Ukraine’s Orthodox Church allows Christmas celebrations on December 25 as feud with Moscow deepens


A branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church announced that it would allow it churches To celebrate Christmas on December 25, instead of January 7, as is customary in Orthodox congregations.

The announcement by the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church widens the rift between the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox believers that has been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The decision came after “taking into account the numerous requests and the debate that has been going on for many years in the church and in society. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church said in a statement published on October 18: “I expected, in particular due to the circumstances of the war, an escalation of calendar disagreements in public places.” .

Each church will have the option to celebrate on December 25, which marks the birth of Christ according to the Gregorian calendar, rather than January 7, which marks the birth of Jesus according to the Julian calendar, which is still used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In recent years, a large part of Ukraine’s Orthodox community has moved away from Moscow, a movement accelerated by the conflict sparked by Russia in eastern Ukraine beginning in 2014.

That split became more open in 2018, after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople — a Greek clergyman considered the spiritual leader of Orthodox believers worldwide — endorsed the creation of an independent Orthodox church in Ukraine and rescinded a centuries-old agreement conferring the patriarch. In Moscow authority over churches in the country.

The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had become closely associated with the Russian state under Russian President Vladimir Putin, responded by severing ties with Bartholomew.

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Then in May, leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), another branch that was officially affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, severed ties with the Moscow Church led by Patriarch Kirill, who offered his support. to invade Ukraine and put his church firmly behind Putin.

Ukrainian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, 2016.

In a statement, the University of Oklahoma said it had chosen “full independence and autonomy” for the Ukrainian Church.

The emergence of a church independent of Moscow infuriated Putin, who has made the restoration of the so-called “Russian world” the focus of his foreign policy and dismissed Ukrainian national identity as illegitimate.

And Kirill remains outspoken in his support for the invasion, declaring in September that Russian soldiers killed in the war against Ukraine would be cleansed of all their sins.

He said, “He sacrifices himself for others.” “I am sure that such a sacrifice washes away all the sins committed by man.”

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