The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church welcomed a decree by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy last weekend switching Ukraine to the Western Gregorian calendar for Christmas and other key annual holidays, which the president said was part of “rejecting Russian heritage”.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said this fulfilled the will of the country's medieval founder.
“This is the civilisational choice of Prince Volodymyr,” said Archbishop Shevchuk, “which today we must remember, celebrate and live in accordance with – for a nation which believes in the Resurrection, the horizons are widening.”
He continued: “The statehood under martial law that we create today, at the cost of our personal lives and with the blood of our army, is something that requires us to be able to see the future, to see the power of God.”
Kyiv announced the change amid reports of fierce fighting in northeastern Ukraine. On Monday, a Russian missile attack on a residential building and university complex in President Zelenskiy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih left at least six civilians dead and 70 injured.
Russian officials dismissed a drone attack on Moscow on Sunday, the third in a week, which damaged government offices in the capital’s business district and temporarily shut down one of its airports.
However, the Kremlin responded angrily to another attack in the early hours of Tuesday morning, when a drone crashed into a skyscraper in the financial district. Nobody was injured, but a government spokesman accused Kyiv of employing terrorist methods in attacking a civilian area.
Meanwhile, prompted by continuing Russian missile attacks, over 350 priests from Ukraine's Moscow-linked Orthodox Church have signed a petition to their primate, Metropolitan Onufriy (Berezovsky), demanding a “final break with the Russian Orthodox Church” in light of the “genocide of Ukrainians by Russian occupiers”.
“Only this will save our Church and give it the moral right to continue existing in the Ukrainian state,” said the petition, published by Ukraine's Glavcom agency.
It was drawn up after a Russian cruise missiles hit Odessa’s Transfiguration Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in late July, wrecking the late eighteenth-century building.
“We are being forced into unquestionable unity with the Russian Orthodox Church, whose head blesses the Russian army’s satanic march on our homeland... We do not wish to suffer for Russia, for Putin or for Kirill – most of us have the impression we are being persecuted for them, not for Christ.”
On Sunday, the Pope urged Russia to re-open Black Sea shipping lanes to grain exports from Ukraine.
“Let us not cease to pray for beleaguered Ukraine, where the war is destroying everything, even grain – this is a grave offence to God, because grain is his gift to feed humanity,” said Francis, speaking in a St Peter's Square.
“The cry of millions of brothers and sisters who suffer hunger rises to heaven. I appeal to my brothers, authorities of the Russian Federation, that the Black Sea initiative may be restored and grain transported safely.”
He made the appeal after Moscow reiterated its refusal to renew an August 2022 agreement, which has allowed millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs to reach world markets. Russian forces bombed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on 17 July and began targeting the country's alternative export routes along the River Danube with missiles and drones.