Leonid Feodorov

Leonid Ivanovich Feodorov (Russian: Леонид Иванович Фёдоров; 4 November 1879 – 7 March 1935) was Exarch of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church, in addition to being a survivor of the Gulag. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 27 June 2001.

Leonid Feodorov
Леонид Феодоров
Born4 November 1879
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died7 March 1935 (aged 55)
Viatka, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church Russian Catholic Church
Beatified27 June 2001, Ukraine by Pope John Paul II
Feast7 March

Early lifeEdit

Feodorov was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 4 November 1879, into a Russian Orthodox family.[1] His father, Ivan, was a moderately successful restaurant owner and the son of a serf. His mother, Lyuba Feodorov, a woman of Greek descent, raised him as a single mother after his father's early death. Although she attempted to raise her son as a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church, she simultaneously encouraged him to read the popular novelists of the day.

He later recalled, "So I began to devour the best known French novelists of the day, Zola, Hugo, Maupassant, and Dumas. I became acquainted with the Italian Renaissance and its corrupt literature, Boccaccio and Ariosto. My head came to be like a sewer into which the foulest muck was emptied."[2]

After his graduation from the Second Imperial Gymnasium in 1901, he enrolled in the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Academy in order to study for the priesthood in the Russian Orthodox Church. After much soul-searching, he left his studies at the Petersburg Spiritual Academy in the summer of 1902 and traveled to Rome by way of Austrian-ruled Lviv, where Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church blessed his mission.[3]

Conversion and ordinationEdit

On 31 July 1902, Feodorov was formally received into the Catholic Church at the Church of the Gesù in Rome. In the aftermath, he began studying at the Jesuit seminary at Anagni under the pseudonym of "Leonidas Pierre," which was meant to keep the Tsar's secret police, or Okhrana, off his trail.

Although Leonid had originally promised to adopt the Latin Rite, while studying in the Jesuit seminary at Anagni, Leonid came to believe that it was his duty to remain faithful to the liturgy and customs of the Christian East. With the full permission and encouragement of Pope Pius X, Leonid transferred to the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church. As a result of his decision, Leonid was disowned by his former Jesuit mentor and afterwards depended for his finances on Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky of Lviv.

On March 25, 1911, he received ordination in Bosnia as a Byzantine rite priest.[4] He spent the following years as a Studite hieromonk in Bosnia and Ukraine and was tonsured with monastic name 'Leontiy' on 12 March 1913.

Return to RussiaEdit

On the eve of the First World War, he returned to Saint Petersburg whereupon he was immediately exiled to Tobolsk in Siberia as a potential threat to the Tsar's government which held Russian Orthodoxy as its state religion.

After the February Revolution, the Provisional Government ordered the release of all political prisoners. Pope Benedict XV named him Exarch of Russian Catholics of Byzantine rite.[1] A three-day Synod of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church opened in Saint Petersburg under the leadership of Metropolitan Andrey.

He served as abbot in the Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in Petrograd, under his leadership the women's order of the Holy Family, the Community of Sisters of the Holy Spirit, and the Society of John Chrysostom were founded. He made presentations, participated in disputes with Orthodox clergy.[5]

The Cieplak TrialEdit

Open persecution of religion began in 1922. The clergy were forbidden to preach religion to anyone under eighteen years of age. Then, all sacred objects were ordered to be seized for "famine relief" and lay councils called dvatsatkii were installed in each parish by the GPU with the intention of making the priest a mere employee. When both the Exarch Leonid and the Latin Rite Archbishop Jan Cieplak refused to permit this, all Catholic parishes were forcibly closed by the State.

In the spring of 1923, Exarch Leonid, Archbishop Cieplak, Monsignor Konstanty Budkiewicz, and fourteen other Catholic priests and one layman were summoned to Moscow trial before the revolutionary tribunal for counter-revolutionary activities.

According to Father Christopher L. Zugger,

The Bolsheviks had already orchestrated several 'show trials.' The Cheka had staged the 'Trial of the St. Petersburg Combat Organization'; its successor, the new GPU, the 'Trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries.' In these and other such farces, defendants were inevitably sentenced to death or to long prison terms in the north. The Cieplak show trial is a prime example of Bolshevik revolutionary justice at this time. Normal judicial procedures did not restrict revolutionary tribunals at all; in fact, the prosecutor N.V. Krylenko, stated that the courts could trample upon the rights of classes other than the proletariat. Appeals from the courts went not to a higher court, but to political committees. Western observers found the setting -- the grand ballroom of a former Noblemen's Club, with painted cherubs on the ceiling -- singularly inappropriate for such a solemn event. Neither judges nor prosecutors were required to have a legal background, only a proper 'revolutionary' one. That the prominent 'No Smoking' signs were ignored by the judges themselves did not bode well for legalities."[6]

New York Herald correspondent Francis McCullagh, who was present at the trial, later described its fourth day as follows:

Krylenko, who began to speak at 6:10 PM, was moderate enough at first, but quickly launched into an attack on religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. "The Catholic Church", he declared, "has always exploited the working classes." When he demanded the Archbishop's death, he said, "All the Jesuitical duplicity with which you have defended yourself will not save you from the death penalty. No Pope in the Vatican can save you now." ...As the long oration proceeded, the Red Procurator worked himself into a fury of anti-religious hatred. "Your religion", he yelled, "I spit on it, as I do on all religions, -- on Orthodox, Jewish, Mohammedan, and the rest." "There is no law here but Soviet Law," he yelled at another stage, "and by that law you must die."[7]

Unlike the other defendants, Exarch Leonid insisted on acting as his own attorney, which led to some of the most dramatic moments of the trial. According to Father Zugger,

Dressed in the traditional Russian black cassock, with his long hair a beard often described as 'Christ-like', Feodorov was a man of the narod, of the ordinary Russian people for whom the Revolution had been fought. His presence put the lie to the usual description of Catholicism as 'the Polish religion.' His presentation -- a moving testimony of Russian spirituality and the history of the Church in that country -- evoked the best of Russian Christendom. He pointed out that Greek-Catholics greeted the Revolution with joy, for only then did they have equality. There was no secret organization, they had simply followed Church law. Religious education, the celebration of Mass, and the administration of the Sacraments of marriage and baptism had to be fulfilled. He pointed out that the Church, accused of having neglected the starving, was at that moment feeding 120,000 children daily. Following a scathing rebuttal by Krylenko, Exarch Feodorov rose for his final remarks: "Our hearts are full, not of hatred, but of sadness. You cannot understand us, we are not allowed liberty of conscience. That is the only conclusion we can draw from what we have heard here."[8]

With the verdict and sentences already decided upon in advance, Archbishop Cieplak and Monsignor Budkiewicz were both sentenced to death. Exarch Leonid and all the other defendants were sentenced to the term of ten years imprisonment.[4]

The GulagEdit

The international uproar which followed the trial gave the Soviet government pause, however. In 1926,[3] after serving the first three years of his sentence in Moscow's Butyrka prison, Exarch Leonid was transported to Solovki prison camp,[1] located in a former island monastery in the White Sea.

He was a pioneer of ecumenism together with the Orthodox with whom he shared the harsh captivity. In Solovki, Roman Catholic Mass was offered in a chapel which had been restored for the purpose with the permission of the guards. Exarch Leonid would offer the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church every other Sunday. When the camp authorities cracked down on this in 1929, the Masses continued in secret.

Release and deathEdit

On 6 August 1929, Exarch Leonid was released to the town of Pinega in the Arkhangelsk Oblast and put to work making charcoal. After continuing to teach the Catechism to young boys, he was transferred to the village of Poltava, 15 km from Kotlas (not to be confused with the city of Poltava, Ukraine), where he completed his sentence in 1932. He chose to reside in Kirov, Kirov Oblast, where, worn out by the rigours of his imprisonment, he died on 7 March 1935.[4]


On 27 June 2001, Exarch Leonid Feodorov was beatified by Pope John Paul II. He remains deeply venerated among Russian Catholics.

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said, "We expect that the exarch [Leonid Feodoriv] is on the road to glorification through beatification. Of course, it is much too early to talk about this, but all of us were strongly impressed by his holiness, strengthened by the crown of martyrdom and death; this certainly supports our expectations. On the other hand, as a Russian Catholic, as exarch, as someone who died at the hands of the Bolsheviks, it seems to us that he will be right in the center of attention of the entire Church."[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Siccardi, Christina. "Beato Leonida (Leonid) Federov", Santi e Beati, December 29, 2011
  2. ^ Fr. Paul Mailleux, S.J., Exarch Leonid Feodorov: Bridgbuilder between Rome and Moscow, 1964. Pages 8-9.
  3. ^ a b c Church of the Martyrs: The New Saints of Ukraine. Lviv, Ukraine: St John's Monastery. 2002. p. 8. ISBN 966-561-345-6.
  4. ^ a b c Arduino, Fabio. "Beato Leonida (Leonid) Federov", Santi e Beati, December 29, 2011
  5. ^ Парфентьев, Павел (2017). Служение блаженного Леонида Федорова в России. Православные католики Одессы.
  6. ^ Father Christopher Lawrence Zugger, "The Forgotten: Catholics in the Soviet Empire from Lenin through Stalin," Syracuse University Press, 2001. Page 182.
  7. ^ Captain Francis McCullagh, The Bolshevik Persecution of Christianity, E.P. Dutton and Company, 1924. Page 221.
  8. ^ Father Christopher Lawrence Zugger, The Forgotten: Catholics in the Soviet Empire from Lenin through Stalin, Syracuse University Press, 2001. Page 186.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Exarch of Russian Byzantine Catholic Church
Succeeded by

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