Oil Dedicated to St Josaphat Kuntsevych
The St Josaphat Kuntsevych is dedicated to the Polish-Lithuanian monk. Also he was archbishop of the Ruthenian Catholic Church. On the 12 November 1623 he was killed by an angry mob in Vitebsk. He is “the best-known victim” of anti-Catholic violence. This related to him implementing the Union of Brest. Most noteworthy he is declared a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church.
Kuntsevych was born in 1580 or 1584 in the Poland Province. He was baptised into the Eastern Orthodox Church. Although a descent of Ruthenian nobility, his father had embarked in business. He held the office of town-councillor. Also, both of Kuntsevych’s parents encouraged Christian piety in their son.
Kuntsevych was apprenticed to a merchant named Papovič in Vilnius. In Vilnius, he became acquainted with Josyf Veliamyn Rutsky, a Calvinist convert to the Latin Church. He later transferred to the Byzantine Rite. Rutsky supported the recent union with Rome. Kuntsevych furthered his interest in the Catholic Church.
Monk and archbishop
In 1604, Kuntsevych entered the Monastery of the Trinity of the Order of Saint Basil the Great in Vilnius. He took on the religious name of Josaphat. Stories of his sanctity rapidly spread. Also, many people began to visit the young monk. In 1609, after private study under Valentin Fabricy, Josaphat was ordained a priest by a Catholic bishop. He subsequently became the prior of several monasteries. On November 12, 1617, he consecrated as the bishop of the Diocese of Vitebsk.k. He succeeded as archbishop in March 1618.
Archbishop Kuntsevych spent the majority of his time bringing the local populace into Union with Rome. He restored the churches. He issued a catechism to the clergy, with instructions that it should memorised. It composed of rules for priestly life. Kuntsevych continued his religious devotion as a monk. Also, he never abated his desire for mortification of the flesh. Most importantly after all this he was successful in winning over a large portion of the people
Death and Sainthood
In October 1623 Kuntsevych ordered the arrest of a priest who was clandestinely holding Orthodox services at Vitebsk. Enraged at this, some Orthodox townspeople lynched Kuntsevych on 12 November. Witnesses of the event described it as follows:
“The ringing of cathedral bells and the bells of other churches spread. This was the signal and call to insurrection. From all sides of town masses of people – men, women, and children – gathered with stones. Subsequently, they attacked the archbishop’s residence. They attacked and injured the servants and assistants of the archbishop. The archbishop was alone in his room. One hit him on the head with a stick, another split it with an axe. When Kuntsevych fell, they started beating him. They looted his house, dragged his body to the plaza. He cursed by them – even women and children. They dragged him naked through the streets of the city all the way to the hill overlooking the river Dvina. Finally, after tying stones to the dead body, they threw him into the Dvina at its deepest”
Josaphat’s body recovered from the river. It lay in state in the cathedral of Polatsk. He was beatified in 1643, Canonisation did not take place until 1867, more than two centuries later. The body is now in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, placed under the altar of Saint Basil the Great.