Support for common Catholic – Orthodox Easter date

common Easter date

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, has supported a suggestion that Catholics and Orthodox work to agree on a common date to celebrate Easter.

Several attempts, often led by Orthodox bishops, have been made over the past 100 years to push for a common date for Easter. It seems most Christians agree in principle but picking the date or the calendar or the formula has been elusive.

Different Christian communities celebrated Easter on different days until the Council of Nicaea in 325. That council decided that for the unity of the Christian community, Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

But the Julian calendar, used by Christians in the fourth century, was out of sync with the actual solar year. So March 21 — generally assumed to be the date of the northern hemisphere’s spring equinox — gradually “drifted” away from the actual equinox.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII, relying on the work of the best astronomers of his time, reformed the calendar. He dropped 10 days, making the equinox fall on March 21 again.

But Orthodox Christians continue to use the Julian calendar to calculate the Easter date instead of the Gregorian calendar. Because the Julian calendar calculates a slightly longer year, it is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar.

Orthodox Archbishop Job Getcha of Telmessos suggested that the year 2025would be a good year to introduce this calendar reform. That year will be the 1,700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea.

The First Council of Nicea, held in 325, decided that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the beginning of spring. That made the earliest possible date for Easter March 22 and the latest possible April 25.

Speaking with the Swiss news agency, Cardinal Kurt Koch welcomed the proposal. He said the anniversary of the Council of Nicea was “a good opportunity” for this change.

Cardinal Koch said, “I welcome the move by Archbishop Job von Telmessos. I hope it will meet with a positive response.”

“It will not be easy to agree on a common Easter date, but it is worth working for,” he stated. “This wish is also very dear to Pope Francis and also to the Coptic Pope Tawadros.”


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