The Guardian and CNN reported yesterday that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine will allow its congregations to celebrate Christmas on December 25, rather than on January 7. The practice will be optional for the parishes, and the results will be evaluated. The permission will affect about 7,000 churches across Ukraine.
According to CNN, “The announcement by the Kyiv-headquartered Orthodox Church of Ukraine widens the rift between the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox believers that has deepened due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
The option of celebrating Christmas on December 25 was under consideration for some time prior to the war, but support for this move has grown since the invasion.
A statement from the OCU Synod on October 18 presents the decision in this way:
“Taking into account the numerous requests and taking into account the discussion that has been going on for many years in the Church and in society; anticipating, in particular due to the circumstances of the war, the exacerbation of calendar disputes in the public space; in order to study the real church need for the implementation of calendar changes in the near future, the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine) decided:
where there are pastoral circumstances for this and the desire of the faithful is evidenced, as an exception, by decision of the abbot and congregation, on December 25, 2022, to allow a divine service to be held in the manner of the Nativity of Christ, with subsequent submission through the diocesan administration to the Kyiv Metropolitanate of written information about the number of participants in such a divine service.
In the case of performing such a religious service, its participants are released from the restrictions of fasting on this day,”