Ukrainian Catholics in Australia change from Julian to Gregorian calendar

30 Mar 2023

By Contributor

By Marilyn Rodrigues, The Catholic Weekly and Jamie O’Brien, The Record

Ukrainian Bishop Mykola Bychok prays during a liturgical service to pray for the war in Ukraine at St Mary’s Cathedral in 2022. Ukrainian Catholics will now no longer celebrate Christmas on 7 January but join Roman Catholics on 25 December, according to a degree by Bishop Mykola Bychok published on 22 March. Photo: Michelle Tan.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia will switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, sharing the feasts of Easter and Christmas with other Catholics according to a degree by Bishop Mykola Bychok published on 22 March.

The move follows resolutions ­promulgated by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk on 6 February.

Ukrainian Catholics will now no longer celebrate Christmas on 7 January but join Catholics on 25 December.

In the formal declaration posted online, Bishop Bychok announced that the Eparchy of Saints Peter and Paul, Melbourne, responsible for Australia’s Ukrainian Catholics, will adopt the Gregorian calendar for both moveable and immovable feasts.

The chalice, plate and wine are ready ahead of a liturgical service to pray for the war in Ukraine at St Mary’s Cathedral in 2022. Ukrainian Catholics will now no longer celebrate Christmas on 7 January but join Catholics on 25 December, according to a degree by Bishop Mykola Bychok published on 22 March. Photo: Michelle Tan.

Speaking in a Pastoral Letter to Ukrainian Catholic, Bishop Bychok said Change is never easy.

“His Beatitude Patriarch Sviatoslav in his video statement regarding the calendar said, “Do not be afraid of change! We want our Ukraine to be different. We declare that it must become better than it was before the war. This means that we must change first. So let us change! Do not be afraid to become different, better.’” Bishop Bychok said.

The Missal sits ready ahead of a liturgical service to pray for the war in Ukraine at St Mary’s Cathedral in 2022. Ukrainian Catholics will now no longer celebrate Christmas on 7 January but join Catholics on 25 December, according to a degree by Bishop Mykola Bychok published on 22 March. Photo: Michelle Tan.
A cross, candle and flowers are set up for a liturgical service following the commencement of the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian Catholics will now no longer celebrate Christmas on 7 January but join Catholics on 25 December, according to a degree by Bishop Mykola Bychok published on 22 March. Photo: Michelle Tan.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia will switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, sharing the feasts of Easter and Christmas with other Catholics according to a degree by Bishop Mykola Bychok published on 22 March. Photo: Ron Tan.

The change will take effect from 1 September 2023 the first day of the liturgical year for churches with Byzantine heritage.

Previously the eparchy has followed the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian, and is used by some Orthodox churches, as well as Ukrainian Catholics.

“I pray the Good Lord to grant our Eparchy his grace for a smooth transition to the Gregorian Calendar,” the decree said.

Ukrainian Catholic Parish Priest Maylands Fr Ihor Holovko said the change might present some challenges for some parishioners.

“Nevertheless with the Lord we will do everything together; we will support each other and pray together with the heart and mind of Jesus,” Fr Ihor said.

Fr Ihor explained that the calendar is a mathematical and astrological calculation.

“In this time leading up to the resurrection of Christ, let us remember that we are all called to work together in humility and that with patience we will understand what the will of God is for us,” he said.

“We are united in the one church, in the one family in the celebration of Christ’s feast days which is a beautiful opportunity of sharing gifts with each other,” Fr Ihor said.

Ukrainian Bishop Mykola Bychok smiles during a liturgical service to pray for the war in Ukraine at St Mary’s Cathedral in 2022. Ukrainian Catholics will now no longer celebrate Christmas on 7 January but join Roman Catholics on 25 December, according to a degree by Bishop Mykola Bychok published on 22 March. Photo: Michelle Tan.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted a wide-ranging discussion in religious and civil circles about changing the church calendar, due to the perception that the Julian calendar is associated with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Some Orthodox churches, including the Greeks, adopted a hybrid calendar called the “revised Julian” in 1923, in which fixed feasts follow the Gregorian calendar while retaining the traditional Orthodox mode of calculating the dates of Holy Week.

Bishop Bychok noted that the situation of the Ukrainian Church is very different from that in Ukraine.

“However, we are united with Ukraine in an unbreakable bond of love,” he said. “We are one Church, and our change of calendar is a sign of unity with our Mother Church. Ukraine will be working on changing the date of Easter by 2025 together with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” Bishop Bychok said.