The Religion of Russia
FREE Catholic Classes
A. The Origin of Russian Christianity
There are two theories in regard to the early Christianity of Russia ; according to one of them, Russia was Catholic from the times when she embraced Christianity until the twelfth century; the other holds that Russia was always Orthodox, i.e., an adherent of the Greek schism, from the time when Christian missionaries first crossed her frontiers.
The first of these theories is held by Catholics, whose arguments were condensed and developed by Vizzardelli ("Dissertatio de origine christianæ religionis in Russia ", Rome 1826), and, more amply, by Father Verdière, S.J. ("Origines catholiques de l'Eglise russe jusqu'au XII e siècle", Paris, 1856). Russian Orthodox writers unanimously reject the conclusions that Verdière demonstrated in the form of theses, which, to us, appear to be without solid foundations. The history of Russian Christianity dates from the ninth century; by which it is not implied that Christianity was entirely unknown to the Russians before that period, for the merchants of Kieff were in frequent communication with Constantinople: one of the quarters of the flourishing metropolis, St. Mamante, was inhabited by them, and there is no doubt that there were Christians among them. On the other hand, some nucleus of Christianity must have existed at Kieff before Photius, as he himself relates in his encyclical letter to the Patriarchs of the East, sent a bishop and missionaries to that city. On account of this action, Photius is considered to have introduced Christianity into Russia. His testimony is repudiated by Catholic writers, who claim for St. Ignatius the glory and the initiative of this evangelical mission to Russia. There are no valid arguments, however, to throw doubt upon the authenticity of the information that has been handed down by Photius, as is proved in the present writer's work "La conversione dei Russi al cristianesimo, e la testimonianza di Fozio", in "Studii religiosi", t. I, 1901, pp. 133-61.
According to the national chronicler Nestor, many Russians were Christians in 945, and had at Kieff the Church of St. Elias ("La chronique de Nestor", t. I, Paris, 1834, p. 65). In 955 Olga, widow of Igor, went to Constantinople, where she was baptized by the Patriarch Poliutus (956-70), and, loaded with rich gifts that she received from Constantine Porphyrogenitus (912-59), she returned to Kieff, and devoted herself to the conversion of her fellow-countrymen. The schism between the Churches of the East and of the West was not yet accomplished; and therefore Olga, who received in baptism the name of Helen, is venerated as a saint also by the United Ruthenians. Western chroniclers relate that Olga sent an embassy to the Emperor Otto I, to ask for Latin missionaries, and that Otto charged Adaldag, Bishop of Bremen, to satisfy that request. Adaldag consecrated as bishop of the Russians Libutius, a monk of the Convent of St. Albano, who died before entering Russia. He was succeeded by Adalbertus, a monk of the convent of St. Maximinus, at Trier. The Russians, however, received the Latin bishop badly, killed several of his companions, and constrained him to return to Germany. It may be observed that Assemani and Karamzin do not admit that Latin missionaries came to Russia with Adalbertus.
The efforts of Olga to convert her son Sviatoslaff to Christianity were unsuccessful. Vladimir, son of Sviatoslaff, has the glory of having established Christianity as the official State religion in Russia. According to the legend, Vladimir received Mohammedan, Latin, and Greek legates, who urged him to adopt their respective religions. The Greeks finally triumphed. Vladimir marched with an army towards the Taurida, and in 998 took Kherson; then he sent ambassadors to the Emperors Basilius and Constantine, asking for the hand of their sister Anna, which he obtained on condition that he would become a Christian. He was baptized by the Bishop of Kherson, who, according to Russian chroniclers, made Vladimir read a profession of faith that was hostile to the "corrupt" doctrine of the Latins. Thereafter, taking with him the relics of Pope St. Clement and of that pope's disciple, Phebus, as well as sacred vessels and images, Vladimir returned to Kieff, accompanied by his consort, and by some Greek missionaries. Once there he caused the idol of Perun to be thrown into the Dnieper, and on the site that it occupied built a Christian church, also commanding that all his subjects, without distinction of age, should be baptized. The inhabitants of Kieff yielded before his threats; but those of Novgorod resisted and suffered severe treatment. The Russians were baptized, but they did not receive Christian instruction and education ; the ancient beliefs and habits of Paganism endured, and survived for many centuries; consequently the moral influence of Christianity was not efficiently exercised upon the Russian people. Vladimir erected a church in honour of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the direction of Grecian artists. Thanks to his solicitude, the Russian Church was endowed with a hierarchy, a metropolitan, bishops, and priests. At first this hierarchy was Greek; the metropolitans were appointed and consecrated by the Patriarch of Constantinople, went to Russia as foreigners, and remained such. They succeeded, however, in inspiring the Russians with hatred for the Latin Church. The metropolitans Leontius (dead in 1004), George (1072), Ivan II (dead in 1089), and Nicephorus I (1103-21) wrote the first polemical works of Russian literature against the Latins.
B. Catholicism in Russia, from the Twelfth Century to the Council of Florence
Although the Russian Church in its earliest periods was completely dominated by the clergy of Constantinople who made the schism, the relations between Russian princes and the Holy See, begun under Vladimir, subsisted for several centuries. Russian documents testify that Vladimir in 991 sent an embassy to Rome, and that three embassies went from Rome to Kieff, sent by John XV (985-96), and by Sylvester II (999-1003). A German chronicler, Dithmar, relates that a Saxon missionary, consecrated archbishop by the Archbishop of Magdeburg, went to Russia, where he preached the Gospel, and was killed with eighteen of his companions on 14 Feb., 1002. At about that time Reinbert, Bishop of Kolberg, went to Russia with the daughter of Boleslaus the Intrepid, bride of Sviatopolk, the son of Vladimir. He strove to diffuse Catholicism in Russia, and died a prisoner. Other missionaries continued their Apostolic efforts; but Russia was already lost to Catholicism. The Metropolitan Nicephorus I (1103-21) regarded the Latin Church as schismatic, and reproached it with a long list of errors. Russian canonical documents of the twelfth century refer to the Latins as pagans, and prohibit all relations with them. The most virulent calumnies against the Roman Church were inserted in the "Kormtchaia kniga"; and Russian metropolitans down to Isidor (1437) had no relations with the Holy See.
This does not mean to say, however, that the Catholic Church neglected Russia as a field for its apostolate; for the popes always tried to lead her back to the centre of unity, and to enter into relations with her princes. The prince Iziaslaff Yaroslavitch (1054-68; 1069-73; 1076-78) sent his son to Gregory VII , asking the assistance of that pontiff, and promising to make Russia a vassal of the Holy See. Gregory answered him by letter of 17 April, 1075. Under the Grand Duke Vsevolod Yaroslavitch (1078-93) there was established the feast of the translation of the relics of St. Nicholas of Bari , approved by Urban II (1088-99), who in 1091 sent to the same prince Bishop Teodoro, with relics. In 1080 the antipope Clement III sent a letter to the Metropolitan Ivan II (dead in 1089), proposing to the latter the union of the Russian Church ; Ivan answered, however, enumerating the heresies of the Latins (Marcovitch attributes this letter to the Metropolitan Ivan IV, who, according to Golubinsky, died in 1166). Clement III (1187-91) sent a letter to the Grand Prince Vsevolod and to the Metropolitan Nicephorus II (1182-97), inviting them to take part in the Crusade, but in vain. Innocent III (1198-1216) sent two legations to the princes of Russia, exhorting them to be reunited to Rome. Under Honorius III (1216-1227) St. Hyacinth, with other religious of the Order of St. Dominic, preached the Catholic faith in southern Russia, and founded a convent at Kieff, while a religious of the same order in 1232 was appointed bishop of that city, out of which, however, the Dominicans were driven in 1233. Another letter of Honorius III, and one of Gregory IX (1227-41) encouraged the Russians of Pskof to realize their intention of embracing Catholicism. All of these efforts were in vain, it was only in Galicia that the solicitude of the popes was attended with some favourable results. Innocent IV (1243-54) had continuous relations with the Grand Prince Daniel Romanovitch (1229-64), who hoped for the assistance of the West to throw off the Tatar yoke; the pope's nuncio to the King of Poland in 1254 crowned the grand prince as king at the city of Dorogtchin. But through dissension among the princes of the West the assistance that the pope promised to Daniel was not given, and in 1256 the latter repudiated his union with Rome. The same pope made efforts to convert to Catholicism the national hero, Alexander Nevski, whose father had abjured the errors of the schism before the pontifical legate Giovanni da Pian Carpino. In 1248 Innocent IV wrote to the Prince Alexander Nevski, exhorting the latter to embrace Catholicism ; and in another letter the same pope asserts that the conversion of that prince took place. Russian writers however are unanimous in considering their national hero a champion of the Orthodox faith, who refused to submit to Rome.
Under John XXII (1316-34) Catholicism was propagated in Lithuania, where it had its martyrs. Gedimin (1315-45), although a pagan, wrote a letter to John XXII, declaring that Franciscans and Dominicans were authorized to preach in his principality. Paganism was firmly rooted in the people, and in 1332 fourteen Franciscans were massacred at Vilna. In 1323 the same pope re-established the Latin Diocese of Kieff, to which he appointed a Dominican. Catholicism became preponderant in Lithuania, when Hedwig, Queen of Poland, married Jagello, and the two states were united into a single kingdom. Jagello embraced Catholicism in 1386, called Polish priests to Lithuania, and, like Vladimir the Great, resorted to violence to convert his subjects. Many Russians were converted to Catholicism, and Vilna became the see of a Latin bishop.
In 1436 the Russian Church, which was still dependent upon Constantinople, had as metropolitan Isidor (1436-41), a Greek, native of Thessalonica, and staunch adherent of the cause of the union. This prelate on 8 Sept., 1437, with Avraam, Bishop of Suzdal, and many clergymen and laymen, went to the Council of Florence, where he ardently defended the union; and by a Brief of 17 Aug., 1438, Eugene IV named him legate a latere for Lithuania, Livonia, and Russia. Avraam of Suzdal, however, was not a partizan of the union; and leaving Isidor, returned alone to Russia. Isidor sent an encyclical letter to the Russians (5 March, 1440), extolling the union that had been concluded at Florence. Upon his return to Moscow, however, Prince Vasili Vasilevitch convened a council, condemned the work of the metropolitan, and imprisoned the latter in the Monastery of the Miracles (Tchudoff); but Isidor succeeded in making his escape, and found asylum in Italy. Wherefore, Russia did not accept the decree of union of the Council of Florence ; on the contrary, she drew from it arguments to proclaim the superiority of her Orthodox faith over the pliant faith of the Greeks, and to prepare the way for her religious autonomy.
Isidor resigned the Metropolitan See of Kieff about 1458, and in the same year Pius II appointed Gregor the Bulgarian, who was a disciple and companion of the former metropolitan, and who, according to the historian Golubinski, remained united to Rome until 1470, after which he became Orthodox, and died in 1472. Among his successors who were friendly to the union were Mikhail Drucki (1475-80), Semion (1481-88), Jonah Glezna (1492-94), Makap (1495-97), and Josef Soltan, who in 1500 wrote a letter to Alexander VI asking for papal confirmation of his metropolitan dignity. At the death of Josef II, which according to Stroeff was in 1519, the Metropolitanate of Kieff became again wholly Orthodox.
After the Council of Florence, the fanaticism of the Russians in regard to the Latin Church increased. The Latins were not even considered citizens. They were not allowed to build churches in Russian cities. The popes, however, did not cease their efforts to effect a reconciliation between Russia and the Roman See. An event that should have hastened the attainment of that end served only to widen the breach between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. There lived at Rome under the tutelage of the popes and the spiritual guidance of Cardinal Bessarion the Greek Princess Zoe, daughter of Thomas Palæologus, Despot of Morea; and Paul II, wishing ardently to induce the Russians to join the princes of the West in a crusade against the Turks, proposed to offer the hand of Zoe to Ivan Vasilevitch III (1462-1505); but death overtook him before he was able to bring about the realization of his purpose. Sixtus IV (1471-84) continued the policy of his predecessor. Ivan III received the proposal with enthusiasm. On 12 Nov., 1472 Zoe with a numerous suite arrived at Moscow, and the Metropolitan Philip I (1464-73) united her in marriage with Ivan. But the hopes of union to which this marriage had given rise vanished. Ivan would not hear the propositions of the Bishop Antonio, who as legate of the Holy See had accompanied Zoe; while the latter passed over to the schism. Ivan III and the Russians thought only of drawing profit from the good will of the popes. The grand prince, having married a princess of the imperial house of Palæologus, formulated claims to the throne of Byzantium; while the Russians began to regard Moscow as the third Rome, which should inherit the prerogatives of the first and of the second.
Several embassies of Leo X and of Clement VII to the Prince Basil Ivanovitch (1505-33) were without favourable results for the union. Julius III and Pius IV invited Ivan the Terrible to send delegates to the Council of Trent ; while Pius V in his turn invited him to join a crusade against the Turks but Sigismund, King of Poland, and Maximilian II, Emperor of Germany, prevented the legates of the pope from crossing the Russian frontiers, or rendered their missions fruitless. In 1580 Ivan the Terrible, menaced by the victorious arms of Báthori, King of Poland (1576-86), and of the Swedes, sent to Gregory XIII an embassy at the head of which was Leontius Tchevrigin. The Holy See , although placing little faith in the promises of the tsar, sent to Moscow one of the most eminent men of his day, the Jesuit Antonio Possevino, who, on 22 Feb., 1582, had a theological disputation with the tsar. Possevino was well received at the Court of Moscow, but his apostolic efforts were without result. He returned on 15 March, 1582, in company with Jacob Molvianinoff, legate of the tsar, and bearer of a letter to Gregory XIII. In that letter Ivan the Terrible did not refer to the union. Possevino had relations also with the successor of Ivan, Feodor Ivanovitch, and with Constantine II, Prince of Ostrog, the great champion of Orthodoxy in the sixteenth century; always, however, with unfavourable results. The advent of the False Demetrius and his marriage with the heiress of the Waywodes of Sandomir gave hopes that Russia would see a Catholic dynasty on its throne. Demetrius, indeed, had been converted to Catholicism in 1604, and had entered into relations with the Holy See , which, through its nuncios in Poland, proceeded to confirm him in the Catholic faith, and to maintain his devotion to the Roman Church. Demetrius gave to the Holy See the happiest hopes for the conversion of Russia ; but through a conspiracy on 27 May, 1606 he lost the crown and his life. Fanatical Russian writers charge the popes with responsibility for the turbulence that followed the advent to the throne of the False Demetrius ; but the letters of the Roman pontiffs refute that calumny decisively.
In 1675 the Tsar Alexis (1645-76) sent, as ambassador to Clement X, General Paul Menesius, a Catholic. The object of this embassy was to promote an alliance of the Christian princes against the Turks. The Russian legate was received with great distinction. No happy results, however, attended his mission from a religious point of view. During the reign of Alexis, strenuous efforts were made to draw Russia towards Catholicism by a famous Croatian missionary, George Krizhanitch, a student of the Propaganda, on whose life and works Professor Bielokuroff recently wrote several valuable volumes rich in documents. Krizhanitch is regarded as one of the pioneers of Panslavism; but his efforts to bring Russia to the Catholic Church cost him, in 1661, an exile to Siberia, whence he was unable to return to Moscow until 1676, after the death of Alexis.
In 1684 the Jesuit Father Schmidt established himself at Moscow as chaplain to the embassy from Vienna. In 1685 another Jesuit, Father Albert Debois was the bearer of a letter from Innocent XI to the Tsar; and in 1687 Father Giovanni Vota, also of the Society of Jesus, advocated at Moscow the need of Russia to unite herself to the Church of Rome. The Emperor of Germany, Leopold I (1657-1705), obtained permission for the Jesuits to open a school at Moscow, where they established a house. Their work would have been very favourable for the Church, for under the influence of Catholic theology a band of learned Orthodox theologians, led by the hiqumeno Sylvester Medvedeff, supported certain Latin doctrines, especially the Epiklesis . Unfortunately however two fanatical Greek monks, Joannikius and Sophronius Likhudes, excited the fanaticism of the Russians against the Latins at Moscow, and when Peter the Great freed himself of the tutelage of his sister Sophia in 1689, the Jesuits were expelled from Moscow. The schismatic Patriarch Joachim, a man actuated by hatred for foreigners, and in particular for Catholics, had much to do with that expulsion. The reforms of Peter the Great did not better the condition of Catholicism in Russia. In the first years of his reign he showed deference to the Catholic Church ; he granted permission to the Catholics in 1691 to build a church at Moscow, and to summon Jesuits for its service; in 1707 he sent an embassy to Clement XI, to induce that pontiff not to recognize Stanislaus Leszczynski as King of Poland, to which dignity the latter had been elected by the Diet of Warsaw on 12 July, 1704; he promised the pope to promulgate a constitution that would establish, in favour of Catholicism, the freedom of worship that had been promised, but never maintained. During his sojourn at Paris in 1717 he received from various doctors of the Sorbonne a scheme for the union, to which he caused Theophanus Prokopovitch and Stepan Gavorski to reply in 1718. In order to captivate the Russians, the doctors of the Sorbonne had worked Gallican ideas into that scheme, regarding the primacy of the pope and his authority.
Peter the Great, however, was inimical to Catholicism. His religious views were influenced by Prokopovitch, a man of great learning, but a courtier by nature, and a bitter enemy of the Roman Church. Peter the Great revealed his anti-Catholic hatred when, at Polotsk in 1705, he killed with his own hand the Basilian Theophanus Kolbieczynski, as also by many other measures; he caused the most offensive calumnies against Catholicism to be disseminated in Russia ; he expelled the Jesuits in 1719; he issued ukases to draw Catholics to Orthodoxy, and to prevent the children of mixed marriages from being Catholics ; and finally, he celebrated in 1722 and in 1725 monstrous orgies as parodies of the conclave, casting ridicule on the pope and the Roman court.
From the time of Peter the Great to Alexander I, the history of Catholicism in Russia is a continuous struggle against Russian legislation: laws that embarrassed the action of Catholicism in Russia that favoured the apostasy of Catholics, and reduced the Catholic clergy to impotence were multiplied each year, and constituted a Neronian code. In 1727, to put a stop to Catholic propaganda in the Government of Smolensk, Catholic priests were prohibited from entering that province, or, having entered it, were prohibited from occupying themselves with religious matters; the nobility was forbidden to leave the Orthodox communion, to have Catholic teachers, to go to foreign countries, or to marry Catholic women. In 1735 the Empress Anna Ivanovna prohibited Catholic propaganda among Orthodox Russians under the severest penalties. Illustrious converts, like Alexei Ladygenski and Mikhail Galitzin, were treated with the most inhuman barbarity on account of their conversion. In 1747 the government expelled from Astrakhan the Capuchins who were making many conversions to Catholicism among the Armenians.
Under Catharine II (1762-96) the condition of Catholics became worse than before, notwithstanding the ukases of religious tolerance that the empress promulgated. The ukase of 22 July, 1763 authorized the Catholics to build chapels and churches of stone. Another ukase of 23 Feb., 1769 promulgated the ecclesiastical constitution of the Catholics. This constitution established two parishes, at St. Petersburg and Moscow, and placed them in charge of the Reformed Franciscans and the Capuchins. It provided that the number of parishes should not be greater than nine; and it strictly prohibited Catholic priests, residing in Russia, from proselytizing among Orthodox Russians.
The first dismemberment of Poland (1772) brought a strong body of Catholics to Russia, and Catharine II proposed to make of them a national Church, independent of Rome. Unfortunately an ambitious Polish bishop, Stanislaus Siestrzencewicz, entered into her views, and a ukase of 23 May, 1774 established the Diocese of White Russia, with its episcopal see at Mohileff, its first bishop being Siestrzencewicz, Vicar-General of Vilna. This personage is judged variously by historians. Pierling, Zalenski, and Markovitch treat him as an ambitious man who sought to become patriarch of all the Catholics in Russia, and who in his heart hated the Roman See . Godlewski on the contrary is inclined to excuse him, and to believe that the difficult conditions of Catholicism in Russia, possibly led him to adopt measures that appear to have been injurious to Catholic interests. According to Markovitch, during his long episcopate (1774-1826), Siestrzencewicz was the scourge of the Catholic Church of both rites in Russia. By her manifestos of 1779 Catharine II began the systematic destruction of the religious orders, withdrawing them from the authority of their religious superiors, and putting them under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Mohileff. The latter in 1782 was raised to the archiepiscopal dignity, and in 1784 received the pallium from the Apostolic Legate, Mgr. Giovanni Andrea Archetti, Archbishop of Chalcedon. He assumed episcopal jurisdiction over all the Catholics of the Russian Empire, and acted as if he were independent of the Holy See .
The sound principles of Catholicism, however, were maintained and propagated by the Jesuits who, suppressed by the Holy See and exiled from the Catholic nations, found an asylum and the centre of their future revival in Russia. In 1779 Catharine II invited the Jesuits to exercise their ministry in White Russia, and in 1786 they had in Russia six colleges and 178 members. Their number increased so much that Pius VII re-established their order for Russia, where it returned to life under Father Gruber. In 1801 the society had 262 members, and 347 in 1811. The Jesuits retained a lively gratitude for the hospitality that they had received in Russia, and worked with zeal to convert it to Catholicism.
The Second and Third Partitions of Poland (1793-94) considerably increased the number of Catholics in Russia ; Catharine II promised them the free exercise of their religion, their rights of property and those of their Church, and their complete independence of the civil power . These promises were deceptive, as was shown by the destruction of the Ruthenian Church, accomplished by her order. The Catholics of the Latin Rite also soon had cause to remember that they were under the domination of implacable enemies. The Catholics had awaited the death of Catharine and the advent to the throne of Paul I (1796-1801), to better their condition. In 1797 Archbishop Lorenzo Litta, legate a latere of the Holy See, arrived at St. Petersburg, where he was received with great honours. The Catholics who had been exiled to Siberia were recalled; the Sees of Lutzk, Vilna, Kamenetz, Minsk, and Samogitia (the ancient Diocese of Livonia) were created ; the archiepiscopal See of Mohileff was declared metropolitan, which it still is; and the government granted an indemnity to the clergy for the property that had been taken from them. In 1802 the number of the faithful amounted to 1,635,490, of adults alone. Paul I showed a special predilection for the Jesuits, and reposed great confidence in Father Gruber; he called them to St. Petersburg, where he authorized them to open schools and seminaries, while he obtained from Pius VII a Brief (7 March, 1801), re-establishing the society in Russia.
Under Alexander I diplomatic relations were established between the Holy See and the Russian Government. In 1802 a Russian legation was established at Rome, while Pius VII on his part named an Apostolic nuncio to St. Petersburg, Mgr. Arezzo, Archbishop of Seleucia. The affairs of the Catholic Church in Russia were to be administered by the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical College, created in imitation of the Synod of St. Petersburg. This college had been approved by Alexander I, through his ukase of 21 Nov., 1801. Siestrzencewicz of course was selected as its president; and the Russian Government, in its Note of 13 Dec., 1803, asked of the Holy See such powers for him as would have rendered him independent. The Sovereign Pontiff opposed a determined resistance to these demands, and the Ecclesiastical College was henceforward merely a name. In 1804 Mgr. Arezzi, the Apostolic nuncio, in view of the disagreements between the Russian Government and the Holy See, left St. Petersburg; whereupon Siestrzencewicz had a free hand, and devoted himself to discrediting Catholicism by proposing as bishops of the vacant sees men who were corrupt or allied to the government, by persecuting the religious orders, by granting divorces arbitrarily, by favouring the English Bible Society, and finally, by surrounding himself with assistants of evil mind and heart. Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Russia were resumed in 1815. The Russian plenipotentiary, Baron de Tuyll, had colloquies with Cardinal della Somaglia in regard to the union of the two Churches, which, however, were without result, for the Russian Government declared that the union was impossible so long as the Holy See wished to impose its dogmatic teachings and its disciplinary practices upon the Russians. Meanwhile, Siestrzencewicz made use of the renewal of relations between Rome and St. Petersburg to seek through the Russian Government new favours and concessions, e.g. the nomination of episcopal candidates by the tsar, the title of Primate, matrimonial dispensations, etc. In other words, it was a question of imitating the canonical legislation of the Orthodox Church, and of harnessing Catholicism to the car of the State. The Holy See merely granted to the Metropolitan of Mohileff the honorary title of primate, without any additional jurisdiction, and authorized a small number of priests to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation with oil blessed by the bishop. The various efforts of the Russian Government to establish a primate, with patriarchal, almost I independent powers in Russia were always thwarted by the determined resistance of the Holy See .
The most painful occurrence in the history of Catholicism during the reign of Alexander I was the expulsion of the Jesuits from Russia, the pretext for which was the conversion of Prince Alexander Galitzin to the Catholic faith. The Jesuits were expelled from St. Petersburg during the night of 22-23 Dec., 1815, and the Catholic parish church of St. Catharine was given to the Dominicans. The Jesuits were relegated to Polotsk; later, however, by the ukase of 25 March, 1820, they were exiled from Russian territory. On the other hand, as many nobles of the former Polish provinces, subjects of Russia, sent their children abroad to be educated by the Jesuits, the government provided that young Catholics should not leave Russia. In the last years of his reign Alexander I showed more sympathy for Catholicism, and the relations of the Holy See with the Russian Government were cordial during the pontificate of Leo XII and the sojourn of the Chevalier Italinski at Rome as Russian minister. The Holy See obtained the concession that the Russian Government would pay to the Datary 1000 scudi for the Bulls of Catholic archbishops in Russia, and 800 scudi for those of bishops ; Alexander I also allowed a Catholic chapel to be erected at the imperial residence of Tsarskoye Selo, and gave 40,000 roubles for its construction. He proposed to visit Rome, and, according to an unauthenticated historical report, to abjure Orthodoxy. There are Catholic writers who affirm that Alexander I and his consort became Catholics ; but there is no documentary evidence in support of this.
The reign of Nicholas I was a long period of persecution and suffering for Catholics in Russia. In 1826 the Holy See sent Mgr. Bernetti to St. Petersburg, to be present at the coronation. He was well received by the tsar, and thereafter wrote optimistically to Rome. Soon, however, the trials of the Catholics began. By two ukases in 1828 the admission of novices in the religious orders, and of clerics in the seminaries, was made very difficult, if not quite impossible; and in the following year all the novitiates were closed. In 1830 other ukases encouraged divorce among Catholics, prohibited Catholic religious propaganda among the Orthodox, the hearing the confessions of foreigners, and changes of residence among the clergy.
The Polish insurrection of 1830 and 1831 intensified the persecution against the Latin Catholics. In 1832 the Russian Government asked of the "Roman Ecclesiastical College " that the number of convents be diminished. Of 300 monasteries in the Diocese of Mohileff 202 were closed; while the administrator of that diocese, Bishop Szczyt, who had opposed this reduction was sent to Siberia. In the same year the publication of Papal Bulls in Russia was prohibited. In June and September, 1832 respectively the Holy See addressed two notes to the Russian Government, lamenting the disabilities to which Catholics were subjected in Russia, and the innovations which had been introduced into ecclesiastical discipline. The government blamed the Polish revolutionists for its severity. On 9 June, 1832, yielding to the Russian Government, Gregory XVI addressed his Encyclical to the Polish clergy, urging obedience to the civil power in civil matters. The encyclical aroused great discontent among the Poles, and did not deter the Russian Government from its purpose of annihilating Catholicism. The Government directed its blows against Catholics, more especially by laws concerning mixed marriages, by preventing Catholic priests from ministering to the United Catholics, and by calling to the episcopal sees men who were devoted to its policy, e.g. Mgr. Pawlowski, who was named Archbishop of Mohileff in 1841. The Holy See could no longer remain silent in the presence of this violence, and in his Allocution to the solemn Consistory of 22 July, 1842, Gregory XVI called the attention of the Catholic world to the painful oppression to which Catholicism was subjected in Russia ; and his protests were more serious and energetic, when in 1845, upon the occasion of the visit of the tsar to Rome, he had an interview with the latter which resulted in the concordat of 3 Aug., 1847, by which there were established in Russia an archbishopric and six episcopal sees, and in Poland, the same number of dioceses that had been established by the Bull of Pius VII of 30 June, 1818. The concordat repealed several iniquitous laws that had been promulgated against Catholics, placed the seminaries and the ecclesiastical academy of St. Petersburg under the jurisdiction of the ordinary, and recognized to a somewhat greater degree the authority of the Holy See over the bishops. The Tsar Nicholas, by a letter of 15 Nov., 1847, ratified the concordat of 3 Aug., which, like so many other Russian laws was destined to remain a dead Letter. Obstacles were placed to the determination of the boundaries of dioceses ; 21 convents were suppressed by a ukase of 18 July, 1850; while Catholics were prohibited from restoring their churches and from building new ones; from preaching sermons that had not previously been approved by the government, and from refuting the calumnies of the Press against Catholicism. It is not necessary for us to recur to the authority of Catholic writers, like Lescœur, to prove how odious this violence was; we may be satisfied with a mere glance at the immense collection of laws and governmental measures concerning the Catholic Church, from the times of Peter and of Ivan Alexeievitch to 1867 ("Zakonopolozhenija i pravitelstvennyia rasporjazhenija do rimsko-kato litcheskoi cerkvi v Rossii otnosjachtchijasja so vremeni carstvovanija Tzarei Petra i Ioanna Aleksieevitchei, 1669-1867", Vienna, 1868). It is not without reason that a Catholic writer has said that the laws of Nicholas I against Catholicism constitute a Neronian code.
The first years of the reign of Alexander II were not marked by anti-Catholic violence. The Russian Government promised the Holy See that the concordat would be scrupulously observed, and in 1856 the episcopal sees of Russia and Poland were filled. Soon however t
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