Ukraine's main Catholic church moves Christmas to Dec. 25 in pivot to West

FILE PHOTO: Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, attends the funeral of its former head, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kiev, Ukraine, June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine's main Catholic church said on Monday it would move to a new calendar that would see Christmas celebrated on Dec. 25 rather than Jan. 7, amid an effort by Ukrainian institutions to break cultural links to Russia.

The move by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), which counts just under a tenth of Ukrainians as worshippers, was welcomed by culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko.

"This decision is appropriate to the demands of our time and public opinion," he wrote on Facebook, citing the results of a national online survey conducted by the government.

That poll, held in December 2022, showed 59% of over 1.5 million respondents supported moving Christmas celebrations to Dec. 25, when the feast is celebrated in Western Europe.

Last month, Tkachenko expressed hope that all of Ukraine's churches would agree to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25.

Monday's announcement by the UGCC made it the first to do so.

Until now, all major churches in majority-Orthodox Ukraine followed the Julian calendar, which celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7. That is also the date on which Russia celebrates the feast.

The UGCC was hitherto one of few churches worldwide to recognise Papal authority while simultaneously following the Julian calendar, which the Vatican replaced with the amended Gregorian calendar in 1582.

The UGCC's head, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, said that fixed-date feasts such as Christmas would move to the new calendar, but movable feasts such as Easter would still be celebrated according to the old calendar.

(Reporting by Max Hunder; Editing by Mark Potter)

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