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Christian faiths continue negotiations to set a date for Easter

20 January 2016 | by Megan Cornwell

Church leaders all in agreement that moveable feast must find a permanent home

Not content with preventing a schism within the Anglican Communion, it seems the leader of the world’s 85 million Anglicans is keen to push for a solution to one of the longest running disagreements in Christendom: the changing date of Easter.

According to The Telegraph, the recent four-day meeting of Anglican primates concluded with the Most Reverend Justin Welby saying that Anglican leaders would join discussions to move to a fixed date for Easter. Although any changes could take up to a decade to implement, he said.

Pope Francis signalled a desire to maintain one unified date for Easter last year when he addressed a global gathering of priests. According to the Catholic News Agency, he said: “we have to come to an agreement” about changing the date.

In May the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II also wrote to the papal nuncio in Egypt suggesting a common date for Easter. At present, Orthodox churches normally celebrate Easter a week after Catholics and Easter Sunday for Catholics can fall anywhere between 22 March and 25 April.

The difference in dates stems from the fact that the Western Church uses the Gregorian calendar and the Eastern Church uses the Julian calendar, further complicated by the fact that, for Orthodox Christians, Easter may never coincide with Jewish Passover but must come after it; in the West the two can coincide.

As early as last year Fr Ronald Roberson CSP, who is associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in the US, wrote for the USCCB blog that the Catholic Church was “ready to renounce” its method of calculation of the date of Easter in order to reach an agreement with the Orthodox Church so that all Christian Churches can celebrate Easter on the same day.

Fr Roberson added: “It has often been observed that the inability of Christians to celebrate together the central mystery of their faith is nothing short of a scandal, and it diminishes the credibility of Christian witness to the Gospel in today’s world. 

According to The Telegraph, Archbishop Welby said the mostly likely date for Easter would be the second or third Sunday of April. The Vatican was unavailable to confirm this.

This year Easter falls on 27 March. Next year it is set for 16 April.

 

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