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Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas in Ireland

By Ann Marie Foley - 10 January, 2019

St. Colman’s Russian Orthodox Church in Stradbally

The Irish country estate best known for the Electric Picnic music festival celebrated Orthodox Christmas last Monday (7 January 2019).

A congregation of 50 to 60 attended a Christmas service at St Colman’s Russian Orthodox Church, situated on the grounds of Stradbally Hall, Co. Laois, with the gospel readings in English for the Irish members and in the Church’s traditional Slavonic language.

“Some were there specially for Christmas and more than half were regulars. Other regulars were in Russia and elsewhere for the holidays,” the priest Fr Sergey Mironenko told Catholicireland.net. The Orthodox Church across the world celebrates Christmas in early January.

Generally there are 25 to 40 members at the weekly Orthodox services in the rural Co. Laois village. Sergey Mironenko arrived in Dublin from Stalingrad, Russia, almost 20 years ago. He was introduced to the Church by Adrian Cosby, whose family have lived at Stradbally Hall for hundreds of years, and who was instrumental in setting up the Orthodox Church there in the early 1990s.

Sergey Mironenko was ordained a priest in May 2017 by His Grace Bishop Irenei of Sacramento in the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and the Royal Martyrs (London), and was assigned to the parish in Stradbally.

He told CatholicIreland.net that Orthodox priests work a ‘day job’ as well as carrying out their church duties. Married men can be ordained, but those who are ordained when single do not marry. He said that very few Irish people know about the Christian Orthodox Church and issued an invitation that all are welcome to come and see.

“Because I know many people never heard about Orthodox Church,” he said. “People don’t know about Orthodox and if they do they know very little so if somebody just wants to see they are very welcome.”

In Dublin one of the larger congregations uses the former Church of Ireland church in Harold’s Cross for services and operates under the name Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Patriarchal Metochion Russian Orthodox Church.

Adrian Cosby, whose son brought the Electric Picnic to the family estate, got involved in setting up the little church in Stradbally at a time when there were fewer than 250 Orthodox Christians in Ireland. The most recent Irish census showed that the fastest growing religious belief was what it called the Orthodox branch of Christianity, and its adherents in Ireland grew from 45,200 in 2011 to 65,200 in 2016, an increase of 37.5 per cent.

There are a variety of Orthodox Christians in Ireland including Antiochian, Ethiopian, Georgian, Greek, Romanian, Russian and Coptic. Many of Ireland’s new Orthodox may have  fled persecution or financial hardship, and many came from Eastern Europe.

Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on 6 to 7 January, as they date the Nativity using the Julian calendar, introduced under the Roman emperor Julius Caesar in 45 BC, rather than the Gregorian calendar brought in by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, and there is a 13-day difference between the two.


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