Ukraine’s Orthodox Church to allow Christmas celebrations on December 25 as rift with Moscow deepens


A branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has announced that its church will allow them to celebrate Christmas on December 25, rather than January 7, as is customary in Orthodox congregations.

The announcement by the Kiev-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church widens the rift between the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox believers, which has deepened as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision was made after “considering the many requests and considering the discussion that has been going on for many years in the Church and in society; especially due to the circumstances of the war, it foresees an increase in calendar conflicts in the public space,” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said in a statement published on October 18.

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

Much of Ukraine’s Orthodox community has drifted away from Moscow in recent years, a move accelerated by the conflict Russia has unleashed in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

This schism became more open in 2018, after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople – a Greek church considered the spiritual leader of the Orthodox faithful worldwide – agreed to establish an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church and revoked the century-old agreement given by the Patriarch. Moscow’s authority over the churches of the country.

The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, closely tied to the Russian state under Russian President Vladimir Putin, responded by cutting ties with Bartholomew.

Then, in May, leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), another branch of the Russian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, severed ties with the Moscow church led by Patriarch Kirill. He has put his church firmly behind Putin on the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, 2016.

In a statement, the UOC said it was committed to the “complete independence and autonomy” of the Ukrainian church.

The creation of a church independent of Moscow has angered Putin, who has made the restoration of the so-called “Russian world” a focus of his foreign policy and has rejected Ukraine’s national identity as illegitimate.

And Kirill remains clearly in favor of the invasion, announcing that Russian soldiers who die in the war against Ukraine in September will atone for all their sins.

“He’s sacrificing himself for others,” she said. “I am sure that such a sacrifice washes away all the sins a person has committed.”