The Rev. Alexander F. C. Webster's "What the Media Have Missed in Eastern Europe" {op-ed, July 31}, although largely correct in presenting certain Eastern European historical facts, is itself not free of simplifications.

For example, while mentioning the 1596 Union of Brest, which gave birth to the Uniate Church, he writes that "most of the Orthodox bishops in the Western Ukraine, but only a minority of the faithful, were arguably 'enticed' into union with Rome by offers of political privileges and cultural benefits in the Catholic Polish state. Dissenters faithful to Orthodoxy were forcibly suppressed by Polish authorities."

The truth was somewhat different. The "eastern schism" of 1054 resulted in attempts to end it, including the fruitless 1439 Union of Florence. In the meantime, and following the 1386 Union of Krewo, which lay the foundations for the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Republic to whom the Orthodox Ukraine and Byelorussia belonged, yet another such attempt was undertaken. And the said "enticement" looked different than presented. Namely, the patriarchate of Moscow, created in 1589, claimed jurisdiction over the Orthodox faithful living then in the republic, thereby threatening it and even the 1548-created Kiev Patriarchate (Kiev belonged then to the republic but its patriarchate was subordinated to Turkish-ruled Constantinople).

And indeed, some of the Ukranian hierarchy toyed then with the idea of becoming independent of either one of the patriarchates and reuniting with Rome. They wrote directly to Pope Clement VIII, who endorsed the idea and, a year later, in 1596, it came to the Union of Brest. Yet the whole enterprise went astray from the start, not without interference by Moscow and Istanbul, both hostile to the republic. As a result, the latter imposed restrictions on the functioning of the Orthodox hierarchy, but it did not persecute the faithful. It was only Russia, under whose domination the Uniate Church eventually fell, that started to persecute the Uniates and, in 1946, outlawed them.


The writer is Poland's former ambassador to Japan.