He discovered a 370-year document: It’s the “baptismal certificate” of Greek Catholics
Originally published 10 May 2016 • 09:10 by Pavol Rábara
On 4 May, the Greek Catholic priest Juraj Gradoš discovered a document from 1646, which has a high value for the Greek Catholic Church.
In an interview for Postoj, he says how he did it, and also why now he must rework his dissertation almost completely.
He discovered the document confirming the formation of the Union of Uzhorod, which was a formal act restoring full ecclesial communion between the Church of the Byzantine Rite Eparchy of Mukachevo (to which the territory of the present Greek Catholic Church in Slovakia belonged) and the Catholic Church.
According to historians, it happened on 24 April 1646 at the Drugeth Castle in Uzhhorod, where 63 Greek Catholic priests were present and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Eger, György Jakusits.
Where did you find this document?
I cannot say where, because an information embargo currently applies. First, because no studies have been conducted yet, and also because it is a very sensitive issue.
Were you intentionally searching for it, or was it a coincidence?
It was not intentional. I was searching for something else. It was like this: when they gave me the original document in the archive, which I requested, I flipped through their catalogue books. And there, some file called to me, which led me to this document. Only then, when they brought it to me, I determined what it is.
So, what is it? What does it mean for Greek Catholics?
It must be said, that from the practical side, bread doesn’t get cheaper (laughs). But for historians and the Church, it is the fundamental discovery that adjusts history to some extent in two respects.
Seven states supported the Union of Uzhhorod. For these people, this document is something of a baptismal certificate. It is the alpha point, the emergence of the contemporary Greek Catholic Church.
First and foremost, it is the answer to all the attacks that claimed that the Union of Uzhhorod didn’t happen on that date. The next document that mentions it is in fact from 1652, that is, six years after the Union.
So now we know that there is a document from 24 April 1646 that the Union of Uzhhorod was actually concluded and thus historians have no argument for what they claimed so far — that the Union is a myth.
In terms of content, it must be said again that this document is different compared to the one from 1652. In both, the progress of the Union can be seen, namely the attitude of the priests towards the Union, towards the Catholic Church.
So when we talk about the benefits, the first level is confirmation that the Union happened and the second level is the content, which is for me personally quite surprising.
What is surprising?
I expected it to be more like the document from 1652, which talked about the conditions of Union. The earlier document does not say that the priests would put some conditions. In today’s terms, one could say that this is a document about the incardination of priests to the Catholic Diocese of Eger.
Is the discovery of this instrument also relevant for the present? Something like a symbol or message, or is its value is associated only with a historical perspective?
It can be said that the Union of Uzhhorod Greek Catholics were reported in seven countries: Transcarpathian Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and partly in the Czech Republic, Croatia and Serbia.
At that time, the Eparchy of Mukachevo was in fact very extensive. For these people, this document is something like a baptismal certificate. It is the alpha point, the emergence of contemporary Greek Catholic Church.
Although there were other unions and they are still being researched, it is understood so far that the Union of Uzhhorod is a major Union, from which the Greek Catholic Church arose in the former Kingdom of Hungary.
How does your discovery look?
It is a document a half page long, then another one and a half pages are the signatures of priests. There are only first names of the Greek Catholic priests, that is, for example, priest [pop] Ivan, priest Teodor, etc…
I am finishing my dissertation, but now I need to revise it because of the discovery. I’ve made only minor edits, but now I have to redo it.
What language is the document?
The whole document is in a high quality Latin. We believe that a Slovak wrote it, and he studied abroad. At that time, education in the area of Hungary was in a poor state. The author of the document had to have studied abroad, as evidenced by the really high quality Latin and formulations used.
Signatures are written in the Church Slavonic, that is the writing from which Cyrillic arose. Some signatures also include the priest’s origin, they are mostly villages around Uzhhorod.
How many are there?
About 63, but the exact number will be examined, as some signatures overlap and it’s difficult to determine where one ends and another begins.
What happens next with the findings? Will it ever be on display?
For that, so that it would be displayed sometime, it will require approval of the appropriate minister. We want to introduce the document at the press conference, maybe at the end of May, June. It will be only after the initial research.
Meanwhile, we are working on the publication of the text of the document, which has already been translated and will be published in scientific journals.
Could it be assumed, that if the original is displayed in Uzhhorod, there would be interest?
The original does not leave the place where it is currently housed. When I communicated with the leadership of the institution, they are not willing to lend it, let alone the original. Lending it requires agreement at the ministerial level. It is in fact one of the most important documents that has appeared in the institution.
I can reveal that negotiations are under way to make that press conference at the institution where we discovered it.
What does this discovery mean for you personally?
I am finishing my dissertation, but now I need to revise it because of the discovery. (laughs) I’ve made only minor edits, such as stylistics, but now I have to redo it. And since I have to pass it by the end of May, it will mean a lot of work for me. Furthermore, I am chief editor of the official journal of the Greek Catholic Church Slovo [The Word], and not least also a married priest. (laughs)
Link to original article. Translated by Maria Silvestri.