Part 1, Section 14 - Religion

Lemkos are of the Catholic and Orthodox faith, but of the Byzantine rite. They themselves call their religion Orthodox or Russian, regardless whether one is Catholic or Orthodox. The Christian faith was taken from missionaries St. Cyril and Methodius in the second half of the 9th century, from Moravia, i.e., 100 years prior to conversion of the Kiev Rus' to Christianity under prince Vladimir the Great. During the subsequent millennium a religious unity prevailed on Lemkovyna, and the Lemko mountains were out of reach to other cults or religions, and the pure teaching of the Christ have survived to this day, with its beautiful eastern ceremony, always vigorously guarded by the Lemkos. Lemkos never dug deep into the proclaimed dogmas of the faith, but believed in the true words of God, which were proclaimed by their priests, and which passed from generation to generation. Lemko nation, with respect to religion, religious observances and moral standards, always rated well................Lemko nation was characterized with high degree of humility, and being close to their church and its faith. During holiday masses, everybody hurried to a church, and only disabled elderly and small children remained at home. Of significant importance to preservation of their faith, nationality, and the ceremonies, was the fact that the Lemko priests were married, and many of them had large families. Lemko intellectuals were being replenished from families of priests. People had closer ties to the priest and his family. A parish formed a single family in faith, whose father, teacher, and advisor, was the priest, and a mother of the parish was his wife, from whom many women learned domestic skills. Sons of priests were organizers of choirs, clubs, reading circles, where they could deliver their readings, organize stage performances, concerts, and contribute to Lemko education and culture. Married priests contributed a lot to their people. One elderly Roman-Catholic priest in a conversation with a Lemko priest stated: "Your people have moral strength, because your priests are married and have their own families. Soon however, a celibacy will be introduced; soon we will take care of you, and we will weaken your moral strength." Fateful were the words of this priest, because as soon as the unmarried priests started arriving on Lemkivshchyna, people started loosing faith in them, started to further and further withdraw from them, not finding that family warmth, which was earlier found in the houses of married priests. Unmarried priests they started calling "parobok" [bachelors], because frequently these priests stood lower morally than an average Lemko bachelor. The family warmth was lacking, warmth which kept earlier all parishes warm. In their stead, evil started to creep in, which celibate priests could not successfully challenge, and as a result their faith started to shrink.

Excerpted from "Istoria Lemkovyny" (History of Lemkovyna), in 5 parts, by Ioann F. Lemkyn, published in distorted Lemko in 1969 by Lemko-Soyuz of USA & Canada, Yonkers, NY. Translated by Walter Maksimovich.

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Date Posted: February 24th, 1998
Last Revision: May 29th, 1999

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