Greenbelt Interfaith News
    World News

    June 1, 1997

    Christians Seek to Unite on Date of Easter

    On March 30 of this year, Christians throughout the world celebrated Easter. On April 27 of this year, Christians throughout the world also celebrated Easter.

    For the past 400 years, Christians have disagreed over when to celebrate their main holy day, for different denominations use different methods to determine the date of this moveable feast. Most Roman Catholics and Protestants use a method developed by Pope Gregory XIII when he reformed the calendar in 1582. Most Eastern Orthodox Christians use the older Julian calendar to calculate Easter's date. Neither method is entirely accurate.

    Now Christians are attempting to develop a new method which could be used by everyone. In early March, representatives from the world's major Christian denominations met in Aleppo, Syria, and agreed to recommend that churches calculate the astronomical date of Easter by the most accurate scientific means available. The point of reference for the calculation would be the meridian of Jerusalem, the place of Jesus' death.

    The meeting was sponsored by two ecumenical groups, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Middle East Council of Churches. This is not the first time that an ecumenical gathering has struggled with the question of Easter's date. In A.D. 325, the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea agreed to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Although Christians differ in their methods of calculating the full moon and equinox, the basic Nicaea formula is still used by all denominations.

    The Rev. Dr. Thomas FitzGerald, who is a senior WCC official and a Greek Orthodox priest, told Ecumenical News International that the Nicaean Council led to "an important consensus" in the Christian Church. Therefore, Father FitzGerald said, Easter ought to be "a sign of our unity and reconciliation."

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    ©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson