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Joseph (Žuk) of New Jersey

His Grace Joseph (Žuk) was an Orthodox bishop who, through association with American Orthodox Catholic Church, became the first bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA during the early 1930s.


Joseph A. Žuk was born in Austro-Hungarian Eastern Galicia in the early 1876. After completing his primary schooling, Joseph attended the University of Lemberg. After his graduation, he continued his studies at the Theological Seminary at Innsbruck, graduating with a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1899. He then became the rector of the seminary at the age of 33. Later elevated to the rank of mitered prelate, Joseph was appointed by Pope Pius X as papal delegate and Vicar General in Bosnia. In November of 1917 he was appointed Papal Nuncio to Ukraine. He previously led the Uniat Church from 1914 -1917 while his superior, Bishop Sheptytsky was under arrest by Russian troops after they took the city of Lviv.

In 1921 at the request of Pope Benedict XIV he came to North America to assist in the religious need of the massive Ukrainian Catholic migration and to prepare himself for the appointment to Bishop of all the Eastern Rite Catholics on the continent. With the untimely death of Pope Benedict and the elevation of Cardinal Ratti, aka Pope Pius XI, (former Nuncio to Poland) to the papacy, everything changed. Pope Pius XI was Fr Joseph's superior in the Vatican diplomatic corps. They often clashed on delicate matters with Pope Benedict and Cardinal Pachelli (pope Pius XII) nuncio to Germany often interceding on Father Joseph's behalf. In response to the new Pope's policy to Romanise the Eastern Rite believers in North America, Fr Joseph started a newsletter with many of the parishes across the whole continent following the unfolding battles which often including vicious legal actions brought on by the local Roman Catholic apparatus. This fomented much unrest and ultimately led to Fr Joseph's excommunication in 1928. In this process Fr. Joseph helped lead 500,000 Catholics to Orthodoxy. In 1928, he joined with other Ukrainian Catholic clergy and left the Catholic Church to join the Orthodox Church. He became associated with the American Orthodox Catholic Church led by Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh. Serving as a priest, Fr. Joseph served parishes in Syracuse, New York; Passaic, New Jersey; and Allentown and McAdoo, Pennsylvania.

In 1931, Fr. Joseph was nominated to become the bishop of a group of Ukrainian Orthodox that became the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA. In September 1932, Fr. Joseph was consecrated an auxiliary bishop by Abp. Aftimios and Bp. Sophronios Beshara in New York City to serve the Ukrainian diocese and to help develop a pan orthodox Christianity for North America. Bp. Joseph presided over this Ukrainian diocese in America, leading a flock of about six parishes for just 17 months.

On February 23, 1934, Red Army day, Bp. Joseph died in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was poisoned at lunch on orders from Joseph Stalin under the code name Operation Tryst, an assassination program started by Stalin in the late 1920's that targeted high risk targets to the USSR overseas. Fr. Joseph was previously made chonocally ill through clandestine arsenic poisoning at the hands of a Soviet agent.Archbishop Athenagoras (Spyrou) of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America presided at Bp. Joseph's funeral, which took place in Carteret, New Jersey. He was buried in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

Two years later, the Ukrainian diocese formally joined the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Succession box:
Joseph (Žuk) of New Jersey
Preceded by:
Bishop of New Jersey

Succeeded by:
Bohdan (Spylka)
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