In Ukraine, the Orthodox Christmas holiday with the Russian Church

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Orthodox Christmas is celebrated this Saturday, January 7th. And in Ukraine, it is celebrated against the backdrop of the war against Russia and the blackout caused by artillery from Moscow. This period brought to the fore the independent young Ukrainian Church. For the first time, it will be he who will be celebrating the liturgy this January 7 in Kyiv Cave Lavra Cathedral, and no longer the Moscow-affiliated Church.

Tables are laid, traditional carols are sung, observe our special envoy in kyiv, Aabla Jounaïdi and Boris Vichith. But for the four generations present tonight, the heart isn’t completely in it. The war is there.

Not everyone is there. Some in France, others in Switzerland. they are far away “, regrets Vira Ivanivna Tkachenko, 84 years old.

Celebrating Christmas according to the Julian calendar as in Russia or European time on December 25, remains an open question for this family. But breaking ties with Moscow is very important for Dalyna: “ We are fighting on another front. It’s a tradition, a religion. Before, we didn’t care if something was from Ukraine or Moscow, we followed tradition. But for me, it matters now. I don’t want to support a Church that has incited war in my country. This is why I support our local Orthodox Church. »

While wanting to cut ties with Moscow, the Ukrainian family still celebrates Orthodox Christmas like the Russians, on Jan. 7, as per tradition. © RFI/Aabla Jounaïdi

The young woman will attend this Saturday the first liturgy held at the Assumption Cathedral of the Lavra in the Pechersk-kyiv Caves. And it will no longer be the head of the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but his rival: the primate of the Ukrainian Independent Church, Metropolitan Epiphanes. A “little revolution” for this young Church which for years advocated complete separation from Russia.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church took their liberty

Traditionally, the Kyiv Patriarchate, which has become the Church of the United Ukraine, celebrates Christmas at Saint Michael’s Monastery in kyiv, while the Orthodox Church that emerged from the Moscow Patriarchate holds its services in its largest cathedral, the thousand-year-old site of which the Moscow patriarchate has been its historic seat.

But for several months, a silent struggle has pitted Ukrainian authorities against the powerful but losing current of Moscow Orthodoxy, some of whose clergy and parishes have been accused of being agents of influence for Kirill, the Russian patriarch, and the Kremlin. This fall, a search was launched at the Laures monastery in Pechersk, and in late December, the Ministry of Culture refused to renew the lease that allowed the Moscow Patriarchate to house this Unesco-classified monument.

In the Kremlin, this case will be followed very closely, because one of the main reasons for this great historic war is the Kremlin’s desire to uphold its authority in kyiv, our correspondent in kyiv said, Stephane Siohan.

Many Russians believe that Russia was born in Kyiv a thousand years ago, that Kyiv is a Russian city, and the ancient church is its symbol.


Vyatcheslav Gorshkov is a religion specialist for the Ukrainian government.

In Ukraine we have our own Orthodox Church. The so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church “autocephalus”. It is no longer under the jurisdiction of another country, it has broken with Moscow. And this is very important. The entire history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church must be compared with the history of our struggle for independence. We fight for the independence of our country and at the same time for the independence of our Church. And it continues with this war. As for power in Moscow, it has always used the Church for its propaganda. Under the Soviet Union, the powers persecuted the Church in Russia but used its representatives for its propaganda in other countries. The new Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Epiphanius is officially recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and several other Churches abroad. »

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