As highlighted by a conversation at comments upon article describing a bit of the dynamics between national loyalties and the religious split in Ukraine:
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http://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-warns-church-over-prayer-services-protesters-195502592.htmlA bit of history: the 'Ukrainian Greek Catholic' or 'Unite' Church was created in 1596.
Kiev (AFP) - The Ukrainian government has threatened to outlaw the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for holding prayer services for opposition protesters occupying Kiev's central square.The culture ministry on Monday sent a letter to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, accusing its priests of "breaking the law" by holding religious services outside a place of worship.The Church's priests, along with those of the Orthodox Church loyal to the Kiev Patriarchate, hold open-air religious services several times a day on Kiev's Independence Square, known locally as the Maidan."The breach of this law could lead to legal proceedings to put an end to the activities" of the Church, said a scanned version of the letter published by the opposition news website Ukrainska Pravda.The square has been occupied since late November by protesters who are challenging President Viktor Yanukovych's U-turn on a landmark pact with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.Two tents erected on the square are used as places of worship, where protesters pray, go for confession and even have their children christened.The article is about the involvement of the various main churches in Ukraine- the Vatican Loyal 'Uniate' Orthodox, and the Moscow Loyal Orthodox
"For the first time since the independence of Ukraine, we have been put on our guard. We have de facto been warned that they could deprive our Church of its legal status," Shevchuk told reporters on Monday."We thought that the prosecution of priests was a thing of the past."
The government warning has sparked anger among believers."It is illegal, it is immoral. Nobody can forbid people to pray. Only Satan does not want people to pray," said Pavlo, 52, as he came out of one of the tents on Tuesday.Yanukovych, who is accused by the opposition of being the initiator of the letter, said in comments released by his aides that the current "law should be amended to allow believers to pray wherever they like."The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, also known as the Uniate Church, follows Orthodox traditions but is loyal to the Vatican. It was banned in the Soviet era but has become the third largest confession in Ukraine since the country's independence in 1991.The Church now has around 5.5 million followers in Ukraine, around 12 percent of its population of 46 million, most of them living in the western regions. There are also around 1.5 believers in Ukrainian diasporas in Europe, the United States and Australia.
The Poles: The Poles, who expanded from the west, had a number of disadvantages. The core of the Polish state was in the west and Poland was often distracted by wars with western powers, especially Sweden. Poland was almost an aristocratic republic. Its nobles sought to protect their liberty by weakening the king, which also weakened the Polish army and made a consistent frontier policy difficult. Their main problem was the alienation of the eastern population. The core of Poland was Catholic, but the eastern lands were mostly Orthodox. Society in the Polish core was based on serfdom, but there was greater freedom in the east. Lords with land grants in the east would offer easy terms to attract peasants. Many people in the Polish east were runaway serfs or adventurers who had reason to distrust a strong state [aka esp. one that's Roman Catholic]. By the 1500s, Polish claims extended east of the Dnieper to a point south of Moscow, although the area was thinly settled and barely administered.
Poland has a long tradition of religious freedom. The right to worship freely was a basic right given to all inhabitants of the Commonwealth throughout the 15th and early 16th century, however, complete freedom of religion was officially recognized in Poland in 1573 during the Warsaw Confederation. Poland kept religious freedom laws during an era when religious persecution was an everyday occurrence in the rest of Europe. Commonwealth was a place were the most radical religious sects, trying to escape persecution in other countries of the Christian world, sought refuge. In 1561 Bonifacio d’Oria, a religious exile living in Poland, wrote of his adopted country’s virtues to a colleague back in Italy: “You could live here in accordance with your ideas and preferences, in great, even the greatest freedoms, including writing and publishing. No one is a censor here."
"This country became a place of shelter for heretics” - Cardinal Hozjusz papal legate to Poland.To be Polish, in the non-Polish lands of the Commonwealth, was then much less an index of ethnicity than of religion and rank; it was a designation largely reserved for the landed noble class (szlachta), which included Poles but also many members of non-Polish origin who converted to Catholicism in increasing numbers with each following generation. For the non-Polish [*] noble such conversion meant a final step of Polonization that followed the adoption of the Polish language and culture. Poland, as the culturally most advanced part of the Commonwealth, with the royal court, the capital, the largest cities, the second-oldest university in Central Europe (after Prague), and the more liberal and democratic social institutions had proven an irresistible magnet for the non-Polish nobility in the Commonwealth. Many referred to themselves as "gente Ruthenus, natione Polonus" (Ruthenian by blood, Polish by nationality) since 16th century onwards.
* Actually the so-called 'non-Polish people of the Polish Commonwealth WERE Polish, only to have been induced into a mass amnesia by the 'Rus' invaders of the 800 and 900s:
Such an amnesia was furthered by the late 1800s political movement to re-define the East Polans as "Ukrainians":