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Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to celebrate Christmas with Rome

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Orest lyzhechka | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 02/08/23

In a bid to distance themselves from Russian cultural elements, the UGCC is changing from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) is changing the date its members will celebrate Christmas to be more in line with the West. In 2023, the faithful of the UGCC will celebrate with Rome on December 25.

As noted by Reuters, the move comes as the Ukrainian people seek to distance themselves from Russian culture. Prior to the change, the UGCC followed the Julian Calendar, followed by the Russian Orthodox Church and many other Orthodox, which places Christmas on January 7.

An online poll taken to gauge the support of the Ukrainian populace, in December 2022, found that around 60% of the 1.5 million respondents supported the change. These figures, according to The Pillar, surge to a 90% support rate in Ukrainian Roman Catholics. 

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk revealed that the decision was made during a synodal meeting of the Church’s bishops, held in early February. While the date of Christmas will diverge from the Julian calendar, the date of movable feasts and the celebration of Easter will remain as they were.

Archbishop Shevchuk noted that the changes will go into effect on September 1, although there is some room for individual parishes to take their time and adjust to the new calendar. The entirety of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is expected to be on the Gregorian calendar for Christmas by 2025. 

The change is expected to affect around 10% of the Ukrainian population, which is the estimated portion of the country who belong to the UGCC. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which is the largest Church in the nation, will continue to follow the Julian calendar, but this, the archbishop noted, may soon change as well. 

The change will promote unity between the UGCC and the Roman Catholic Church, which established the Gregorian Calendar in 1582.

He suggested that the OCU may soon be following the UGCC in their calendar switch. He noted that he discussed the possibility with OCU’s Metropolitan Epiphany in 2022, but he did not indicate where the metropolitan stood on the matter. The Pillar has his comments

“We are moving towards the same goal. However, we may be moving towards it in different ways. We decided to switch, leaving the possibility to remain on the old calendar for those who aren’t ready. The OCU first allows moving for individual parishes, and only then, as we understand it, the Bishops’ Council of this Church will decide on the calendar reform.  So far, we have not set up a joint working group yet, but I would like to see it work. Working together will help us understand each other, but we have already realized that we are moving towards the same goal,” Sviatoslav said Monday.

Read more at The Pillar.

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