In our large Church only one parish requested permission to remain on Julian calendar for the time being: Head of the UGCC

December 22, 2023, 10:15 174

In 2023, an event occurred that in the whirlwind of modern vicissitudes of life may not be noticed or understood for its historical significance — the transition of the Church to the “new” Gregorian calendar. And in a few days, on December 25, for the first time in Ukraine, the UGCC will celebrate Christmas in a new way with the whole world. How did the Church cope with this decision, and how is it perceived today? Did all the congregations agree with it? Were there any disputes over it?

In our large Church only one parish requested permission to remain on Julian calendar for the time being: Head of the UGCC

His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Head of the Church, speaks in the final program of the Open Church. Diplomat and public figure Danylo Lubkivsky, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, was also a program guest.

“This year will be indeed unique, specifically because we will celebrate Christmas twice within its calendar limits: on January 7, according to the ‘old’ Julian calendar, and on December 25, according to the ‘new’ Gregorian calendar,” says His Beatitude Sviatoslav.

Why and how was this decision made in February, when the “old” Christmas had already been celebrated and the “old” church calendars had been printed?

“When deciding on the transition to the new calendar, we, the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, tried to be very circumspect, careful, and wise so that this reform would not cause additional divisions, conflicts, and even cleavages between calendars, as it has unfortunately happened in our Church abroad, — the Head of the UGCC reminded. — As for the right moment, we tried to listen very carefully to the heartbeat of our people, as a good doctor does when he wants to understand what to expect from an athlete, listens to his heartbeat, and knows how much more stress he can take. At that moment, we realized that the time had come — something we call kairos in history, a God-given sign. If we had implemented this reform six months earlier, there would have been misunderstandings and schisms. It would have been too late if we had done it six months later. If we had done it on our own, without a specific understanding with our Orthodox brothers, there would have been specific problems. Therefore, considering all these factors, we embarked on a truly historic and bold step.”

Danylo Lubkivsky, as a representative of civil society, agrees with His Beatitude:

“Certainly, this is a historic decision, very much awaited and desired, yet at the same time very difficult. To a certain extent, this is a metaphor for the return of our people to the space of a single European Christian civilization. On the one hand, this transition is an internal need of our people’s spiritual and civilizational needs; on the other hand, it is a decision that brings us into a new historical ‘room,’ a space where we designate our place and our unity. So, we are returning, but we also have to preserve our identity. We are returning not to adopt something foreign but to be together and, simultaneously, to carry what is unique to us.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav emphasized that this step was preceded by thorough preparation and study of public opinion in the church environment: “Of course, we conducted a survey for ourselves. And we said: if at least 2/3 of our faithful are ready for this reform, we will do it. According to this survey, almost 90 % were in favor of the new calendar! Despite our expectations, it was a big surprise for us. This is how we received the credit of trust from our people, our faithful. The first reaction to this decision was joy. I remember that I had previously said this in Ternopil, at a meeting with young people at the medical university, though without disclosing all the details, everyone applauded!”

The Head of the UGCC noted that for parishes not ready to accept the new calendar immediately, a transition period was allowed to adjust to the new rhythm of church life. The result was also surprising. His Beatitude Sviatoslav says: “A month ago, we had the Synod of Bishops of Ukraine. I asked the bishops: did any parishes ask permission to remain on the Julian calendar? In our entire large church, only one asked! It is one of our young parishes in the Kharkiv region.

That is, we have never seen such unanimity, unity, a credit of trust and obedience to the church authorities, or discipline among Greek Catholics in our history. Today, at the end of this year, I would like to thank our priests, monks, nuns, and people for this trust in the church authorities, for listening to us when we asked you to wait, and for hearing us and following us when we said: we have to move, we have to go forward!

We see how smoothly this reform is going. It is a bit unusual, and we still have much to learn. But we did not expect such serenity, peace, joy, and harmony within our Church as we have today. May the Lord God be blessed for this!” concluded the Head of the UGCC.

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The UGCC Department for Information

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