With the Julian and Gregorian calendars coinciding in 2010 and 2011 resulting in Easter on the same date in East and West, an international ecumenical seminar has reaffirmed the hope that all Christians will be able to celebrate Easter on the same day every year.
The seminar was organised by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv on 15 May, Oikoumene reports.
Concretely, participants at the seminar expressed the hope that the years 2010 and 2011, when the coincidence of the calendars will produce a common Easter date, would serve as a period during which all Christians would join their efforts “to make such coincidence not to be an exception but rather a rule” and prepare for an Easter date based on exact astronomical reckoning and celebrated by all Christians on 8 April 2012.
However, the seminar also recognised “the main problem”, namely “not the calculations, but the complex relations and missing of trust among different Christian denominations because of long divisions.”
The problem dates back to the origins of the church itself: As Christianity started to spread around the world, Christians came to differing results on when to commemorate Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, due to the different reports in the four gospels on these events.
Attempts to establish a common date for Easter began with the Council of Nicaea in the year 325. It established that the date of Easter would be the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. However, it did not fix the methods to be used to calculate the timing of the full moon or the vernal equinox.<
Nowadays the Orthodox churches use the 21 March of the Julian calendar as the date of the equinox, while the churches of the Western tradition – the Protestant and Catholic churches – base their calculations on the Gregorian calendar. The resulting gap between the two Easter dates can be as much as five weeks.
All participants at the seminar in Lviv, which included Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant theologians from a variety of European countries, endorsed a compromise proposed at a World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation in Aleppo, Syria, in 1997. The proposal was to keep the Nicaea rule but calculate the equinox and full moon using the accurate astronomical data available today, rather than those used many years ago.
The World Council of Churches says consensus is emerging that these should not just be occasional occurrences, AP reports.
“It’s not a problem of principle, of dogma or of doctrine,” said Juan Michel, spokesman for the council, whose 350 Protestant, Orthodox and other churches represent more than 560 million Christians. It cooperates with the Roman Catholic Church, which is not a member.
The Vatican was represented in Lviv by Fr Milan Zust from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.