The First American Eparchies Created

In recognition of its continued growth and development, the Holy See acted to significantly upgrade the status of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States. By a decree issued by the newly-elected Pope Paul VI in 1963, the Exarchate, whose territory included the entire United States, was divided into two separate ecclesiastical jurisdictions. The first, centered in Passaic, New Jersey, included the states of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia, all of Eastern Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The second jurisdiction, centered in the city of Pittsburgh, included Western Pennsylvania and the remainder of the nation. The papal decree also raised each jurisdiction to the canonical status of an eparchy, the Eastern term corresponding to the Latin “diocese.”

On July 31, 1963, the two new eparchies were formally established with ceremonies conducted in the newly-designated Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Passaic. Presiding at the ceremonies was the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, who enthroned the first bishop of Passaic, the Most Reverend Stephen J. Kocisko.

When the historic Second Vatican Council convened in Rome (1962-1965), both Bishop Nicholas and Bishop Stephen were active participants in the proceedings.

In December 1967, Bishop Nicholas was transferred to Rome. Shortly after his transfer, he was elevated to the dignity of an Archbishop and appointed the ordaining prelate for the Byzantine Catholics in Rome and head of the Ecumenical Commission on the Liturgy. He resigned as the Byzantine Catholic Bishop of Pittsburgh, and Monsignor Edward V. Rosack, Chancellor of the Eparchy, was named the temporary Apostolic Administrator until the Holy See appointed Bishop Stephen to head the Eparchy of Pittsburgh on December 22, 1967.

Archbishop Nicholas returned to the United States in 1970 and became the Auxiliary Archbishop of the Latin Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon reaching his seventy-fifth birthday, he retired from this position. He fell asleep in the Lord in Cincinnati on May 18, 1991 following an illness.

Though he became a controversial figure, Bishop Nicholas’ dynamic personality and energy accomplished much for the growth and recognition of the Byzantine Catholic Church.·

Metropolitan Church formally established; first Metropolitan enthroned

At the beginning of the decade of the 1960s, the organizational status of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States was that of a church missionary territory with limited self-governing authority. By the end of the decade, however, the remarkable growth and the steadfast loyalty of Byzantine Catholics in the United States were recognized by the bestowal of a new ecclesiastical dignity and status: Pope Paul VI issued a decree on February 21, 1969, entitled Quando Quidem Christus. By virtue of this decree, the Holy Father officially created the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church.· The Eparchy of Munhall thus was elevated to Archeparchy, and the Eparchy of Passaic was designated as a suffragan or constituent part of the Metropolitan Church.· Additionally, the new suffragan Eparchy of Parma (Ohio) was created from the western territory of the former Munhall Eparchy.

The Holy Father appointed Bishop Stephen Kocisko to head the new Metropolitan Church and named him its Archbishop. Bishop Michael J. Dudick, who in 1968 succeeded Bishop Stephen in Passaic, remained the head of the five-year-old Passaic Eparchy. Father Emil Mihalik, Chancellor of the Passaic Eparchy, was then named the first bishop for the newly-created Eparchy of Parma.

On June 11, 1969, Most Reverend Luigi Raimondi, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, enthroned Archbishop Stephen as the first Metropolitan in the history of the Carpatho-Rusyn people. The enthronement took place at Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.

Over a decade later in May 1981, the bishops recognized the need for further development in the life of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America.· Bishop Emil of Parma, at a meeting in Pittsburgh, proposed the creation of a fourth eparchy for the far western states.· The request was made to the Vatican, and on December 3, 1981, Pope John Paul II, through the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, created the Eparchy of Van Nuys in California.· Bishop Thomas V. Dolinay, Auxiliary Bishop of Passaic, was named its first hierarch.