonté et avec une admirable grandeur d'âme. La pensée du martyre était toujours dans son esprit, fréquemment sur ses lèvres ; le martyre, il l'appela de ses vœux au cours d'une prédication solennelle ; le martyre, enfin, il le sollicitait comme une faveur particulière de Dieu. C'est ainsi que, peu de jours avant sa mort, averti des embûches qui se tramaient contre lui, il dit : Seigneur, faites-moi la grâce de pouvoir répandre mon sang pour l'unité, ainsi que pour l'obéissance au Siège Apostolique.

Son désir fut exaucé le dimanche 12 novembre 1623 ; avec un visage où éclate la joie et qui respire la bonté, il va au-devant de ses ennemis qui l'entourent, cherchant l'apôtre de l'Unité ; il leur demande, à l'exemple de son Maître et Seigneur, de ne faire aucun mal aux siens, et se livre entre leurs mains ; frappé avec une extrême cruauté et tombé sous leurs coups, il ne cesse jusqu'au dernier soupir d'implorer de Dieu le pardon pour ses meurtriers.

Ce martyre si glorieux fut fécond en résultats ; notamment, il inspira une grande énergie et fermeté aux évêques ruthènes, qui faisaient deux mois plus tard, dans une lettre à la Sacrée Congrégation de la Propagande, la déclaration suivante : Nous nous affirmons absolument prêts à donner notre vie jusqu'au sang, comme vient de le faire l'un des nôtres, pour la foi catholique. Un nombre considérable de schismatiques, parmi lesquels les meurtriers mêmes du martyr, rentrèrent bientôt après dans la seule véritable Eglise.



Jean Kuncewicz naquit à Vladimir, en Volhynie. Placé par ses parents chez un riche négociant de Vilna, il fuyait la dissipation et consacrait tout le temps dont il pouvait disposer à l’étude et à la prière ; il ne fréquentait que les Catholiques unis au Saint-Siège, et adressait à Dieu de ferventes prières pour la conversion des protestants et des schismatiques.

Son patron, n’ayant pas d’enfants, lui offrit de l’adopter et de le constituer héritier de sa fortune, très considérable. Jean, qui n’aspirait qu’après les biens impérissables, renonça an monde, prit l’habit de Saint-Basile, au couvent de la Trinité, à Vilna (1604), et, selon une coutume encore en vigueur dans l’Église gréco-russe, il changea son nom de Baptême en celui de Josaphat.

Il y avait, à l’entrée du monastère, une petite cellule à peine digne de ce nom, qu’il choisit, parce qu’elle était voisine de l’église. C’est dans ce dit paradis, comme il l’appelait, qu’il s’ensevelit pour mener une vie d’anachorète. Promu au sacerdoce, il exerça le saint ministère avec un zèle extraordinaire. À l’église, chez lui, dans les rues, les places publiques, les hôtelleries, partout, il expliquait la doctrine catholique, avec une clarté si vive, une éloquence si émue, qu’il portait la persuasion dans l’âme des auditeurs : aussi le clergé non uni défendait-il aux siens d’entendre la parole de saint Josaphat.

Nommé évêque de Polotsk, il composa, à l’usage de son clergé, des règles qui firent refleurir la discipline ecclésiastique ; il rendit au culte son ancienne splendeur ; il restaura la cathédrale de Polotsk et plusieurs autres édifices religieux. Il fut le père des pauvres, pour lesquels il se dépouillait de tout. Une pauvre veuve éplorée lui demanda du secours ; n’ayant plus la moindre monnaie, il engagea son étole épiscopale pour lui venir en aide.

Irrités des innombrables conversions qu’il opérait chaque jour, les schismatiques méditaient sa mort ; le sachant, il offrit sa vie à Dieu : « Seigneur, dit-il, je sais que les ennemis de l’union en veulent à ma vie ; je Vous l’offre de tout cœur : puisse mon sang éteindre l’incendie causé par le schisme ! » Il fut assassiné pour la cause de la Foi et de l’unité catholique, à Vitebst, le 12 novembre 1623, Urbain VIII étant pape, Ferdinand II empereur romain germanique et Louis XIII roi de France. Pie IX l’a canonisé le 29 juin1867.


On lit au Bréviaire romain de ce jour :

« Josaphat Kuncewitz, fils de parents nobles et Catholiques, naquit à Vladimir en Volhynie. Une flèche partie du côté d’un crucifix le blessa au cœur, un jour que, tout enfant, il écoutait sa mère lui parler de la Passion du Christ.

« À vingt ans, il fit profession de vie monastique chez les Pères Basiliens. Il fut bientôt créé archimandrite de Vilna, puis archevêque de Polotsk (1617) et se montra un modèle de toutes les vertus. Ardent promoteur de l’union de l’Église Grecque avec l’Église Latine il ramena au sein mater-nel de l’Église d’innombrables hérétiques.

« Étant allé à Vitebsk faire sa visite pastorale, il se présenta lui-même à des schismatiques qui le cherchaient pour le tuer et avaient envahi la résidence archiépiscopale : « Mes petits enfants, dit-il, si c’est à moi que vous en voulez, me voici ». Ils se jettent alors sur lui, le rouent de coups, le percent de traits et le jettent au fleuve, après l’avoir achevé à coups de hache.

« Le sang du Martyr fut bienfaisant tout d’abord aux parricides eux-mêmes ; condamnés à mort, ils abjurèrent presque tous le schisme et regrettèrent leur crime (1623).

« Le Pape Urbain VIII le béatifia, et Pie IX canonisa ce défenseur de l’unité de l’Église (1867). C’est le premier Saint oriental qui reçut cet honneur. »


St. Josaphat Kuncevyc

Martyr, born in the little town of Volodymyr in Lithuania (Volyn) in 1580 or — according to some writers — 1584; died at Vitebsk, Russia, 12 November, 1623.


The saint's birth occurred in a gloomy period for the Ruthenian Church. Even as early as the beginning of the sixteenth century the Florentine Union had become a dead-letter; in the case of the Ruthenian Church, complete demoralization followed in the wake of its severance from Rome, and the whole body of its clergy became notorious alike for their gross ignorance and the viciousness of their lives. After the Union of Berest’ in 1596 theRuthenian Church was divided into two contending parties — the Uniates and those who persevered in schism — each with its own hierarchy. Among the leaders of the schismatic party, who laboured to enkindle popular hatredagainst the Uniates, Meletius Smotryckyj was conspicuous, and the most celebrated of his victims was Josaphat.

Although of a noble Ruthenian stock, Josaphat's father had devoted himself to commercial pursuits, and held the office of town-councilor. Both parents contributed to implant the seeds of piety in the heart of their child. In theschool at Volodymyr Josaphat — Johannes was the saint's baptismal name — gave evidence of unusual talent; he applied himself with the greatest zeal to the study of ecclesiastical Slav, and learned almost the entire casoslov(breviary), which from this period he began to read daily. From this source he drew his early religious education, for the unlettered clergy seldom preached or gave catechetical instruction. Owing to the straitened circumstances of his parents, he was apprenticed to the merchant Popovyc at Vilna. In this town, remarkable for the corruption of its morals and the contentions of the various religious sects, he seemed specially guarded by Providence, and became acquainted with certain excellent men (e.g. Benjamin Rutski), under whose direction he advanced in learning and in virtue.

At the age of twenty-four (1604) he entered the Basilian monastery of the Trinity at Vilna. The fame of hisvirtues rapidly spread, and distinguished people began to visit him. After a notable life as a layman, Rutski also joined the order, bringing with him a wide erudition. When Josaphat reached the diaconate, regular services and labour for the salvation of souls had been already begun; the number of novices steadily increased, and under Rutski — who had meanwhile been ordained priest — there began the regeneration of religious life among the Ruthenians. In 1609, after private study under the Jesuit Fabricius, Josaphat was ordained priest. He subsequently became superior in several monasteries, and on 12 November, 1617, was reluctantly consecratedBishop of Vitebsk, with right of succession to the Archbishopric of Polotsk. He became archbishop in 1618.

While each succeeding year saw fresh evidence of his fruitful labours, it also witnessed the steady growth of thehatred of the schismatic party. Finally on 12 November, 1623, an axe-stroke and a bullet brought Josaphat hismartyr's crown. After numerous miracles had occurred, a commission was appointed by Urban VIII in 1628 to inquire into the cause of Josaphat, and examined on oath 116 witnesses. Although five years had elapsed since Josaphat's death, his body was still incorrupt. In 1637 a second commission investigated the life of the martyr, and in 1643 — twenty years after his death — Josaphat was beatified. His canonization took place in 1867.

Great were the virtues of the saint. As a boy he shunned the usual games of childhood, prayed much, and lost no opportunity of assisting at the Divine services. Children especially regarded him with the greatest affection, and found in him a worthy model. As an apprentice, he devoted every leisure hour to prayer and study. At first Popovyc viewed this behaviour with displeasure, but Josaphat gradually won such a position in his esteem, that Popovyc offered him his entire fortune and his daughter's hand. But Josaphat's love for the religious life never wavered. At first without a human guide along the paths of virtue, he received all spiritual direction immediately from the Holy Ghost.

His favourite pious exercise was to make a poklony (i.e. a reverence, in which the head touches the ground) with the ejaculation: "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner." Never eating meat, he fastedmuch, wore a hair-shirt and an angular chain, slept on the bare floor, and chastised his body until the blood flowed. The Jesuits frequently urged him to set some bounds to his austerities.

From his zealous study of the liturgical books he drew many proofs of Catholic truth, using his knowledge in the composition of several works — "On the Baptism of St. Volodymyr"; "On the Falsification of the Slavic Books by the Enemies of the Metropolitan"; "On Monks and their Vows". As deacon, priest, and bishop, he was distinguished by his extraordinary zeal in the service of souls. Not alone in the church did he preach and hearconfessions, but likewise in the fields, hospitals, prisons, and even on his journeys. Even where his words of instruction might by themselves have failed, his entreaties and tears ensured him success. This zeal, united with his kindness and extraordinary love for the poor, won numbers to the Catholic Faith. Among his converts were included many important personages such as Ignatius, Patriarch of Moscow, and Emmanuel Cantacuzenus, who belonged to the family of the Greek Emperor Palæologus.

As archbishop he restored the churches; issued a catechism to the clergy with instructions that it should be learned by heart; composed rules for the priestly life, entrusting to the deacons the task of superintending their observance; assembled synods in various towns in the dioceses, and firmly opposed the Imperial Chancellor Sapieha, when he wished to make many concessions in favour of the schismatics. Throughout all his strivings and all his occupations, he continued his exemplary life as a religious, and never abated his zeal for self-mortification and prayer.


He awaited death with a certain yearning, refusing to avail himself of the opportunity of flight afforded him. After his death his influence was still greater: conversions were numerous, and veneration for him continued to extend. His feast is kept on the first Sunday after 12 November, according to the Julian Calendar. Note: His feast is currently kept on November 12 on the Universal Calendar.

GUÉPIN, Un Apòtre de l'Union des Eglises en XVIIe siècle (2 vols., Paris, 1898); CONTIERI, Vita di S. Giosafat Arcivescovo e Martire Ruteno dell' Ordine di S.Basilio il Grande (Rome, 1867); SUSZA, Cursus vitæ et certamen martyrii B. Josaphat Kuncewicz (Rome, 1665), ed. MARTINOV (Paris, 1865); SUSZA, Saulus et Paulus Ruthenæ Unionis sanguine B. Josaphat transformatus (Rome, 1666); GUÉPIN AND KALINKA, Zywot S. Józafata Kuncewicza, meczennika, arcybiskupa polockiego (Lemberg, 1885); KOZANEVYC, Zytje sv. Svjašcenomucenyka Josafata Kuncevyca (Zovkva, 1902); URBAN, Swiety Józafat Kuncewicz, biskup i meczennik (Krakow, 1906) — the two last-mentioned are popular works.

Markevyc, Josaphat. "St. Josaphat Kuncevyc." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 12 Nov. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08503b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.




St. Josaphat of Polotsk

St. Josaphat, an Eastern Rite bishop, is held up as a martyr to church unity because he died trying to bring part of the Orthodox Church into union with Rome.

In 1054, a formal split called a schism took place between the Eastern Church centered in Constantinople and the Western Church centered in Rome. Trouble between the two had been brewing for centuries because of cultural, political, and theological differences. In 1054 Cardinal Humbert was sent to Constantinople to try and reconcile the latest flare up and wound up excommunicating the patriarch. The immediate problems included an insistence on the Byzantine rite, married clergy, and the disagreement on whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. The split only grew worse from there, centering mostly on whether to except the authority of the Pope and Rome.

More than five centuries later, in what is now known as Byelorussia and the Ukraine but what was then part of Poland-Lithuania, an Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev and five Orthodox bishops decided to commit the millions of Christians under their pastoral care to reunion with Rome. Josaphat Kunsevich who was born in 1580 or 1584 was still a young boy when the Synod of Brest Litovsk took place in 1595-96, but he was witness to the results both positive and negative.

Many of the millions of Christians did not agree with the bishops decision to return to communion with the Catholic Church and both sides tried to resolve this disagreement unfortunately not only with words but with violence. Martyrs died on both sides. Josaphat was a voice of Christian peace in this dissent.

After an apprenticeship to a merchant, Josaphat turned down a partnership in the business and a marriage to enter the monastery of the Holy Trinity at Vilna in 1604. As a teenager he had found encouragement in his vocation from two Jesuits and a rector who understood his heart. And in the monastery he found another soulmate in Joseph Benjamin Rutsky. Rutsky who had joined the Byzantine Rite under orders of Pope Clement VIII after converting from Calvinism shared the young Josaphat’s passion to work for reunion with Rome. The two friends spent long hours making plans on how they could bring about that communion and reform monastic life.

The careers of the two friends parted physically when Josaphat was sent to found new houses in Rome and Rutsky was first made abbot at Vilna. Josaphat replaced Rutsky as abbot when Rutsky became metropolitan of Kiev. Josaphat immediately put into practice his early plans of reform. Because his plans tended to reflect his own extremely austere ascetic tendencies, he was not always met with joy. One community threatened to throw him into the river until his general compassion and his convincing words won them over to a few changes.

Josaphat faced even more problems when he became first bishop of Vitebsk and then Polotsk in 1617. The church there was literally and figuratively in ruins with buildings falling apart, clergy marrying two or three times, and monks and clergy everywhere not really interested in pastoral care or model Christian living. Within three years, Josaphat had rebuilt the church by holding synods, publishing a catechism to be used all over, and enforcing rules of conduct for clergy. But his most compelling argument was his own life which he spent preaching, instructing others in the faith, visiting the needy of the towns.

But despite all his work and the respect he had, the Orthodox separatists found fertile ground with they set up their own bishops in the exact same area. Meletius Smotritsky was named his rival archbishop of Polotsk. It must have hurt Josaphat to see the people he had served so faithfully break into riots when the King of Poland declared Josaphat the only legitimate archbishop. His former diocese of Vitebsk turned completely against the reunion and him along with two other cities.

But what probably hurt even more was that the very Catholics he looked to for communion opposed him as well. Catholics who should have been his support didn’t like the way he insisted on the use of the Byzantine rite instead of the Roman rite. Out of fear or ignorance, Leo Sapiah, chancellor of Lithuania, chose to believe stories that Josaphat was inciting the people to violence and instead of coming to his aid, condemned him. Actually his only act of force was when the separatists took over the church at Mogilev and he asked the civil power to help him return it to his authority.

In October 1623, Josaphat decided to return to Vitebsk to try to calm the troubles himself. He was completely aware of the danger but said, “If I am counted worthy of martyrdom, then I am not afraid to die.”

The separatists saw their chance to get rid of Josaphat and discredit him if they could only stir Josaphat’s party to strike the first blow. Then they would have an excuse to strike back. Their threats were so public that Josaphat preached on the gospel verse John 16:2, “Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.” He told the people, “You people want to kill me. You wait in ambush for me in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways, in the marketplace, everywhere. Here I am; I came to you as a shepherd. You know I would be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for union of the Church under St. Peter and his successor the Pope.”

But aside from words, Josaphat insisted that his party not react in anyway that did not show patience and forbearance. When the separatists saw that they were not getting the violent response they had hoped for they decided to wear Josaphat and the others down as they plotted more direct action. A priest named Elias went to the house where everyone was staying and shouted insults and threats to everyone he saw, focusing on calumniating Josaphat and the Church of Rome.

Josaphat knew of the plot against him and spent his day in prayer. In the evening he had a long conversation with a beggar he had invited in off the streets.

When Elias was back the next morning of November 12, the servants were at their wits’ ends and begged Josaphat’s permission to do something. Before he went off to say his office he told them they could lock Elias away if he caused trouble again. When he returned to the house he found that the servants had done just that and Josaphat let Elias out of the room.

But it was too late. The mistake had been made. Elias had not been hurt in anyway but as soon as the mob saw that Elias had been locked up they rejoiced in the excuse they had been waiting for. Bells were rung and mobs descended on the house. By the time they reached the house, Elias had been released but the mob didn’t care; they wanted the blood they had been denied for so long.

Josaphat came out in the courtyard to see the mob beating and trampling his friends and servants. He cried out, “My children what are you doing with my servants? If you have anything against me, here I am, but leave them alone!” With shouts of “Kill the papist” Josaphat was hit with a stick, then an axe, and finally shot through the head. His bloody body was dragged to the river and thrown in, along with the body of a dog who had tried to protect him.

The unsung heroes of this horrible terrorism were the Jewish people of Vitebsk. Some of the Jewish people risked their own lives to rush into the courtyard and rescue Josaphat’s friends and servants from the bloodthirsty mobs. Through their courage, lives were saved. These same Jewish people were the only ones to publicly accuse the killers and mourn the death of Josaphat while the Catholics of the city hid in fear of their lives.

As usual violence had the opposite affect from that intended. Regret and horror at how far the violence had gone and the loss of their archbishop swung public opinion over toward the Catholics and unity. Eventually even Archbishop Meletius Smotritsky, Josaphat’s rival, was reconciled with Rome. And in 1867 Josaphat became the first saint of the Eastern church to be formally canonized by Rome.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/saint-josaphat-of-polotsk/


Józef Simmler, Martyre de Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych, 1861, 

St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr

from the Liturgical Year, 1901

Josaphat Kuncewicz, contemporary with St. Francis de Sales and St. Vincent de Paul, might have been taken for a Greek monk of the eleventh century, or an ascetic of the Thebaid. A stranger to the intellectual culture of the West, he knew only the liturgical books and sacred texts used in his own church; as a priest, an archimandrite, a reformer of his Order of St. Basil, and lastly as Archbishop, he combated all his life against the consequences of the schism of Photius, and closed the struggle by culling the palm of martyrdom.


Immediately after the Mongolian invasions, Poland received into her arms, rather than conquered, the Ruthenian nation, that is to say the Slavs of the Greek rite from the Dnieper and the Dwina, who had formed around their capital and religious metropolis, Kiev, the nucleus of the power now known as Russia. The union of the new-comers with the Roman Pontiff, which a little more political insight and religious zeal might have brought about in the fourteenth century, was not concluded until 1595. This was the union of Brzesc. By the compact signed in this little town of Lithuania, the metropolitan of Kiev and the other Greek bishops declared that they returned to the communion of the holy Apostolic See. Being the spiritual superiors of half the nation, they thus completed the union of the three peoples, Ruthenian, Lithuanian, and Polish, then subject to Sigismund III. Now, a religious reform, even if decreed by a council, does not become a reality until men of God, true apostles, and if need be martyrs, come forward to consummate it. This was the vocation of St. Josaphat, the apostle and martyr of the Union of Brzesc. What he did not himself carry out was completed by his disciples. A century of glory was secured to the nation, and its political ruin was delayed for two hundred years.


But Poland left in a state of humiliating inferiority the clergy and people of the Graeco-Slavonic rite, who had taken shelter in her bosom; her politicians never admitted practically that Christians of the Greek rite could be true Catholics, on an equality with their Latin brethren. Soon, however, the Latin Poles were engaged in deadly combat with the Muscovites, and we know how the former were vanquished. Historians lay down the causes of Poland's defeat; but they usually forget the principal one, which rendered it irremediable, viz: the almost total destruction of the Union of Brzeso, the forced return to schism of the immense majority of the Ruthenians whom St. Josaphat had brought into the Catholic Church. The consummation of this execrable work contributed, far more than political circumstances or military triumphs, to establish Russia's victory. Poland, reduced to nine or ten million Latins, could no longer struggle against her former rival now become her stern ruler.

The power of the Slavs separated from Catholic unity is on the increase. Young nations, emancipated from the Mussulman yoke, have formed in the Balkan Peninsula. Fidelity to the Gaseco-Slavonian rite, identified in their eyes with their nationality and with Christianity, was alone able to save these peoples from being stamped out by the Turkish forces. Victorious over the universal enemy, they cannot forget whence came their safety: the moral and religious direction of these resuscitated nations belongs accordingly to Russia. Profiting of these advantages with consummate skill and energy, she continues to develop her influence in the East. In Asia her progress is still more prodigious. The Czar, who at the end of the eighteenth century ruled over thirty million men, now governs one hundred and twenty-five millions; and by the normal increase of an exceptionally prolific population, the Empire, within another half century, will reckon more than two hundred millions of subjects.

Unhappily for Russia and for the Church, this power is guided at present by blind prejudice. Not only is Russia separated from Catholic unity, but political interest and the recollection of ancient strifes, convince her that her greatness depends upon the triumph of what she calls orthodoxy, which is simply the Photian schism. Yet the Roman Church, ever devoted and generous, opens wide her arms to welcome back her wandering daughter; forgetting the injuries she has received, she asks but to be greeted with the name of mother. Let this word be uttered, and a whole sad past will be effaced, Russia becoming Catholic would mean an end to Islamism, and the definitive triumph of the Cross upon the Bosphorus, without any danger to Europe; the Christian empire in the East restored with a glory and a power hitherto unknown; Asia evangelized, not by a few poor isolated priests, but with the help of an authority greater than that of Charlemagne; and lastly, the Slavonic race brought into unity of faith and aspirations, for its own greater glory. This transformation will be the greatest event of the century that shall see its accomplishment; it will change the face of the world.

Is there any foundation for such hopes? Come what may, St. Josaphat will always be the patron and model of future apostles of the Union in Russia, and in the whole Graeco-Slavonic world. By his birth, education, and studies, by the bent of his piety and all his habits of life, he resembled far more the Russian monks of the present day, than the Latin prelates of his own time. He always desired the ancient Liturgy of his Church to be preserved entire; and even to his last breath he carried it out lovingly, without the least alteration or diminution, just as the first apostles of the Christian faith had brought it from Constantinople to Kiev. May prejudices born of ignorance be obliterated; and then, despised though his name now is in Russia, St. Josaphat will no sooner be known, than he will be loved and invoked by the Russians themselves. Our Graeco-Slavonian brethren cannot much longer turn a deaf ear to the invitations of the Sovereign Pontiff. Let us hope, then, that the day will come, and that before very long, when the wall of separation will crumble away for ever, and the same hymn of thanksgiving will echo at once under the dome of 'St. Peter's and the cupolas of Kiev and of St. Petersburg.

We cannot presume to add anything to these authoritative words;

the details will be filled up by the liturgical Legend.

When a child, as he was listening to his mother telling him about the Passion of Christ, a dart issued from the image of Jesus crucified and wounded him in the heart. Set on fire with the love of God, he began to devote himself with such zeal to prayer and other works of piety, that he was the admiration and the model of his older companions. At the age of twenty he became a monk under the Rule of St. Basil, and made wonderful progress in evangelical perfection. He went barefoot even in the severe winter of that country; he never ate meat, drank wine only when obliged by obedience, and wore a rough hair-shirt until his death. The flower of his chastity, which he had vowed in early youth to the Virgin Mother of God, he preserved unspotted. He soon became so renowned for virtue and learning, that in spite of his youth he was made superior of the monastery of Byten; soon afterwards he became archimandrite of Vilna; and lastly, much against his will, but to the great joy of Catholics, he was chosen Archbishop of Polock.


In this dignity he relaxed nothing of his former manner of life; and had nothing so much at heart as the divine service and the salvation of the sheep entrusted to him. He energetically defended Catholic faith and unity, and labored to the utmost of his power to bring back schismatics and heretics to communion with the See of blessed Peter. The Sovereign Pontiff and the plenitude of his power he never ceased to defend, both by preaching, and by writings full of piety and learning, against the most shameless calumnies and errors of the wicked. He vindicated episcopal rights, and restored ecclesiastical possessions which had been seized by laymen. Incredible was the number of heretics he won back to the bosom of Mother Church; and the words of the Popes bear witness how greatly he promoted the union of the Greek and Latin churches. His revenues were entirely expended in restoring the beauty of God'a house, in building dwellings for consecrated virgins, and in other pious works. So bountiful was he to the poor, that, on one occasion having nothing wherewith to supply the needs of a certain widow, he ordered his Omophorion or episcopal palium to be pawned.


The great progress made by the Catholic faith so stirred, up the hatred of wicked men against the soldier of Christ, that they determined to put him to death. He knew what was threatening him; and foretold it when preaching to the people. As he was making his pastoral visitation at Vitebsk, the murderers broke into his house, striking and wounding all whom they found. Josaphat meekly went to meet them, and accosted them kindly, saying: My little children, why do you strike my servants? If you have any complaint against me, here I am. Hereupon they rushed on him, overwhelmed him with blows, pierced him with their spears, and at length despatched him with an axe and threw his body into the river. This took place on the twelfth of November 1623, in the forty-third year of his age. His body surrounded with a miraculous light was rescued from the waters. The martyr's blood won a blessing first of all for his murderers; for, being condemned to death, they nearly all abjured their schism and repented of their crime. As the death of this great bishop was followed by many miracles, Pope Urban VIII. granted him the honors of beatification. On the third of the Calends of July, 1867, when celebrating the centenary of the Princes of the Apostles, Pius IX. in the basilica, in presence of the College of Cardinals, and of about five hundred Patri, Metropolitans, and Bishops of every rite bled from all parts of the world, solemnly enrolled among the Saints this great defender of the Church's unity, who was the first Oriental to be thus honored. Pope Leo XIII. extended his Mass and Office to the universal Church.


PRAYER
"Stir up, O Lord, we beseech thee, in thy Church "the Spirit wherewith the blessed Josaphat thy Martyr and Pontiff was filled." Thus prays our Mother today; and the Gospel likewise points to her desire of obtaining pastors like to thee, O holy Bishop! The sacred text speaks of the false shepherd, who flees at first sight of the wolf; but the homily, which explains it in the Night Office, brands equally with the title of hireling the keeper who, though he does not flee, suffers the enemy unresisted to work havoc in the fold. May the divine Shepherd, whom thou didst imitate unto the end, even unto laying down thy life for the sheep, live again in all those whom he calls, like Peter, to exercise a greater love.


Apostle of unity, second the designs of the Sovereign Pontiff, calling back his scattered sheep to the one fold. The Guardian Angels of the Slavonic race applauded thy combats: thy blood ought to produce other heroes; the graces won by the shedding of that blood still uphold the admirable population of the humble and the poor of Ruthenia, in resisting the all-powerful schism; while, on the confines of that land of martyrs, hope springs up anew with the revival of the great Basilian Order, of which thou wast the glory. May these graces overflow upon the children of the persecutors; may the present state of peace be the prelude to a full development of the light, and lead them back, in their turn, to that Rome which holds for them the promises both of time and of eternity.
St. Josphat and the Unity 

of the Catholic Church


(from the 1877 Miniature Lives of the Saints)


Saint Josaphat teaches us that all outside the one fold, schismatics, heretics, or infidels, are deadly enemies of Christ's Church; and that intimacy with them is most dangerous to our souls.



'The Apostles and their disciples had such a horror of heresy, that they would not speak one single word to those who had corrupted the truth.'--St. Irenaus.


'If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house, nor say to him, God speed you.'--2 John i. 10.

Among the conversions wrought by the martyrdom of S. Josaphat none is so wonderful as that of Meletius Smotricki. After long wavering he joined the schism, was consecrated archbishop by another systematical prelate, and, filled with fanatical hate, took part in the martyrdom of the Saint. After this he fled to the East; disgusted however with all he saw, he returned to Poland, and secretly made his submission to the Holy See. In an unguarded moment he was betrayed into signing a recantation; but he was speedily reconciled, and the penitential zeal of his remaining years testified to the sincerity of his conversion and his filial love of the Catholic Roman Church. He died A.D. 1633.

LAYMAN (Volodymyr Volynsky - 1580)

"Conrad Voronovych, councilman of the city of Volodymyr, a man approximately one hundred years of age, confirmed under oath that Reverend Father Josaphat Kuntsevych was born in Volodymyr of legitimate parents: his father Gabriel, a councilman of that city, and his mother Maryna, the daughter of a councilman of the same city."
(Testimony given before the Consistory of the Eparchy of Volodymyr: 30/3/1627)


MONK (Vilna - 1604)
"I know that he entered the Uniate Order of St. Basil the Great in the year 1604, changed his baptismal name of John to Josaphat, and received the monastic habit at the Holy Trinity monastery in Vilna from the hands of the late Metropolitan Hypatius Potij, who personally declared his allegiance to Clement VIII of blessed memory, Supreme Pontiff."
(Testimony of Gennadius Khmelnytsky before the Beatification Committee: 12/8/1637)


BISHOP (Polotsk - 1618)
"Hence, We, the King, desiring, during our reign, to enhance the greater glory of God in the Churches of our nation, to preserve due ecclesiastical order and, recognizing the need of an auxiliary bishop to aid the present Archbishop of Polotsk, Gedeon, have, upon recommendation, chosen a very capable monk, Josaphat Kuntsevych, to fill the post of auxiliary to the present archbishop, and to succeed him, upon the archbishop's demise, to the bishoprics of Polotsk, Vitebsk, and Mstyslav . This act we do attest with our title and signature."
(Charter of Sigismund III, issued in Warsaw: 28/6/1617)


MARTYR (Vitebsk - 1623)
"... Josaphat Kuntsevych, Archbishop of Polotsk ... on the 12th of November, 1623, after celebrating the matins service, left the church in the early hours of the morning to prepare himself for the Sunday Pontifical Liturgy. Meanwhile the citizens of Vitebsk, carrying firearms and other weapons, rose up against him with hostile intent and laid seige to the archbishop's palace, and after occupying it - brutally murdered him."


SAINT (Rome - 1867)
"Pius, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God . . . For the honor of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, for the enhancement of the Catholic Faith, and for the increase and beauty of the Christian religion, by the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own power, after mature deliberation and frequent invocation of God's help, and following the advice of our worthy brothers of the Holy Roman Church, the Cardinals, Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops, We declare the said Blessed Josaphat, Archbishop of Polotsk, of the Eastern Rite of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, a SAINT, and place him on the list of the holy martyrs...."
(The Bull of Pius IX declaring Josaphat Kuntsevych a Saint: 29/6/1867)

Hymn: Deus, tuorum militum


O God, of those that fought Thy fight,
Portion, and prize, and crown of light,
Break every bond of sin and shame
As now we praise Thy Martyr's name.

He recked not of the world's allure,
But sin and pomp of sin forswore:
Knew all their gall, and passed them by,
And reached the throne prepared on high.

Bravely the course of pain he ran,
And bare his torments as a man:
For love of Thee his blood outpoured,
And thus obtained the great reward.

With humble voice and suppliant word
We pray Thee therefore, holy Lord,
While we thy Martyr's feast-day keep,
Forgive Thy loved and erring sheep.

All honor, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to Thee,
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.
Amen
(Roman Breviary)        
SOURCE : http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Josaphat.html



Josaphat of Poland BM (RM)
(also known as Joseph Polotsk)

Born at Vladimir, Volhynia, Poland, 1584; died at Vitebsk, 1623; canonized 1867; feast day formerly on November 14.


John Kunsevich was born at a time when the attempts of some Christians to bring about a reunion between Rome and the Russian Orthodox Christians were causing deep dissension. Poland had annexed the Ruthenian countries--Byelorussia and the Ukraine-- during the 14th century. In 1595, with the approval of Clement VIII and the Polish government, a synod at Brest-Litovsk, Lithuania, agreed on the unification of the schismatic Greek bishops with the Latin bishops, and on their joint union with Rome.

But the decisions of leaders in isolation from those affected means little. The union failed to take root in the hearts of the 10 million Ruthenians and, instead of union between two churches, a third arose--the Ruthenian Catholic Church that affiliated itself with Rome but kept the oriental rites.

Of these three churches it was the Ruthenian Catholic Church that, being the most recent and therefore also the most revolutionary, aroused the greatest anger on the part of those who, either from principle or calculating interest, were conservatives. The familiar cries arose of indignation, the same cries we hear even today from those who are bound by routine. And, of course, there was the normal squabble for power over appointments.

Only the blood of a martyr can overcome such differences by converting even the hardest of hearts. And so Ruthenia, which was just one example of the eternal problem of minorities, was awaiting its martyr. A rare sort of man was needed, one who was sufficiently dedicated to God not to swear allegiance to anyone else, and sufficiently involved in events to be able to change their course. Such a man was Josaphat, who was baptized John.

Josaphat's father was a Catholic burger of a good family. He sent young John to the local school and then apprenticed him to a merchant at Vilna. John wasn't terrible successful because his interests were in the church. Instead of pursuing the trade, he learned church Slavonic, the language of the Byzantine liturgy, so that he could assist more ably at divine worship and recite some of the lengthy Byzantine office each day. He refused a partnership in the business and marriage to his master's daughter.

At this time he became acquainted with Peter Arcudius, rector of the Basilian college and Vilna, and two Jesuits, Valentine Fabricius and Gregory Gruzevsky, who encouraged his liturgical studies. John soon realized that the quarrel between the three churches was more in need of good men than good arguments. Though inexperienced in life, John's heart was devoted to God. His main idea was to reconcile the best of both parties; the rest would follow naturally.

In 1604 John persuaded his friend Joseph Benjamin Rutsky (a convert from Calvinism who had been induced by Pope Clement VIII to join the Byzantine rite against his personal wishes) to enter with him the Order of Saint Basil at Holy Trinity monastery in Vilna. At this time John took the name Josaphat. In 1609 he was ordained a priest and soon had a reputation as a compelling preacher and a leading advocate for the union of the Ukrainian Church with Rome. Together the two young monks devised schemes for promoting union and reforming Ruthenian monastic observance.

Josaphat lived simply and engaged in such extreme mortifications that he was chastised by even the most austere monks. The abbot held separatist views, so Josaphat's studies were cut short and he was sent to found new houses in Poland at Byten and Zyrowice.

His friend Joseph Rutsky became abbot of Holy Trinity, and when Rutsky was named metropolitan of Kiev in 1614, Josaphat returned to Holy Trinity as abbot of the monastery. Josaphat accompanied Rutsky to his new cathedral and visited the monastery of The Caves at Kiev. The monks threatened to throw Josaphat, a reformer, into the river, because they were content under their relaxed rule. He was unable to reform them, but his character generated their goodwill.

In 1617 he was elected first bishop of Vitebsk, Russia, with the right of succession to Polotsk (in modern Lithuania or Byelorussia), and a few months later became archbishop at age 39 when Archbishop Brolnitsky (who favored the dissident Greeks) died.

He found the diocese in deplorable condition--there was widespread opposition to Rome, married clergy, lax discipline, churches in a rundown state. The more religious people were inclined to schism through fear of arbitrary Roman interference with their worship and customs. To put into effect his reforms, Josaphat sent for some of his brethren from Vilna to help him, called synods, wrote a catechism, set down rules for his clergy, fought the interference of laymen in ecclesiastical affairs, and preached and tended his flock as personally as he could. By 1620 the reforms had some effect. Josaphat's virtues and reasonableness gained him much support.

The dispute between East and West, however, was breaking his see asunder; there was much bitterness and violence on both sides. The laity was confused. The secular rulers were causing havoc in church affairs. Around 1620 Metetius Smotritsky was appointed archbishop of Polotsk by a group of dissident bishops and began to sow the seeds of dissension, claiming that Josaphat was really a Latin priest, declaring that his people would be forced to become Latins, too, and that Roman Catholicism was not the traditional Christianity of the Ruthenian people.

Returning from Warsaw, Poland, Josaphat found that some of his support was becoming shaky; the monk Silvester had persuaded Vitebsk, Mogilev, and Orcha to the side of Metetius. The nobility and many of the people, especially those of the episcopal city who knew Josaphat well, adhered strongly to the union. But Josaphat could do little with these three cities.

Riots broke out and people chose sides, when the king of Poland proclaimed that Josaphat was the legitimate archbishop of Polotsk. Josaphat was falsely accused of fomenting trouble and using force against the dissidents by the chancellor of Lithuania, Leon Sapieha, a Roman Catholic, thus stirring up further dissent. Leon was afraid of the potential for political unrest due to these disturbances, and lent to willing an ear to the heated charges of the dissidents outside of Poland. In 1622, Sapieha wrote that Josaphat had caused the violence in the maintenance of the union and put the kingdom in peril from the Zaporozhsky Cossacks by stirring up discord among the people. The accusations were made in general terms and demonstrated to be false by contemporary testimony from both sides. Josaphat was, however, guilty of invoking civil power to recover the church at Mogilev from the dissidents.

Thus, Josaphat met opposition and misunderstanding on both sides. He was not given the support he should have received from the Latin bishops of Poland because of his insistence on maintaining Byzantine rites and customs, and accused by the Orthodox of being Roman. He stoically held firm and determined to appear personally in Vitebsk, the hotbed of opposition, in 1623 to meet it head on despite threats of violence against him.

He declined a proffered military escort and strived instead to bring order knowing that some of his opponents hated him enough to kill him if they could do so. He once addressed an angry mob with the words, "I, your shepherd, am happy to die for you." On Nov. 12, 1623, this is precisely what happened.

A priest named Elias, who had harassed Josaphat several times previously, was locked up by one of Josaphat's deacons when Elias again abused the archbishop. A mob assembled demanding Elias's release, and though Josaphat released Elias with a warning, they broke into his home and beat Josaphat's attendants.

Saint Josaphat went outside to beg them not to harm his servants and was murdered by the mob crying 'Kill the papist!' He was beaten over the head with a halberd and shot to death by the mob, and his body thrown into the Dvina River at Vitebsk, Russia. Jesus had said that this is how those who offended little children should be punished. Josaphat had only offended little spirits. He wanted to make his contemporaries see a world in which there were no longer Ruthenians, Poles, Russians, Greeks, Latins, Schismatics, or Uniates but only Christians, children of the same Father, belonging to the same faith.

Saint Josaphat was the first of the Oriental Catholics to be formally canonized in Rome (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Walsh, White).

In art Saint Josaphat is depicted as a Polish bishop with an axe (Roeder), or with a chalice, crown, or as a winged deacon (White).


San Giosafat Kuncewycz Vescovo e martire


Wolodymyr in Volynia, Ucraina, 1580 - Vitesbk, Bielorussia, 12 novembre 1623

Nasce a Wolodymyr in Volynia (Ucraina) nel 1580 e viene ricordato come il simbolo di una Russia ferita dalle lotte tra ortodossi e uniati. La diocesi di Polock si trovava in Rutenia, regione che dalla Russia era passata in parte sotto il dominio del Re di Polonia, Sigismondo III. La fede dei Polacchi era quella cattolica romana; in Rutenia invece, come nel resto della Russia, i fedeli aderivano alla Chiesa greco-ortodossa. Si tentò allora un'unione della Chiesa greca con quella latina. Si mantennero cioè i riti e i sacerdoti ortodossi, ma si ristabilì la comunione con Roma. Questa Chiesa, detta «uniate», incontrò l'approvazione del Re di Polonia e del Papa Clemente VIII. Gli ortodossi, però, accusavano di tradimento gli uniati, che non erano ben accetti nemmeno dai cattolici di rito latino. Giovanni Kuncevitz, che prese il nome di Giosafat, fu il grande difensore della Chiesa uniate. A vent'anni era entrato tra i monaci basiliani. Monaco, priore, abate e finalmente arcivescovo di Polock, intraprese una riforma dei costumi monastici della regione rutena, migliorando così la Chiesa uniate. Ma a causa del suo operato nel 1623 un gruppo di ortodossi lo assalì e lo uccise a colpi di spada e di moschetto. (Avvenire)

Patronato: Ecumenisti

Emblema: Bastone pastorale, Palma

Martirologio Romano: Memoria della passione di san Giosafat (Giovanni) Kuncewicz, vescovo di Polotzk e martire, che spinse con costante zelo il suo gregge all’unità cattolica, coltivò con amorevole devozione il rito bizantino-slavo e, a Vitebsk in Bielorussia, a quel tempo sotto la giurisdizione polacca, crudelmente assalito in un tumulto dalla folla a lui avversa, morì per l’unità della Chiesa e per la verità cattolica.

OMELIA SU SAN GIOSAFAT

San Giosafat dette tutta la sua vita, fino alla morte, spargendo il suo sangue, per questa unica intenzione: ricondurre all’ovile di Cristo tutte le anime, riconciliare con la Sede Romana del Vicario di Cristo, principio dell’unità della Chiesa, le chiese scismatiche.

San Giòsafat Kuncewicz, inviato giovanissimo a Vilna per impratichirsi nel commercio, assisté alle lotte fra Ruteni uniti e dissidenti, orientandosi ben presto verso la Chiesa unita, allora poco numerosa e perseguitata. Ritiratosi nell’antico monastero basiliano della SS. Trinità, mutò il nome da Giovanni in quello di Giosafat e visse per alcuni anni da eremita. Scrisse anche alcune opere per dimostrare l’origine cattolica della Chiesa rutena e la sua dipendenza primitiva dalla Santa Sede e per propugnare la riforma dei monasteri di rito bizantino e il celibato del clero. Il suo esempio ripopolò di monaci "uniati" il monastero e Giosafat dovette fondarne altri a Byten e a Zyrowice (1613). Creato vescovo titolare di Vitebsk e poi di Polock, ristabilì l’ordine nella diocesi, restaurò chiese, riformò il clero. Ma ben presto sorsero violente opposizioni da parte dei dissidenti: nell’autunno del 1623, mentre usciva dalla chiesa dove aveva celebrato le sacre funzioni, Giosafat fu ucciso e buttato nella Dvina. Vent’anni dopo la sua morte fu beatificato (1643). Fu canonizzato nel 1867.

Meditando sul martirio del santo, alla luce degli eventi ultimi possiamo ben dire quanta ragione avesse san Giosafat ad agire così, ragione non già umana, ma divina. Cari fratelli, certamente non ignorate la situazione attuale in Russia, là dove la chiesa ortodossa, divisa in sé stessa, non ha il capo voluto da Cristo, quel capo al quale furono date le chiavi del regno dei cieli. Mancando di tale capo, i patriarchi, i metropoliti ecc. (non tutti, per fortuna, ma molti di loro) sono divenuti strumenti della propaganda atea più sfacciata. Leggete le opere di quel cristiano ortodosso sincero e buono, scismatico purtroppo anche lui, che è Solgenicyn; leggete soprattutto la lettera che scrisse una decina di anni fa al patriarca Pimen, in cui lo scongiurò, lui laico, di non farsi strumento della propaganda atea.

Il sacerdozio, strumento di Dio per la salvezza, per la santificazione delle anime, per la diffusione del regno di Cristo nel mondo, può diventare strumento di Satana quando si fa propagatore di ateismo. È proprio quello che accade nella Russia di oggi. Quando leggo certe interviste al patriarca Pimen (in Jesus e altrove), mi sbalordiscono sempre l’ingenuità, la superficialità e l’ignoranza della cristianità occidentale davanti agli eventi russi. Le nostre intenzioni sono buone, non v’è dubbio; tutti noi sentiamo compassione per i fratelli russi che soffrono (bisogna essere davvero maligni per non sentire e provare gli stessi dolori di loro). Però, cari fratelli, le intenzioni buone non bastano. Bisogna anche avere la ragione pronta, la ragione prudente, la ragione dotata di sapienza e d’intelligenza come vuole il Signore, per sapere quale sia il bene, onde potere realizzarlo anche a costo di sacrifici! Quindi non basta solo un generico amore. L’amore vero è sempre fondato sulla verità e sulla conoscenza del bene.

San Giòsafat Kuncewicz, pur essendo nato in una famiglia ortodossa scismatica, fu incrollabilmente fedele alla sede di Pietro grazie all’esempio di tutti i Padri della Chiesa, anche quelli della Chiesa orientale, che non ruppero l’unità della Chiesa cattolica (= "universale"). Giosafat intuì che la Chiesa non può che essere universale. La Chiesa cattolica ha questa bellezza spirituale e ciò che è spirituale è sempre universale. L’universalità della Chiesa cattolica è segno della sua spiritualità e la spiritualità è a sua volta fonte di universalità. Per capire questo concetto, occorre rifarsi all’istituzione del sacerdozio. Nella Lettera agli Ebrei Cristo è proclamato sommo sacerdote, alla maniera di Melchìsedek (Eb 5, 10), non più secondo l’ordine di Aronne. Certo anche Aronne fu chiamato al sacerdozio dal Signore. Però quello di Aronne era un sacerdozio imperfetto. Perché imperfetto? Perché si trattava di un sacerdozio carnale, materiale, legato alla tribù di Levi, tribù certamente benemerita, perché nella contesa fra il Signore e il suo popolo, essa s’era schierata attorno al Signore (per questa fedeltà la tribù di Levi aveva meritato il sacerdozio). Qui si scontrano due principî: il principio del farisaismo e il principio della spiritualità cristiana, dunque cattolica. Ve lo dico francamente, cari fratelli: non c’è cristianesimo se non cattolico. La mia opinione vi apparirà poco ecumenica, ma non posso dire diversamente. Non c’è cristianesimo se non quello cattolico, universale ovvero spirituale. Ogni altra affermazione è una ricaduta nell’antico farisaismo. Che tragedia, cari fratelli, vedere Gesù scontrarsi con le anime ottuse e orgogliose dei farisei, anime piene di carnalità e di materialismo. I quali farisei proclamano: " Noi siamo il popolo eletto e guai a chi ci toglie questa elezione! Noi siamo figli di Abramo! ". Non conta essere figli di Abramo secondo la carne, bisogna esserlo secondo la fede! Ecco perché l’unica vera Chiesa è la Chiesa cristiana ovvero cattolica. C’è un’identità assoluta tra cristianesimo e cattolicesimo.

Scusate, cari fratelli, se vi dico queste cose ovvie, ma viviamo in tempi talmente confusi e pericolosi, che persino queste verità basilari potrebbero crollare. Che cosa dobbiamo fare allora? Facciamo quello che fece san Giosafat, il quale si rese conto che la Chiesa non può essere che cattolica, non tribale. Non si deve dire: qui è stanziata la tribù dei ruteni, lì la tribù dei russi, là quella degli armeni, ognuna con un suo capo. No, la chiesa è universale: un solo ovile, un solo pastore, un solo vicario di Cristo, un solo detentore delle chiavi del regno dei cieli, un solo detentore del potere supremo spirituale e temporale. Ecco qual è l’insegnamento cattolico sulla Chiesa!

Stringiamoci perciò attorno al papa, mostriamo fedeltà incrollabile verso la Santa Sede. Ex inde oritur unitas sacerdotii, da lì scaturisce l’unità del sacerdozio. Dalla sede apostolica, dalla sede di Pietro nasce l’unità della Chiesa. L’unità si fa attorno al papa o non si fa.

Certo siamo tutti angosciati dalla divisione della Chiesa, ma al Vangelo non si può derogare. La parola del Signore non è suscettibile di alterazioni e rimane in eterno. È meglio essere pochi ma fedeli, piuttosto che esseri molti ma talvolta infedeli. La vera unità è non già sociologica o orizzontale, bensì verticale, con Dio. Se ci fosse solo un cristiano su questa terra (sarebbe il pontefice, perché lui solo non può venire meno), se il papa fosse il solo fedele a Cristo, sarebbe lui la Chiesa. Quando il Verbo s’incarnò nel grembo della Vergine purissima per l’onnipotente azione dello Spirito Santo, la Chiesa non aveva bisogno di consensi sociologici. In Maria, ostensorio vivente del Dio di Israele e foederis arca in cui s’era incarnato il Cristo, c’era la Chiesa, perché in Maria c’era il Cristo. Cari fratelli, dobbiamo pensare soprannaturalmente, non in base a statistiche umane o a categorie sociologiche.

Attorno al papa ahimè (anche questo è un segno dei pessimi tempi in cui viviamo) gli animi si scindono. Molti sono già virtualmente scismatici ed è peggio esserlo virtualmente che attualmente. Come ebbe già a dire san Pio X, le eresie e gli scismi dei tempi moderni hanno questo di pericoloso, che non sono lacerazioni evidenti, ma nascoste. Il Santo Padre, quando andò negli Stati Uniti, propose la dottrina morale che da secoli è sempre quella. Se egli la rinnegasse, rinnegherebbe sé stesso, rinnegherebbe le chiavi di Pietro, che deve amministrare secondo la volontà non sua, ma del Signore. Il papa propone parole non sue, ma di Cristo, cioè di colui di cui egli è il vicario. Che cosa è successo? C’è stata una grande levata di scudi. Si è discusso a lungo su ciò che il papa aveva detto o non detto, si sono avanzate le interpretazioni più disparate, si sono proposte scappatoie per sfuggire a questa o a quella norma morale o addirittura si è criticato apertamente il pontefice. Basta leggere le varie interviste fatte a pseudoteologi che ne hanno dette di tutti i colori, spinti da astio antiromano. Tale astio è un segno dell’anticristo, perché Roma, nonostante tutte le sue difficoltà e deficienze umane, è la sola sede del vicario di Cristo.

Ci sono anche cristiani, che hanno un attaccamento al papa un po’ strano, per così dire "sentimentale", e ne apprezzano soprattutto la persona. Anche a me il santo padre come persona umana è simpaticissimo, ma la mia fedeltà a Roma non si basa su questa simpatia. Nel pontefice si deve cogliere, più che l’uomo, il vicario di Cristo. Tutti i pontefici della storia lo sapevano bene; lo sapevano anche gli orientali. Pensate: quando il papa san Leone Magno (440-461) inviò i suoi legati al concilio di Calcedonia (451), i padri conciliari si alzarono in piedi e, dopo che i legati ebbero letto la dottrina del vicario di Cristo (la cosiddetta Lettera dogmatica), proclamarono: " Per Leonem Petrus locutus est ", tramite Leone, Pietro ha parlato.

Questa è la fedeltà alla Santa Sede, fedeltà spesso sofferta. Quello che rimproveriamo a Lutero è di non essere stato fedele al papa. Egli si scandalizzò dell’uomo, si scandalizzò di Giovanni de’ Medici (Leone X) e delle sue debolezze. Non seppe vedere in lui il successore di Pietro, che, al di là di ogni debolezza, è l’incrollabile fondamento della Chiesa, perché, anche se le porte degl’inferi si scateneranno contro di lei, essa rimarrà per sempre, basandosi sulla parola di Gesù che salva.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), con il suo solito acume, fa notare che il Signore non scelse come suo vicario né il mistico Giovanni, né il dotto Paolo, bensì Pietro, che era rozzo e debole (tradì il Cristo!). Pietro, l’uomo più incostante del collegio apostolico, incapace di tenere sotto controllo le sue passioni, una volta rinnegò Gesù, un’altra volta oscillò tra entusiasmo e scetticismo, tanto da camminare sulle acque per andare incontro al Cristo e da sprofondare di lì a poco. Gesù, tendendogli la mano, lo rimproverò: " Perché hai dubitato, uomo di poca fede? ". Ecco la logica di Dio: egli fonda il sacerdozio e la Chiesa non sull’apostolo più dotto o più spirituale o più forte o più coraggioso, ma sul più fragile. Perciò non dobbiamo scandalizzarci dell’uomo.

Questo genere di problemi va trattato con prudenza. In politica è difficile veder chiaro. Oggi con grande sicumera tutti parlano di politica, come se avessero la responsabilità del governo della cosa pubblica. Vi dico sinceramente, l’attuale politica della Chiesa romana verso l’est mi amareggia molto e amareggia anche i nostri fratelli ucraini, il cui patrono era appunto san Giosafat. Vi invito a pregare per questi nostri fratelli, affinché non si scandalizzino e rimangano fedeli a Roma, nonostante un apparente disinteresse della Santa Sede per la loro causa.

La cosiddetta Ucraina Subcarpatica, che prima faceva parte della Cecoslovacchia, fu annessa dall’Unione Sovietica dopo la seconda guerra mondiale. La Chiesa fedele a Roma fu perseguitata; così la Chiesa uniate dovette sottomettersi al patriarcato di Mosca. La cosa peggiore è che questi nostri fratelli cattolici di rito orientale, questi figli spirituali di san Giosafat (nato proprio da quelle parti), non ebbero nemmeno una parola di solidarietà da parte nostra, né la magra consolazione di sentirci dire: " Stiamo dalla vostra parte ".

Cosa successe? In un incontro ecumenico di Chiese il patriarca di Mosca baldanzosamente dichiarò che aveva finalmente accolto nel grande patriarcato quei figli prodighi, i quali se ne erano andati e finalmente erano ritornati all’ovile. Il legato cattolico romano non oppose neanche una parola. Cari fratelli, questi silenzi fanno soffrire crudelmente. Finché si soffre a causa dei nemici di Dio, pazienza; ma se si soffre a causa della Chiesa, è terrificante. Ebbene i nostri fratelli ucraini sanno soffrire non solo per la Chiesa, ma spesse volte anche dalla Chiesa, senza scandalizzarsi.

Preghiamo per loro, perché san Giosafat Kuncewicz li aiuti con il suo esempio, la sua parola, il suo insegnamento, la sua celeste intercessione, affinché rimangano sempre fedeli a Roma e non si scandalizzino mai di nulla.

Un’ultima riflessione su un altro fatto che mi commuove nella vita di san Giosafat: pur avendo intuito che la Chiesa non può essere cristiana se non è cattolica e quindi legata a Roma, egli capì anche che bisognava salvaguardare le tradizioni dei padri. Da un lato l’unità, dall’altro il rispetto delle proprie tradizioni. Oggi, se uno pronuncia una parola in latino, è considerato eretico o scismatico! Questo è uccidere la nostra anima, cari fratelli! Gli ortodossi, che hanno un grande senso della ritualità e della lingua sacra, allibiti assistono all’iconoclastia della nostra chiesa romana occidentale.

Il sano e vero pluralismo (non quello vantato dai democratici a oltranza, che poi di fatto sono dei violenti) si fonda sul principio aristotelico Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur, tutto ciò che si percepisce, viene percepito secondo il modo di colui che percepisce. Quindi la realtà percepita deve essere una sola, la fede cattolica; il modo di percepirla deve essere plurimo, con rispetto della tradizione dei padri. San Giosafat non passò alla liturgia latina, che pure stimava, ma mantenne la liturgia paleoslava, che si serviva di una venerabile lingua antica (quella slava) e di solenni riti. Egli capì che la grazia del Signore non toglie nulla di ciò che c’è di buono a livello naturale e cioè alla tradizione dei nostri padri. Guai a noi, cari fratelli, se pensiamo di poter servire il Padre che è nei cieli rinnegando i padri che egli ci ha dato su questa terra! Ecco i due insegnamenti di san Giosafat: la fedeltà alla sede di Pietro e al papa, vicario di Cristo, deve essere vera (e qualche volta anche sofferta), non superficiale e sentimentale; bisogna inoltre non lasciarsi uccidere l’anima, ma stimare la tradizione dei nostri padri su questa terra. Così sia.

Nota

Poiché in questa omelia si parla di Ucraìna e di Rutenia, è doveroso fornire alcune notizie in proposito. L’Ucraìna Subcarpatica (o Transcarpàzia o Rutènia) confina a nord con la Polonia, a ovest con l’Ungheria e a sud con la Romania. Prima della seconda guerra mondiale costituiva una regione autonoma della Cecoslovacchia e non confinava con l’Unione Sovietica, ma con Polonia, Romania e Ungheria. Era abitata da Ucraìni (o Ruteni [la parola "ruteno" è la forma latinizzata di "russo"]), con minoranze di Ungheresi, Tedeschi, Ebrei, Slovacchi e Romeni. La regione manifestò sempre forti tendenze autonomistiche, che parvero concretarsi nell’ottobre del 1938, sotto la pressione tedesca, con la creazione a U” gorod di un governo ruteno. Ma già il 2 novembre 1938 la parte pianeggiante del Paese, in séguito all’arbitrato italo-tedesco di Vienna, fu ceduta all’Ungheria, che nel marzo del 1939 si annetté l’intero territorio. Occupata dalle truppe sovietiche nell’ottobre del 1944, l’Ucraina Subcarpatica il 26 giugno 1945 fu ceduta all’Unione Sovietica mediante un accordo firmato a Mosca tra il cecoslovacco Fierlinger e Molotov. Fisicamente la regione è costituita dal versante sudoccidentale dei Carpazi e da una fascia della pianura ungherese. I maggiori centri abitati si trovano ai piedi delle montagne. Il capoluogo è U” gorod. Altro centro importante è Muka‚ evo. A nord della Rutenia, una volta valicati i Carpazi Boscosi, si stende la Galizia, una regione che per metà fa parte della Polonia e per l’altra metà fa parte dell’Ucraina. Dopo un primo atto di sottomissione al papa (dicembre 1595) le Chiese rutene di Galizia e Transcarpazia proclamarono quasi unanimi l’unione con Roma nel sinodo di Brest-Litovsk del 6-10 ottobre 1596. Ci fu una fase di espansione esterna e di consolidamento interno. Tali Chiese affermarono la propria identità contro i tentativi di assorbimento messi in atto da parte sia latina (senza l’approvazione del papa) sia ortodossa. Con le spartizioni della Polonia (1772, 1793, 1795), la Chiesa rutena cattolica passata sotto il dominio russo scomparve; quella invece rimasta sotto l’Austria ebbe un periodo di ulteriore sviluppo. Con il sinodo di Leopoli (1891), infine, essa adottò quasi tutte le decisioni tridentine. Rimase irrisolta però la questione del celibato del clero. Nel 1895 il metropolita Sembratovi‚ fu creato cardinale. Dopo la prima guerra mondiale la Chiesa rutena cattolica compresa nello stato polacco continuò a svilupparsi, tant’è che la metropolìa galiziana contò più di tre milioni e mezzo di fedeli con più di 2000 parrocchie e altrettanti sacerdoti. Con la fine della seconda guerra mondiale però, sotto la pressione del governo sovietico, essa — come già s’è detto — si unì alla Chiesa patriarcale di Mosca, mentre tutti i resistenti furono deportati o dispersi. La stessa fine ebbe anche la Chiesa rutena transcarpatica. Oggi solo i ruteni emigrati in tutto il mondo possono liberamente continuare le loro antiche tradizioni canoniche, liturgiche e spirituali, pur rimanendo in comunione con la Sede Apostolica. Questa è la prova palpabile che la Chiesa cattolica è universale non solo de iure, ma anche de facto. Le antiche sedi vescovili di Galizia e di Rutenia sono usurpate da vescovi dissidenti, mentre i vescovi, i sacerdoti e i laici, fedeli all’unione con Roma, sono perseguitati, esiliati e incarcerati. Il rito ruteno è una variante, accanto al rito russo, romeno e serbo, del comune rito bizantino. Rispetto alla variante moscovita del rito bizantino, quella rutena, adottata oggi solo dai cattolici, rappresenta una lezione più antica dei testi liturgici, mentre riguardo alle cerimonie ha seguìto l’evoluzione dei Greci e alcune pratiche latine, conservando le particolarità locali. In generale, tutte le Chiese orientali cristiane con rito proprio, che, dopo la separazione conseguente allo scisma d’Oriente (1054), ristabilirono la comunione con Roma, sono dette "uniati". Questo aggettivo deriva dal russo unijat, derivato da unija "unione (delle Chiese)". I fedeli appartenenti a queste Chiese sono detti "uniati".


Autore: Padre Tomas Tyn



Voir aussi : http://catholicseeking.blogspot.ca/2011/11/st-josaphat.html

http://sainteliaschurch.blogspot.ca/2010/11/feast-of-st-josaphat-at-vatican.html

http://www.stjosaphat.ab.ca/Feasts_Holy_Days/st._Josaphat1.htm