Pratulin Martyrs

 Russian czars wanted to bring all Eastern-rite Catholics into the Orthodox Church. Catherine II suppressed the Greek Catholic church in Ukraine in 1784. Nicholas I did the same in Belarus and Lithuania in 1839. Alexander II did too, in the Eparchy of Chelm in 1874, and officially suppressed the Eparchy in 1875. The bishop and the priests who refused to join the Orthodox Church were deported to Siberia or imprisoned. The laity, left on their own, had to defend their Church, their liturgy, and their union with Rome.

 The Pratulin Martyrs were a group of 13 Greek Catholic men and boys who were killed by soldiers of the Imperial Russian Army on January 24, 1874, in the village of Pratulin.  Russian authorities forcibly converted all Greek Catholics in Poland to the Russian Orthodox Church. This forced conversion was called the Conversion of Chelm Eparchy.  

The Greek Catholic community protested the force to Russians and confiscation of the church by gathering in front of the church.  Soldiers tried to disperse the people but failed. Their commander tried to bribe the parishioners to abandon the Roman Catholic faith but failed. He threaten them with assorted punishments, but this failed to move them. Deciding that a show of force was needed, the commander ordered his troops to fire on the unarmed, hymn-singing laymen. Russian forces killed 13 of the protesters. The Ruthenian Catholic Church has erected a shrine to their memory there. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 6, 1996. In 1998, some of their relics were transferred to the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite church in nearby KostomÅ‚oty, where the Shrine of the Martyrs of Pratulin was established.

We know almost nothing about their lives outside of this incident. Their families were not allowed to honor them or participate in the funerals, and the authorities hoped they would be forgotten. They were