Patsy McGarry: In a word


So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Another year over. A new one begun . . . okay, okay. I know! And no. This is not a two-weeks- later-than-it-should-have-appeared column. Rather it is a column aimed at the much more diverse Ireland of which you are a part. Not apart from, I hope?

So it is happy Christmas to our Orthodox Christians in Ireland and all abroad who celebrate Christmas Eve tomorrow and Christmas Day on Wednesday.

Did you know that there are, according to the 2011 census, 45, 223 Orthodox Christians in Ireland, an increase of no less than 117.4 per cent on the 2006 figure? Did you know that the most westerly Russian Orthodox Church in Europe in regular use is that of the Apostles Peter and Paul in Dublin's Harold's Cross?

It also has the largest Orthodox congregation in Ireland, estimated at 1,500, and is mother church also to congregations at Stradbally Co Laois, Waterford, Cork, and Galway. See what you learn from reading this column!


Besides the Russians, we also have Greek, Romanian, Antiochian, Georgian, Syrian and Coptic Orthodox Churches in Ireland. All share the same Christian beliefs but are organised on national lines, with Ecumenical Patriarch Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) their nominal head. Largely found in Eastern and Southern Europe, north-east Africa, the Middle East and Russia, the Orthodox Churches emerged when Christianity split between Rome and Constantinople in the Great Schism of 1054.

But that is not why they celebrate Christmas Day on Wednesday next. It is because they have stayed with the Julian calendar. Eleven days were dropped to make up for a major discrepancy that had accumulated under the old Julian (after Julius Caesar) calendar, with England and Scotland switching to the Gregorian (after Pope Gregory XIII) calendar in 1752. That is why our Irish Orthodox, as well as those elsewhere in the world, celebrate Christmas every year on January 7th. Happy Christmas to all.

The word orthodox (to conform to the approved form of any doctrine, philosophy, or ideology) is believed to come from the late Latin word orthodoxus, from the Greek orthodoxos "having the right opinion", from orthos "right, true, straight".In English it was first recorded as the name of an Eastern Church in 1772 and, with reference to a branch of Judaism, in 1853.