Today Christians Honor St. Josaphat Kuncevyc, Martyr for Christ

St JosaphatSt. Josaphat Kuncevyc (1580-1623)
Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(Franciscan Media) Born in Lithuania Volodymyr (modern day Ukraine) John Kuncevyc (taking the name ‘Josaphat’ in his religious life) was raised in a Catholic family according to EWTN and early in his life promoted Christian unity in the country divided between Orthodox and Catholicism.

In 1604 Josaphat would enter the Byzantine Monastery of Holy Trinity in Vilna and was elected as Archbishop of Polotsk 1o years later. While clinging firmly to unity with Rome, he firmly opposed the Latin’s who saw unity only in Latin terms and would rather suppress Byzantine traditions in the name of Catholic unity.

Archbishop Josaphat firmly opposed the Latinization of the people in his diocese, making enemies and severe critics among the Latin Clergy of Poland. — By Synod’s, Catechetical instruction, reform of the Clergy and personal example Archbishop Josaphat was successful in winning the greater part of the Orthodox in that area to the union.

The next year however a dissident hierarchy was established and a opposite number spread the allegations that Archbishop Josaphat had ‘gone Latin’ and that all of his people of his diocese would have to do the same.

Despite warning, Archbishop Josaphat went to Belarus Vitesbk, still a hotbed of trouble. Attempts were made to foment trouble for Archbishop Josaphat and drive him from his diocese. — A Priest was sent to shout insults at him from his own courtyard. When Archbishop Josaphat had the Priest removed and shut up in his house, the opposition rang the town bell and a mob assembled.

The vocal Priest was released but members of the riotous mob broke into Archbishop Josaphat’s home, he was hit with a ‘halberd’ (a two handed pole weapon commonly used in those days) then shot and his lifeless body thrown into the river on this date in 1623 — Later, Archbishop’s body was recovered and is now buried at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Archbishop Josaphat’s tragic death was a shock to both sides of the religious conflict according to SQPN and resulted in a ‘cooling off’ of the controversy.

Beatified in 1643 by Pope Urban VIII Archbishop Josaphat was Canonized in 1867 by Pope Blessed Pius IX

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