In Ukraine, an Orthodox Christmas breaking with the Russian Church

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Orthodox Christmas is celebrated this Saturday, January 7. And in Ukraine, it is celebrated against the backdrop of the war against Russia and power cuts caused by artillery from Moscow. This period brings to the fore the young independent Church of Ukraine. For the first time, it is she who will celebrate the liturgy of this January 7 in the Cathedral of the Lavra of the Caves of kyiv, and no longer the Church affiliated with Moscow.

The table is laid, the traditional Christmas songs are sung, observe our special envoys in kyiv, Aabla Jounaïdi and Boris Vichith. But for the four generations present this evening, the heart is not totally in it. The war is over there.

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

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

While wanting a break with Moscow, this Ukrainian family continues to celebrate Orthodox Christmas like the Russians, on January 7, by tradition. © RFI/Aabla Jounaïdi

The young woman will attend this Saturday the very first liturgy given in the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Lavra of the Caves of Pechersk-kyiv. And it is no longer the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church affiliated with Moscow who will officiate, but his rival: the primate of the Independent Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanes. A “little revolution” for this young Church which for years has been advocating a total break with Russia.

Ukrainian Orthodox Churches take their freedom

Traditionally, the Patriarchate of kyiv, which has become the Unified Ukrainian Church, celebrates Christmas at Saint Michael’s Monastery in kyiv, while the Orthodox Church that emerged from the Patriarchate of Moscow organizes its services in the largest cathedral, a thousand-year-old site whose Moscow patriarchate had makes its historic seat.

But for several months, a muted struggle has pitted the Ukrainian authorities against the powerful, but losing ground, Moscow current of Orthodoxy, some of whose priests and parishes are accused of being agents of influence of Kirill, the Russian patriarch, and the Kremlin. This fall, searches took place at the Laures monastery in Pechersk, and at the end of December, the Ministry of Culture refused to renew the lease which allows the Patriarchate of Moscow to be housed in this monument classified by Unesco.

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

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


Vyatcheslav Gorshkov is a specialist in religion for the Ukrainian government.

In Ukraine we have our own Orthodox Church. The so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church “autocephalous”. It is no longer under the jurisdiction of another country, it has broken with Moscow. And this is very important. The whole history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should be compared with the history of our struggle for independence. We are fighting for the independence of our country and at the same time for that 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 power persecuted the Church in Russia but used its representatives for its propaganda in other countries. The new Orthodox Church of Ukraine led by Metropolitan Epiphanius is officially recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and several other Churches abroad. »

In Ukraine, an Orthodox Christmas breaking with the Russian Church