The Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has decided to move away from the Julian Calendar which will involve changing the dates of several fixed liturgical feasts. For the time being, however, Greek Catholics will continue to celebrate Easter on a later date according to the old calendar.
By Lisa Zengarini
As from this year, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) will be celebrating Christmas on the 25 December, and not on January 7, and the Epiphany on 6 January instead of the 19th.
The switch of dates is part of a major change decided last week by the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, moving away from the Julian Calendar which is presently used almost exclusively by the Russian Orthodox Church and other Eastern Churches under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
The governing body of the UGCC meeting in Lviv-Bryukhovychi on February 1–2, decided that the changeover will take effect on September 1, but allowed for parishes to transition gradually with permission from their respective bishops.
90 per cent of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in favour of the reform
The decision was officially announced in a live broadcast of “Live TV” on Monday, 6 February, by the head of the UGCC, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who explained that it was adopted after a vast consultation, involving clergy, religious and Church leaders, which indicated a shift of opinion in favour of the change.
Until the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, 2022, Ukrainian Greek Catholics, including those of the diaspora, were divided on the issue. Instead, said Archbishop Shevchuk, the survey showed that now more than 90% of Ukrainian Greek Catholics are supporting the move from the Julian calendar, which many Ukrainians associate with the Russian occupiers.
Catholics and Orthodocx Churches still discussing a common date for Easter
The switch to the Gregorian calendar will involve changing the dates of several fixed liturgical feasts, but for the time being Greek Catholics will continue to celebrate Easter on a later date than most Christian Churches. The reason for this, according to an UGCC statement, is that Catholics and the Orthodox Churches under the Patriarchate of Constantinople (which currently use the Julian calendar to determine the date of Easter, but do not otherwise adhere to) are still discussing about finding a common date for Easter.
They hope to reach an agreement by 2025, during the celebrations of 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicea, the first general council in the history of the Church, in 325 A.D..
Orthodox Church of Ukraine (separated from Moscow) expected to change too
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which obtained autocephaly from Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in 2019 against the will of the Patriarchate of Moscow, is also considering the idea of switching to the Gregorian Calendar , and Archbishop Shevchuk said on Monday that he hopes it will make the move very soon.
“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 head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said.
The OCU, is expected to discuss the issue when its bishops gather in May this year.