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Erzbischof Alfons Nossol (Oppeln)

Pro Oriente

The Union of Brest

Since 2002, PRO ORIENTE has conducted a research project dealing with controversial questions on the emergence and immediate consequences of the Union of the Greek Orthodox and Catholic Churches in the Rzeczpospolita Polska, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Union of Brest), and on the opposition to it.

Historical Background

The roots of the confessional disputes between the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches in Ukraine and Belarus go back to the church history of the Rzeczpospolita Polska. They are primarily due to the ecclesiastical Union of Brest, which occurred at the turn of the 17th century and which was a painful chapter for both sides.
After the reauthorization and consolidation of the Greek Catholic Church after 1989, which had until then been banned in the Soviet Union since 1945, tensions re-emerged between both Churches in Ukraine. These tensions also put a strain on the official work of the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Commission.

On the initiative and under the direction of Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ernst C. SUTTNER, PRO ORIENTE established a research group in 2002. The aim of this group was to critically study the historical sources on these events, with a view to fostering the official dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

Methods and Aims

The ecclesiastical conditions of the time were such that the histories written by the different confessions are very controversial, with each side frequently presenting contradictory representations. Thus, the aim of this project is to produce a compendium on these events that all participating researchers can agree on. The creation of a description of the beginnings, spread, and implementation of the Union recognised by the participating confessions should help prevent biased statements, pseudo-historical accusations, and historical myths concerning the Union's history from burdening their dialogue in the future, and overcome confessional animosity.

The research group consists of up to 15 historians and theologians from the Orthodox Churches of Poland and Russia, and from the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches of Ukraine, Poland and Austria.
Until 2012, the scholarly director of this research project was Univ.-Prof. Ernst Christoph SUTTNER. The work of the research group – as is usual with PRO ORIENTE - is conducted at an unofficial level, meaning that the participants are not delegates sent by their church leaders but are instead chosen for their expertise.
The research group has held three conferences (2002, 2004, 2006).

Results and Evaluation

The papers presented at the conferences were published in German (with Russian abstracts) in the series Das östliche Christentum by Augustinus Verlag, Würzburg.
To examine questions that required further, detailed scholarly engagement with the available historical sources on the Union, two research seminars were held at the Institute of the Theology and History of the Christian East at the University of Vienna.