THE BEGINNINGS OF TERRITORIAL ORGANIZATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE LATIN RITE IN THE EMPIRE OF RUSSIA .ON THE 225TH ANNIVERSARY OF MOHYLEV ARCHDIOCESE (Poczatki ...kosciola katolickiego..w cesarstwie rosyjskim (w.. metropolii Mohylowskiej))
As a result of the 1st partition of Poland (1772) about one million of Catholics found themselves within the borders of the Russian Empire. About one hundred thousand of them followed the Latin rite. Both the Petersburg government and the Holy See were interested in defining the role of the Catholic Church within the absolute monarchy and giving a new organizational shape to the Catholic Church structures in Russia. In this situation tsaritsa Catherine II wilfully created the so-called 'Belorussian Bishopric'. With the consent of the Chuch Stanislaw Bohusz-Siestrzencewicz the auxiliary bishop of Vilnius became the head of the new 'diocese'. This new unit, erected with no foundation in the Canon Law, was never accepted by the Holy See. Catherine's next arbitrary decision was to elevate the 'Belorussian Bishopric' to the rank of archbishopric and giving bishop Siestrzencewicz the title of 'metropolitan of all Roman Catholic Churches in Russia'. As a result, Pope Pius VI legitimized the tsaritsa's decisions and erected a metropoly with the see in Mohylev. He also granted bishop Siestrzencewicz the rank of archbishop with all the rights and privileges of the office. The papal decisions of 1783, however forced, prevented schism and secured the state of integrity of the Catholic Church in the Russian Empire with the Holy See
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