Bits of History

The origins of the Catholic ChurchLatin Rite in Podillia refer to the activities of the Dominican and Franciscan orders at the beginning of the XIV century. It is known that the Dominicans founded their first monasteries in Smotrych (about 1375), Kamyanets-Podilskyi (about 1370) and Chervonograd (before 1380), and Franciscans (Conventual) in Kamyanets-Podilsky (first mention - 1402).


The idea of establishing a diocese on the territory of Podillya emerged in the middle of the XIV century and belongs to the Polish king Casimir III (1333-1370). There are thoughts that the first titular bishops of this territory appeared even in the 70's of XIVand they were  Wilhelm (1375) and Rogozy († 1398?). However, there is no certain notes on this. After the death of Casimir III the efforts of establishing the diocese continued by Louis the Great, the Hungarian (1342-1382) and Polish (1370-1382) king. At his request the Holy See entrusted the case to Cardinal Dmitri of Estergorm (Hungary). The exact date of the erection of the diocese is not known, but probably this happened between 1378 and 1387 during the reign of the Podillia princes Koriatovich.

Since the beginning of its existence the diocese of Kamyanets Podilsky was part of the Galician Metropolia created few years earlier in 1375 and the cathedral transferred to Lviv in 1412. It is known that then the bishop of Kamyanets Podilsky was Alexander († 1411). Initially, the cathedral was set up at the Franciscan or Dominican temple, while before 1430 the Cathedral of St. Apostles Peter and Paul was built in Kamyanets-Podilsky.

January 6, 1450 bp Paul from Boyanych erected the cathedral in Kamyanets and his successor determined that the number of canons should be 8.


Members of the monastic families were invited to diocese of Kamyanets Podilsky to develop religious life: Benedictine (XV cent.), Franciscans and Carmelite (XVII century), and in the era of counterreformation Jesuits arrivied.


In 1571-1591 the diocese included the territory of the Moldavian principality. Due to the unstable political situation in the XV century the number of faithful, parishes and the boundaries of the diocese were subject to frequent changes.


In 1602 in the cathedral parish of St. Apostles Peter and Paul fraternity of St. Anne was born, 1605 - the brotherhood of the Corpus Domini, and in 1606 under the Dominican temple of St. Nicholas - archbrotherhood of the Holy Rosary


In 1672 the territory of Podillya with Kamyanets Podilsky was seized by the Ottoman Empire. On the eve of the invasion of the Turks, the number of parishes in the diocese was 62, and after the release in 27 years, only 13 remained.


After Karlovac peace treaty in 1699, in which Podillia returned to Poland, rebuilding of the diocese started by Bishop John Hninski (1700- 1716). His successor, Bishop Stefan Rupnewski (1716-1721), founded the seminary in 1721. In 1717, he also first established the precise boundaries of the diocese and introduced the division into the deanships: Dunaevets, Yazlovets, Sataniv and Medzibiz. During his reign, the number of parishes increased to 39.

Bishop Waclaw Hieronim Sierakowski (1739-1742) created two more deanships:  Chernokozinets and Shargorod as well as increased the number of parishes to 65. During his reign the diocese also had 43 church fraternities, 26 hospitals and 28 parochial schools. Bishop Sierakowski conducted a detailed visitation of the diocese, which is still a generous source for studying the history of the Cahtolic Church.

One of the greatest Kamyanets  Ordinary was bp Nicholas Dembowski (1742 -1757), who restored Cathedral of St. Apostles Peter and Paul in Kamyanets having established in 1756 the statue of the Virgin Mary on the mineret. Bp Dembowski rebuilt the sanctuary, was visiting the diocese, invited Capuchins and Order of Trinitarians.  

In 1781 bp Adam Stanislav Krasinski (1759 -1795) build new house for the seminary. After the Second Partition of Poland most of the Diocese of Kamyanets was within the boundaries of the Russian Empire. In 1793 the seminary was closed and in 1795 tsar administration confiscated the seminary. Bp Krasiński was active within the Bar Confederation. in 1795 for his refusal to accept an oath of fidelity to the Russian Empire, he was removed from the administration of the Kamyanets Podilsky diocese and Catherine II annexed Kamyanets to the non-canonical Letychiv diocese (27.09.1795).


After the death of Catherine II, Paull I restored the diocese of Kamyanets as part of the Mogilev Metropolia. Jan Dembowski (1795 - 1809) was appointed as the ordinarary. Bishop Dembowski also conducted the reorganization of church structures dividing the diocese into 10 dean's offices (Balta, Bratslav, Yampil, Letych, Litin, Mohyliv, Ploskuri, Ushytsa, Vinnitsa and Zinkivtsi). By 1813 there were 70 parishes, 33 branches and chapels, 26 male monasteries, 140 diocesan priests, 105 monks, and 184,550 believers. Later, Bishop Francis Mackiewicz (1815-1842) reactivated the seminary entrusting the formation of future priests to the missionaries of St. Vicent de Paul (1811-1842). After the prohibition of the Congregation in the Russian Empire the diocesan clergy continued the formation of seminarians until the dissolution of the diocese in 1866.

In 1817, the tsarist government removed from the bishops the right to form parishes, transferring this function to the Department of Other Religions. However, the status of Kamianets, as the center of one of the Latin Catholic dioceses, was confirmed in concordat between the Holy See and Russia on August 3, 1847.


In view of the repression after the defeat of the January uprising of 1864 in Poland the tsarist authorities banned all chapels, and on 5.06,1866 canlelled the diocese of Kamyanets Podilsky annexing it to Lutsk-Zhytomyr. At the same time, the cathedral chapel and theological seminary were abolished, and bp Antoni Fialkowski (1860 -1866) was sent to Kyiv. On the eve of the abolition the diocese had the following statistics: 11 deanships, 100 parishes, 9 branches, 110 public chapels, 6 monasteries, 176 diocesan priests, 31 seminarians, 44 monks and 274 786 believers.

As a result of negotiations between the Russian Empire and the Holy See in 1882 the diocese of Kamyanets Podilsky was restored in the form of the Apostolic Administration, leaving it under the care of the Lutsk-Zhytomyr bishops.


The persecution of the Catholic Church did not erase the faith of local Catholics and folk piety, since in the late nineteenth century there were about 20 pilgrimage centers in the diocese, in particular, the image of the Mother of God, crowned by the Papal crowns in Letychiv in 1778.

The status of the ordinary diocese was returned to of Kamyanets-Podilsky by Pope Benedict XV on September 24, 1918, The abbot of the cathedral Peter Mankowski (1918-1926) was appinted the ordinary bishop.


During the Polish-Soviet War (1920) and subsequent Bolshevik occupation, Bishop Peter Mankowski left Kamyanets Podilsky and settled in Buchach (at that time, the territory of Poland), where he founded the seminary and published a magazine "Kamyanets' Diocesan News». He installed the general vicar of the diocese Rev Jan Swiderski. At the time of Bolsheviks' arrival in Podillya there were 11 deanship, 100 parishes, 11 branches, 33 chapels and 319 721 believers.

31 March 1926 the papal delegate bp Michele d'Erbini appointed Rev Jan Swiderski as an apostolic administrator of the Kamyanets-Podilsky Diocese, subordinating him directly to the Holy See. In 1930 Rev Jan Svidersky was arrested and in two years the diocese ceased to exist.  

In 1930 atheistic authoritiers begun closure of the temples in Podillia. In 1935 the Cathedral was closed. The clergy and active believers were massively arrested, especially during the 1936-1938. Most of them were shot, imprisoned or deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan under the name "Polish action".


In 1941 with the the German occupation Lutsk bp Adolf Szelazek appointed Rev A. Kukuruzinski as an episcopal vicar for Podillia. At the beginning of the revival of religious life 22 churches were opened, however most of them after the Second World War were sealed by communist's rule once again.


Restoring the structures of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine on January 16, 1991 the Holy Father John Paul II also re-erected the diocese of Kamyanets Podilsky. It's new boundaries covered the territory from river Zbruch in the West and the borders with the Russian Federation in the East, to the shores of the Black Sea and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, including whole south of Ukraine. The area in 1991 was equal with the area of 10 regions (oblasts) of Ukraine and amounted to 270 700 km2. The first bishop was appointed bp Jan Olszanski (1991-2002). One of his first decisions was the dedication of the diocese to the Most Sacred Heart of the Lord. Thanks to the efforts of Bishop Jan Olsznski the Higher Priests' Trainins Seminary and the Institute of Religious Sciences in Gorodok were created and 9 deanships were formed. The number of Catholics was estimated about 390 000 people.

On May 4, 2002, Pope John Paul II reorganized the church structures of the Latin Rite in Ukraine separating whole Odesa-Simferopol diocese and half of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya dioceses from the diocese of Kamyanets-Podilsky. New boundaries of Kamyanets-Podilsky included Khmelnytsky and Vinnytsia regions.  On May 4, 2002, Father Leonid Maksimilian Dubravsky OFM became the new ordinary bihop of the diocese.

At present the diocese has 10 deanships: Bar, Khmelnitsky-West, Khmelnytsky-East, Gorodok, Kamyanets Podilsky, Murafa, Polonne, Tomashpil, Vinnitsa-West, Vinnitsa-East.


The life of Catholic saints is associated with Podillia: St. Zygmund Szczesny-Felinski, St. Albert Chmelowski, bl. Jan Beyzym, bl. Marcelina Darowska.