Christians and churches encouraged to continue working on common date for Easter

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has urged Christians to give this year’s celebration of Easter a clear ecumenical profile and to work for a common date of Easter for the future, noting that this year it falls on the same day 24 April for both eastern and western traditions.

“In a world divided by poverty and violence, it is important that we are one in our witness to the crucified and risen Christ in actions as well as in words,” said Tveit.”We rejoice that this year Christians of eastern and western traditions will celebrate the resurrection of the Lord on the same date.”

Because the date of Easter is calculated using either the Julian calendar used by most Orthodox churches, or the Gregorian calendar, Christians of eastern and western traditions often celebrate Easter on different Sundays.

There have been five times in the past 10 years when Easter has fallen on the same date for all Christians. In the future this will be less frequent with the next coinciding dates being in 2017 and 2025.

Significant work was undertaken in the 1980s on agreeing a common date at the Pan-Orthodox level, but implementation was difficult at the time because many churches concerned were living under communist regimes. This work was taken up at a consultation in 1997 in Aleppo, Syria, sponsored jointly by the WCC and the Middle East Council of Churches, which proposed a way of calculating the date of Easter so that it would always be celebrated on the same day.

“I hope that in the decade ahead, Christians from different traditions will work together in trust and mutual accountability to come to agreement about a common date for Easter, on the basis of the process laid out in the Aleppo document,” said Tveit.

This week the WCC general secretary reiterated a call he made during January’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, for Christians to consider inviting one another to simple meals in the 50 days following the celebration of Christ rising from the dead.

“Such meals could be a powerful way of celebrating God’s love and how we are “one” – offering each other a foretaste of God’s kingdom of justice and joy,” said Tveit. “It is one way that we can give ecumenical profile to our celebration of the risen Lord.”

“Maybe these meals could even be for the whole community where we live? Around the table we get to know one another differently, we talk, we learn, we laugh, we are in fellowship … and we break bread together.”