Christians Attend Mass at Historic Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra as Ukraine Celebrates Orthodox Christmas

Eastern Orthodox Christians attended Mass at the Dormition Cathedral in Kyiv’s historic Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra on Saturday, January 7, as Ukraine celebrated Orthodox Christmas.

The service was the first time the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine had held a Christmas liturgy in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra for over 300 years, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported. The UNESCO-listed complex had been leased to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

In December, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree approving a National Security and Defense Council proposal to ban Russian-affiliated religious groups and impose sanctions on a number of pro-Moscow bishops, amid claims the Russian-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church was acting as an agent in the Russo-Ukrainian War.

During the Christmas service, Epiphanius I, the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, condemned “the numerous war crimes committed by the Russian empire of evil on our land,” RFE/RL reported.

“During these days of festivities, with strong feelings we ask God: help us to defeat the enemy who brought grief into our home,” Epiphanius said, as cited by RFE/RL. “Through the victory of truth, may [God] establish a just and lasting peace.”

In an Orthodox Christmas address, Zelensky accused Russian forces of continuing attacks despite the Kremlin’s declaration of a 36-hour unilateral ceasefire.

Russian state media reported claims that Ukraine had also continued offensive actions over January 6-7.

Ukraine did not agree to observe the unilateral ceasefire declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: Suspilne News via Storyful