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Since the fall of communism, the Ruthenian Catholics of the Eparchy of Uzhorod-Mukachevo have been successful in getting back a lot of property that was taken from them and turned over to the Russian Orthodox Church, such as Holy Cross Cathedral.

I am interested though to know why the monastery of St. Nicholas, the spiritual center of the Eparchy of Uzhorod-Mukachevo has not been returned. This monastery has such special significance for Ruthenian Catholics, and it played such an important role in the spirituality of Ruthenian Catholics, such as the annual pilgrimages for the feast of the Dormition.

The monastery housed the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Mukachevo, an ancient icon painted in Constantinople circa 1453 and was donated by Pope Pius XI to the Eparchy of Mukachevo in 1926.
When the monastery was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church, the icon of Our Lady of Mukachevo was taken to Moscow and replaced by a copy of the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir. To my knowledge, the Mukachevo icon is still in Moscow.

As for the monastery, it is currently a monastery of Russian Orthodox nuns.

Should not this imporatnt monastery be returned to the Ruthenian Catholic Church? Would anyone know why the monastery was not returned during the time Holy Cross Cathedral was given back? Is there a movement among Ruthenian Catholics to have the monastery back? Should not the Russian Orthodox Church return the icon of Our Lady of Mukachevo back to the Ruthenian Catholic Church?

I will appreciate any info you may provide.

[ 08-26-2002: Message edited by: griego catolico ]

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I can see wanting the icon returned but I cannot see disturbing a community of nuns. There has to be a limit somewhere of "this was mine in 1596" and "this was mine in 1946"

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Is there a copy of the icon Our Lady of Mukachevo on-line? Or may I buy it somewhere?

Unfortunately, Moscow has a number of icons in its possession that it has no right to own.

Moscow spends a lot of time attacking Rome and the Crusaders for similar theft of holy things.

Alex

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I would vote for leaving those nuns in peace, and asking for their prayers.

Then, what about founding a new monastery on a new property? Any benefactors out there willing to support the foundation of such a monastery?

Elias

As for icons, we can look for a holy saint to paint a new one too.

[ 08-26-2002: Message edited by: Hieromonk Elias ]

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The spiritual significance of that place for Subcarpathian Rusyn Greek Catholics cannot be underestimated. It would be this week, August 28, that the largest pilgrimage in all of Carpatho-Rus' would be taking place there, on the feast of the Holy Dormition. It was during that otpust in 1946 that Blessed Theodore Romzha told the tens of thousands of faithful that they were about to enter their time of martyrdom for the Faith of Christ...

If you ask me, there should be a shrine to Blessed Theodore constructed just outside the monastery entrance where all the nuns can see it and know that he is praying for them.

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Dear Fellow members,

Thank you for your replies.

I certainly do not advocate throwing out the elderly nuns who currently reside at the monastery, but I do believe that at some time in the future this monastery should be returned considering its significance to Ruthenian Catholics.

My parish library has videotapes of a pilgrimage to Uzhorod and Mukachevo by Rutheinian Catholics from the U.S. a couple of years after the fall of communism. In one section, the Catholic pilgrims visit the monastery and talk with the nuns, who graciously open the church for the Catholic pilgrims to visit. The pilgrims then sing hymns to the Theotokos, most likely the first time in over forty years that Ruthenian Catholics were able to sing in the monastery church.

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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Orthodox Catholic:
[QB]Is there a copy of the icon Our Lady of Mukachevo on-line? Or may I buy it somewhere?

Dear Alex,

A friend of mine did have a holy card of Our Lady of Mukachevo which he made from photocopying the image off a book, if I remember correctly. I will ask him, and let you know.

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[Unfortunately, Moscow has a number of icons in its possession that it has no right to own.]

Almost chocked on this one Alex. The Vatican and RCC's in the west are full of Orthodox Catholic Icons they have no right to own. We can start with the Icon o 'Our Lady of Perpetual Help' stolen from a Church in Crete and go from there.

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I've got a couple of questions. If this monastery was returned to the Ruthenian Catholics, are there enough Ruthenian monks/nuns around who would be able to live in it and sustain it? If not, what would happen to the monsatery?

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I have to interject here, in defense of the return of the Monastery of St. Nicholas to its rightful inhabitants.

There is no doubt as to the great spiritual significance of the monastery, known affectionately as "Chernecha Hora" - "Monks' Mountain" or "Hill of Monks" (literally "black mountain" in reference to the black robed monastics who lived there), to our people. A study of the history of the Eparchy of Mukachevo cannot but make one aware of the central role this sacred place played in the nurturing of the spiritual life of the eparchy. Certainly, it is not just another monastery or ecclesiastical institution and monetary value is of slight consideration in this case, when viewed against the great spiritual treasure it is for our people.

To briefly outline this historical and spiritual significance, it should be remembered that, before the cathedral church and other eparchial institutions were established in Uzhorod, it was at the St. Nicholas Monastery, that the bishop of Mukachevo resided and from where he guided the Ruthenian Church. The monastery and the See of Mukachevo are very ancient. Some say that it dates back to the times of St. Methodius. Even after the center of ecclesiastical life was transferred to the larger and more cosmopolitan city of Uzhorod, the monastery continued to play an integral role in religious life. There were "otpusty" or pilgrimages held at the monastery on every major feast of the Mother of God, the largest and most heavily attended one being that for the occasion of the feast of the Dormition, on August 28.

During the annihilation of the Greek Catholic Church in Subcarpathian Rus', the monastery played a central role in religious life up until the very end. Previous to the confiscation of St. Nicholas Monastery by the Soviet authorities on March 24, 1947, at which time the Basilian monks who had long resided there were deported to Siberia, the Dormition pilgrimages, with attendances averaging from 50 - 80 thousand, were occasions for Bishop Romzha to strengthen the faith of the people, in preparation for the trials that were clearly forthcoming. Already, a large portion of the clergy had been either killed or sent to camps, eparchial schools, printing houses and seminaries closed, and many parishes were given over to the Patriarch of Moscow. The bishop knew well of what had already transpired in Galicia in March of 1946, when the Greek Catholic Church was liquidated, expressing the supposed "will of the people." He also knew of the harm brought about by the assistance of the "initiative group" made up of a few priests who had made agreements with the Soviets, who promised them high positions in the Russian Orthodox Church if they would betray the union. Vladyka Teodor wanted to prepare his faithful for the "Good Friday" of the Eparchy of Mukachevo, that was to come.

The bishop did everything he could to encourage his flock, conversing with the priests individually, visiting most every parish in the eparchy and delivering moving sermons which inspired the people to remain steadfast and not give in to the false promises of the "dark forces of hell" (sermon of Bishop Romzha on Good Friday, 1947, at the Uzhorod cathedral) which already were raining havoc on the people of the Mukachevo Eparchy. During those interim years, between the Soviet annexation of Transcarpathia and the official liquidation of the Greek Catholic Church there, the authorities of the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) used all types of methods to "convince" the clergy and faithful that the "union" had been imposed on them against their will, that their leaders were "enemies of the people" because they were scheming with a foreign power - the Vatican, and that the Soviet government was doing them a favor, by "freely" uniting them to their "mother church," the Patriarchate of Moscow, which (indeed) had the peoples' best interests in mind.

For the otpust in the year 1947, Bishop Romzha announced that, because St. Nicholas Monastery had been confiscated by the Soviets, the pilgrimage would take place instead, at the parish church in Mukachevo. The authorities felt that if they could place the monastery in Orthodox hands, that the annual Dormition pilgrimage would be the perfect opportunity to announce the abrogation of the Union and the unification of the eparchy with the Russian Church. However, their plan was not to be successful. That year, while only around 10,000 showed up at Chernecha Hora for the Orthodox otpust, some 80,000 gathered around the Mukachevo parish church to listen to the words of their heroic bishop.

Due to the failure of the Orthodox authorities to have a significant crowd on Chernecha Hora, the Russian bishop who had been appointed to Mukachevo, Nestor, together with the other Orthodox hierarchs from Galicia, who he had invited for the "triumphant" occasion, decided not to announce the liquidation of the union at that time, but instead, to concentrate their efforts on the elimination of Bishop Romzha, a fate they accomplished on November 1 of that year, when the bishop died as a result of a lethal injection administered to him while being hospitalized, following a communist-orchestrated "accident" he was involved in, returning from the consecration of a parish church.

From this history, we can see the great importance that the St. Nicholas Monastery played thought the history of the church in Subcarpathian Rus', from the earliest times right up until the forced liquidation of the church. Both as the original seat of the Mukachevo bishopric and as a haven of spiritual graces obtained by so many people through the presence of the monastery in their religious lives, Chernecha Hora remains important and significant as the "heart" of the Ruthenian Christian Church, which is not rightfully part of the Russian Orthodox Church, but consists of the historical indigenous church of Carpathian Rus' which, like it or not, is a part of the Greek Catholic communion.

In the United States, two very important figures in the establishment of the religious life of the Carpatho-Rusyn people, Bishop Basil Takach and Mother Macrina Melynchuk, first provincial superior of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great of the Uniontown Province, established the annual pilgrimage to Mt. St. Macrina to observe the Dormition holyday, thus keeping continuity with this already well-established custom in Subcarpathian Rus'. It is no surprise that the Dormition pilgrimage quickly gained popularity in the US, since it was already in the ethos of the faithful, to observe the holyday with such an otpust. Like in Mukachevo, the faithful in the US were given a special pilgrimage icon of the Mother of God, under the popular title of "Our Lady of Perpetual Help." This icon, like the one in Mukachevo, was in the Greek style and served to inspire the people to devotion to Our Lord and the Most Holy Virgin. Even though it is held now particularly over Labor Day weekend, the Otpust retains a focus on devotion to the Mother of God and the recently-celebrated Dormition holyday.

Everyone who is even remotely familiar with the Ruthenian Metropolia in the US, knows the significance that Mt. St. Macrina in Uniontown holds for the Ruthenian clergy and faithful. The Labor Day pilgrimage alone demonstrates how much the people have made "the Mount" their own. Each year, as the busses and carloads of pilgrims arrive at the Mount, this attachment is renewed and the people immediately take up residence at Mt. St. Macrina for the duration of the pilgrimage, as if it were one of their own homes. The hospitality of the sisters, the ministry of the clergy and the renewal of old acquaintances and good friends, all come together to make the Mount a place of spiritual refreshment, intrapersonal camaraderie and a way of solidifying their identity as members of the Ruthenian Church. Moreover, the Otpust has always attracted pilgrims not only of the Ruthenian Metropolia itself, but there are always participants from other jurisdictions of the Eastern Church and even Roman Catholics. It appears that this inter-jurisdictional participation is increasing in recent years.

Very soon, those of us who are so fortunate, will assemble for yet another year's schedule of devotions, sacramental participation, liturgical prayer and social relaxation. Anyone who has ever attended the Otpust knows the wonderful feeling that is taken away from these days at the Mount.

To say that "There has to be a limit somewhere of 'this was mine in 1596' and 'this was mine in 1946'" and that this is the extent of the significance of Chernecha Hora for our people, is to show a grave misunderstanding of the heart of Ruthenian Greek Catholics, whether those ethnically Rusyn, those who have come to accept our church as their spiritual home or those who maintain close fraternal relationships with the Ruthenian Church. For all, the mounumentous institutions that have served our church throughout history, are as important to them as the White House is to the American people as a whole, or the World Trade Center was to millions of New Yorkers and those who love dearly, the "Big Apple." Besides the obvious correct moral principle to the return of the properties that rightfully belong to the Eparchy of Mukachevo in Carpatho-Ukraine, there is the deeper and perhaps more significant fact that the loss of spiritual pillars of church society such as the St. Nicholas Monastery, did and still today, by their obstinate continued confiscation by the Russian Church, cause very deep spiritual and emotional pain to our people, a suffering that can only be rectified by their rightful return to the center of ecclesiastical life.

To attempt to illustrate how it feels to a Ruthenian Greek Catholic, not to have Chernecha Hora as a vital part of our church, imagine this one thing:
How would it feel to our clergy and faithful in the United States, if one day, the beautiful grounds of Mt. St. Macrina would be taken from them and given over to another church or even secular group for use? What would it feel like if, every Labor Day weekend, our people had to gather at St. John Church in Uniontown for pilgrimage, while Mt. St. Macrina stood practically empty, except for a few religious of another jurisdiction? Would it be such a trivial point, if Mt. St. Macrina were now a seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention or a meeting grounds for a televangelism group, while Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics had no place to continue their annual pilgrimages? (I offer these analogies with no disrespect to any other denomination, but simply to explain how it might feel if the Mount were no longer ours to go to.) Would one feel it trivial, if the government gave Mt. Macrina to the Russian Orthodox Patriarchal parishes in the US, to use as a monastery, while the Sisters of St. Basil had to live in a parish convent, devoid of their beautiful monastery and forced to make new provisions for themselves?

It is true that in Christian charity, we must not hold grudges for things of the past, especially when people today had no direct connection to them, but justice and truth must also be pursued when possible. I certainly would affirm the need to guarantee adequate and dignified housing for the Russian sisters, but would hope that they would understand the significance of Chernecha Hora for the Greek Catholic faithful and, given the historical circumstances surrounding their acquisition of the property, cooperate with the transition to a new and more suitable monastery.

Please think about the importance of these holy sites to the people of our church and, in all due consideration and respect, think of how it might be if a similar act took place here in our own nation. The destruction of the World Trade Center and attacks on our governmental and national monuments in Washington, brought to the forefront the great feeling of violation the American people felt on September 11, 2001. Just because other atrocities took place 50 or more years ago, does not diminish the pain and hurt felt by Ruthenian Greek Catholics today, over the deprivation of their national and religious shrine of the Monastery of St. Nicholas on Chernecha Hora.

Fr. Joe

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Quote
Originally posted by Fr. Joe:

From this history, we can see the great importance that the St. Nicholas Monastery played thought the history of the church in Subcarpathian Rus', from the earliest times right up until the forced liquidation of the church. Both as the original seat of the Mukachevo bishopric and as a haven of spiritual graces obtained by so many people through the presence of the monastery in their religious lives, Chernecha Hora remains important and significant as the "heart" of the Ruthenian Christian Church, which is not rightfully part of the Russian Orthodox Church, but consists of the historical indigenous church of Carpathian Rus' which, like it or not, is a part of the Greek Catholic communion.
Fr. Joe

Fr. Joe,

A question, gentle to be sure. By the above statement do you mean that the only authentic church of the Carpathian Slavs (Carpatho-Ruthenians, -Rusins, -Rusyns, -Russians - as you prefer) is the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church? That the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church (here and/or in Europe) is the sole inheritor of the legacy of the Carpathian Slav people?

Bob

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Dear Mor Ephrem,

In the unlikely event that they wanted to abandon the monastery and give it to the Greek Catholic Church, yes monks (or nuns) could be found to live and pray there.

Elias

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Bob King wrote:
By the above statement do you mean that the only authentic church of the Carpathian Slavs (Carpatho-Ruthenians, -Rusins, -Rusyns, -Russians - as you prefer) is the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church? That the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church (here and/or in Europe) is the sole inheritor of the legacy of the Carpathian Slav people?

Is this really a question of there being only one authentic Church of the Carpathian Slavs? I would think that, since we both have identical roots, we are the same Church, even if currently separated.

The issues Bob raises are interesting. One cannot, however, pretend to equate the establishment of the Union of Uzhorod, which was done peacefully with the free will of those involved, with the confiscation of these same churches by the communists at gunpoint and through the execution of our bishops and priests.

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Bob:

Mukachevo has many daughter churches - Greek Catholic Churches of Slovakia, Hungary, portions of Romania and Yugoslavia, the BCC and the ACRGCO church in the US - that, as offspring, are certainly inheritors of the legacy of the Carpathian Slav people.

Do you think that juridictions that are not really daughters are similarly inheritors? Would the fact that many BC's have transferred to some Roman Catholic diocese make that particular church a inheritor, properly speaking, of this legacy?

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Esteemed Administrator,

Thank you for your word of encouragement. I read again Father Joseph's account of the importance of this monastery in the history of the identity of the Mukachevo Church. Clearly, the question of the unia (and so the sad division) which was raised by Bob, is an important part of the story of our Church.

But I don't think it was entirely the point that Father Joseph was making.

Father pointed out, by these wonderful stories, the awesome strength and holy tenacity of the Mukachevo Church, and this wonderful and historic monastery. This is fundamental to the history of our Church, and that informs us now, about our Church.

This Church of Mukachevo has an ancient and unique story to tell, even as it has witnessed to the Christian Gospel over the centuries. It is edifying and uplifting. It moves me to treasure the link to the confessors from centuries past, and it encourages me to zeal for the Gospel.

Bob's question is an interesting one, but I think Father Joe's message was more basic, fundamental, and inspiring.

Our Church is weakened by this division of confession, and by the doubling of jurisdiction. Bob is not wrong to bring this up, but the fundamental inner strength of this Church is older, stronger, and ultimately more powerful.

Elias

p.s. I am sorry that my editing of this post, has disrupted the order.

[ 08-27-2002: Message edited by: Hieromonk Elias ]

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