July 31, 2014

A Common Date for Pascha?

The Associated Press has a story out of the World Council of Churches about deliberations toward a common date for Pascha/Easter. The story was based, in part, on this release from the WCC. From the AP:

Under the plan the unified Easter usually falls as it would under the Gregorian calendar used by Catholics and Protestants, said Dagmar Heller, an ecumenical professor in Switzerland heading the council’s faith and order commission.

In the next 15 years, the only time Western churches would have to change Easter is in 2019 from April 21 to March 24. The bigger adjustment would be for the Orthodox Church, which has experienced several schisms in its history over the question of dates.

“There are of course some fundamentalist Orthodox who say ‘The Julian calendar is our tradition and it was used in Jesus’ lifetime so we cannot change,’” Heller said, adding that some Eastern theologians might fear more breaks in their church as a result of a date change.

“And, of course, it’s an issue because the astronomical data is closer to the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced by a pope,” she said, referring to Pope Gregory XIII’s reform of the calendar in 1582. It only slowly replaced the calendar named for Julius Caesar, who introduced it in 46 B.C.

Some Orthodox representatives at the meeting appeared to back the plan. French Orthodox theologian Antoine Arjakovsky acknowledged that the astronomy was closer to the Gregorian calendar, but noted that Catholic and Protestant churches were also compromising by “accepting that the date of Easter should be established on the basis of a cosmic calendar rather than by a fixed date.”

More detailed information on these talks, free of WCC spin, is available from the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, which reported on “A Common Date of Easter – Possible: The 1997 Aleppo Consensus,” a conference held earlier this month at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Snip:

Expressing joy that such an important theme had been raised in the seminar, Metropolitan Andriy Horak mentioned that such a detailed answer from the Orthodox representation concerning the Aleppo proposals could be received only after a Pan-Orthodox consultation and, eventually, a council. It is worth mentioning that Fr. Milan Zust, S.J., representative for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that the Roman Catholic Church is waiting for a response from the Orthodox churches and he thinks that if the Orthodox would accept the Aleppo recommendations, then there would be no problems with establishing one, common date of Easter. If some remarks would come from the Orthodox representation or if they were to propose another variant, then the question would definitely need to be reviewed.

Dr. Konstantine Sigov, chief director of the publishing firm Spirit and Letter, who spoke in the name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), mentioned that it is of huge importance to spread information about the possibility of establishing a common date for Easter – especially within an academic environment as well as among the broader public.

See the Orthodox Wiki entry on Old Calendarists.

Comments

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    Robert F. says:

    I fail to see what the purpose would be for this. Unity, presumably? What is a shared date going to accomplish, really?

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    Fr. John McCuen says:

    I agree, Robert. Adopting a common date for Pascha with the churches of the west without addressing the real issues that must be considered and reconciled in order to achieve true unity will do nothing more than provide a “feel good” moment for those who think such a step is in any way significant. Any sense of “unity” based on this — especially on this alone — would be the ecclesiological equivalent of a “Potemkin village”; looking oh, so nice on the surface, but totally without substance underneath.

    Pass.

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