The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will reform its calendar, so that it celebrates feast days such as Christmas and the Annunciation at the same time as Western Churches.
The head of the Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, announced the decision in a live broadcast on 6 February.
The changes will come into effect from 1 September, the beginning of the next liturgical year. The Church will preserve its current Paschalia, to determine the date of Easter and connected feasts.
Archbishop Shevchuk said that the decision followed “numerous requests of the faithful and…prior consultations with the clergy and monastics of our Church about the urgent need to reform the liturgical calendar”.
The decision of the Synod of Bishops on 1-2 February followed a survey of Church members on possible reform.
Archbishop Shevchuk said that they had agreed to act if 70 per cent were in favour of change, but support for reform reached almost 90 per cent.
“The desire and need for the calendar reform were much more potent than we could have hoped,” he said, “and this is very good news.”
There is provision for parishes to retain the old dates, which follow the Julian calendar, with their bishop’s permission until September 2025.
However, Shevchuk appealed to “those who may be a little scared today because they do not feel very confident”.
“Do not be afraid of change! We want our Ukraine to be different,” he said.
“We declare that it must become better than it was before the war. It means that we must change first. So let us change! Do not be afraid to become different, better.”
Prior to the announcement, Shevchuk had urged Ukrainian Catholics to “listen to your mother’s voice, your Church’s voice”.
In his address on Monday, the archbishop said that priests “must do everything to ensure that not a single great holiday, including those we call the Twelve [Great Feasts], fades with the change of the calendar”.
The Twelve Great Feasts are those second only to Easter in the Church’s calendar. It is a liturgical category the Ukrainian Catholic Church shares with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Archbishop Shevchuk expressed the hope that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine would also reform its calendar, and said that he had discussed the subject with its head, Metropolitan Epiphany.
“I would very much like our experience of calendar reform to serve our Orthodox brothers,” said Shevchuk.
“We must understand that we are moving towards the same goal. Although, perhaps, we are going to it in slightly different ways.”
The celebration of feast days, in particular Christmas, has become contentious in Ukraine as churches and communities cut ties with Russia and its customs.
Ukraine’s culture minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, welcomed the calendar reform of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church as “appropriate to the demands of our time and public opinion”.
In the UK, the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family said that it would closely follow the proposals for the Church in Ukraine.
Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski told The Tablet: “Our parishes in the eparchy follow the Julian calendar and I am sure that over the course of the next months we will be in consultation with our clergy and parish councils to determine the course of direction our eparchy will take.”