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Orthodox church of Ukraine allows worshippers to celebrate Christmas on 25 December

Rob Thompson

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Orthodox church of Ukraine allows worshippers to celebrate Christmas on 25 December

By - Luke Harding and Artem Mazhulin in Kyiv

Source - The Guardian

Date - 07-11-2022

For centuries Ukrainians have celebrated Christmas on 7 January, the date on which Jesus was born, according to the Julian calendar.



But following Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February, the Orthodox church of Ukraine is allowing its congregations for the first time to celebrate Christmas on 25 December, in a move away from Russia and towards the west.

The issue of when to celebrate Christmas has been a matter of longstanding debate in Ukraine.

The church has traditionally observed Christmas on 7 January, at the same time as the Moscow patriarchy, which has blessed Putin’s war. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox church, is a prominent Putin supporter and has said Russian soldiers who are killed will be cleansed of all their sins.

In 2017, 25 December became a public holiday in Ukraine. The country’s Orthodox church has previously allowed prayers to be said on the date.

At a meeting of its synod in October, and following requests, the Kyiv Metropolitanate announced that parishes could hold a full religious service on the 25th if they wished. The decision affects about 7,000 churches across the country.

In an interview with the Guardian, the church’s spokesperson, archbishop Yevstratiy Zoria, said data would be collected to see how many worshippers attended services on the 25th, which this year falls on a Sunday.

“We don’t want to force anyone. We understand that doesn’t resolve anything,” he said. “I personally will decide what to do after talking with my parishioners. It’s better to promote this process slowly and successfully.”

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion, a third of parishioners wanted to move to a western Christmas, he said. The archbishop acknowledged support was now higher.

The two churches bear similar names. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, tried to force the Ukrainian Orthodox church to legally rename itself the Russian Orthodox church in Ukraine.

The attempt failed after the pro-Kremlin Opposition Bloc party – now outlawed – appealed to the constitutional court. Zoria said the Orthodox church of Ukraine backed Ukraine’s statehood, independence, sovereignty and democracy.

The move to 25 December is part of a bigger national process of dismantling the symbols of Russia, the Soviet Union and communism, which took off in 2014 when Putin annexed Crimea and kickstarted a pro-Moscow uprising in the eastern Donbas region.



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