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Ukraine: Schevchuk, changing Christmas date “is not a matter to be solved now or to be decided alone”

“We do not want to adopt the Gregorian Calendar without our Orthodox brothers, so as not to hinder the way to the union of our Churches”. These are the words of His Beatitude Sviatoslav Schevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, about the debate that has arisen in the country on the demand to change Christmas Day from December 25th to January 7th. Several groups of activists have put forward two appeals to turn December 25th, a business day in Ukraine, into a holiday. Such appeals have been posted online on the website of the Ukrainian Presidency too. “We, Christians of different confessions in Ukraine, without relinquishing our traditions, ask to celebrate Christmas on December 25th along with the majority of the Christian world”, one of the two appeals reads. If they put together the requisite number of signatures, president Pedro Poroshenko shall refer the final decision to Parliament. The position of His Beatitude Schevchuk is posted on the website of the Greek Catholic Church. “In fact – the archbishop says –, a large part of our devotees outside our country celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian Calendar. In Ukraine, for historical and disciplinary reasons, and considering the relations between the different churches, we follow the Julian Calendar. Now, there is a discussion within our Church about adopting the Gregorian Calendar. I must say this is not a matter that should be solved now”.

However, the archbishop says he would like the process to go on “as to the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar and the celebration of Christmas not only with the Catholic world but with the other Orthodox Churches too”. And he explains: “This is not a matter that concerns the dogmatic lesson of the Church, it is rather a disciplinary one, because in fact we do not know when Jesus was born. Christmas Day was established by Christians to fall on the day Romans celebrated the birthday of the sun to give such holiday a new Christian meaning, i.e. the birth of Jesus, like the sun that is the true light of the world. I would like, though, the discussion on Christmas Day in our country not to involve the hierarchy only, but above all the lay people, because it should be a debate that takes place in an ecumenical spirit”.

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