Will Pope Francis change the date of Easter? [CNA]

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/images/size340/Pope_Francis_bows_his_head_in_prayer_1_in_St_Peters_Square_on_Easter_Sunday_morning_April_5_2015_Credit__LOsservatore_Romano_CNA_4_5_15.jpgVatican City, Jun 19, 2015 / 03:53 am (CNA).- Speaking to a global gathering of priests, Pope Francis signaled an openness to changing the date of Easter in the West so that all Christians around the world could celebrate the feast on the same day.

The Pope on June 12 said “we have to come to an agreement” for a common date on Easter.  

His comments came in remarks to the World Retreat of Priests at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. The event drew priests from five continents.

Noting jokingly that Christians could say to one another: “When did Christ rise from the dead? My Christ rose today, and yours next week,” he said that this disunity is a scandal.

The Orthodox churches normally celebrate Easter a week after the Catholics. Some Orthodox leaders have also reflected on the dating of the Christian holy day. In May, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II wrote to the papal nuncio in Egypt suggesting a common date for Easter.

Historian Lucetta Scaraffia, writing in the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said the Pope is offering this initiative to change the date of Easter “as a gift of unity with the other Christian churches.”

A common date for Easter, she said, would encourage “reconciliation between the Christian churches and …a sort of making sense out of the calendar.”

She noted that the proposal could help reinforce the identity of persecuted Christians, particularly those in the Eastern churches that are at risk of disappearing.

Scaraffia wrote that the simultaneous celebration of the Resurrection by all Christians “would increase the importance of the central feast of the faith in a moment when changes seem to be suddenly coming throughout the world.”

“The Pope’s remarks implicitly underscore an important fact: in the countries where Christian identity is being overshadowed, the marking of time continues to be tied to the life of Jesus,” she added. “We also know also that the calendar is not only a convention but also something profound and symbolically relevant.”

Scaraffia said Easter and related feasts “constitute a distinct aspect of the liturgical year because they are connected with a cycle of time that repeats every year and marks the returns of the seasons.”

She also pointed out that the date of Easter is established based on the cycle of the moon, just as the Muslims and Jews establish their important feasts with the lunar calendar.


Full article…

It’s about time.

Certainly no-one holds that Church infallibility extends to matters of the calendar.


I’m sure someone would use such a decision to argue against infallibility, but I’m with you. It’s more of a tradition, “small t,” convention than a matter of faith or morals. In actuality, if the pope did call for a change to the date, he’d still be exercising authority pastorally.

I always thought an “equinox” was a set astronomical event, so I always had trouble grasping what made the “first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox” a movable thing, depending on whether you were using a Gregorian or Julian calendar, sort of like how driving “40 mph” is different depending on whether you’re driving a Chevy or a Ford.

I hear the Vatican has some good math-and-astronomy guys working for them. :wink: If it makes sense to them, I suppose it’s a relatively small concession for the sake of Christian unity… so many times, I want to be in agreement with others, but only if they start thinking the way I’m thinking. :smiley:

Under the Gregorian reform, the calendar was moved ahead ten days (11, by the time Britain and her colonies adopted it in 1752).

Because this is not an even number of weeks, Sundays do not line up between the two calendars.


So, the difference in dates is a result of the fact that the Orthodox use the Julian calendar and Catholics use the Gregorian?

If so, is it unreasonable for me to think that the Orthodox should modify their calendar, knock off the ten days or so that they are behind, and make it so that it matches with the current reality of the sun/seasons?


I just know that someone, somewhere, will use this the cudgel Francis. Probably claiming that he’s scheming to build some unholy “one world religion”. Somebody will extrapolate this small-t tradition into Sacred Tradition.

For those of us Catholics who are both orthodox and sane, I think this would make it easier to bring back Ascension Thursday as a Holy Day of Obligation everywhere. Since Easter will have a set date, why not the solemnity whose date is contingent on Easter?

I think that if they just did it 90% or more of Catholics would not even notice.

Which side will be the one to change? The Catholics or the Orthodox?

Let’s say for a moment that the Catholic Church changes to align with the Orthodox. Then we will have Catholics and Orthodox celebrating Easter together, and the Protestants the following week?

Will we have all three branches on the same page; or rather than be out of synch with one group, we’re now out of synch with the other?

The Orthodox to change their calendars? That is a huge can of worms just saying. :hypno: :hypno::hypno:

And to the OP, considering the Orthodox would never change the date of Easter without anything less than a universally binding council, is Pope Francis suggesting the Easter date of the Julian Calendar?

Taken from one of the comments from the article (from a gentleman who appears to be a priest):

Even if the Holy Father (whomever he may be) makes a decision to move the celebratory date of Easter for the sake of the Eastern Church, the Western SECULAR World and the Protestants will almost certainly NOT follow suit…but perhaps that is the test: To do so would be to acknowledge the power and authority of the Papacy / Not to would be to show themselves foolish.

Very interesting point… Kind of what I was wondering but far better put.

The method of determining the date for Easter was decided at the Council of Nicaea (325). What had changed afterward was the reference calendar (Julian vs Gregorian).

I for one would be very happy to see a common Christian date for Easter.

Me as well. :slight_smile:

I say we do it too then as an act of love and brotherly affection. That’ll show all of you Catholics! Bwahaha

Seriously, I want us all to blow your minds and kill you all with kindness.

A proposed solution from a very well regarded ecumenical group …

Celebrating Easter/Pascha Together

Friday, October 01, 2010

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
Georgetown University, Washington, DC

The center of our faith, the center on which all Christians agree, is the kerygma that Jesus is Risen, Jesus is Lord:

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We venerate Your Cross, O Christ and we praise and glorify Your Holy Resurrection. You are our God. We know no other than You, and we call upon Your Name. Come, all faithful, let us venerate the holy Resurrection of Christ for behold, through the Cross, joy has come to all the world. --Matins of the Resurrection

Despite this agreement Catholics and Orthodox in fact celebrate Easter on different days, fracturing the proclamation of this Good News of the Resurrection.

The consequences of our division on this issue are significant. Interchurch families find themselves in conflict observing two Lenten cycles and two Paschal dates. The world looks on as Christians speak through their celebration with a divided voice. Many are impeded from hearing the Good News of the Resurrection by the scandal of this division.

In 2010, Eastern and Western Church Calendars coincided so that all Christians celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection on the same day. The dates for the Holy Day will coincide again in 2011, but will vary again after that. As we remember the joys of a common date this year, we look forward to the entire Christian world proclaiming the joy of the Resurrection together again next year. We are convinced that the time is at hand for a permanent resolution of this issue.

We, the members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, urgently join our voices to those of many others calling for leadership to agree on a continued, unified determination for the celebration of the Resurrection. As Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch has said of the Paschal date in the context of the Christian witness in the Middle East, “Is it permissible to turn a deaf ear to the voice of our sons and daughters? … Today more than ever, we need to recognize the signs of the times, the outstanding initiatives to which our people aspire, a thirst for Christian unity and for making progress in realizing it, whatever the measures, great or small, needful to bring it about.”

We echo the recent calls of our own Consultation in 1998 and many others to close this wound once and for all: the Inter-Orthodox Theological Consultation (1971), the Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambesy (1977), the Orthodox Theological Society of America (1992), The Aleppo Consultation (1997), the Lambeth Conference, the Lutheran World Federation, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (shortly after 1997), the United States Orthodox-Lutheran Dialogue (2000), The Orthodox Church of Finland (2001), the International Seminar at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv (2009), the National Council of Churches in the USA (2010), the Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III (2010), and others.

The First Council of Nicaea (325), touchstone of Christian theology through the ages, was gathered largely to resolve two major questions: the Arian controversy and the date of Easter—so consequential were those two issues for the unity and life of the Church.

Our Consultation reaffirms the decision of the Council of Nicaea to celebrate the Paschal Feast on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.

As we said in response to the Aleppo Statement of 1997:

The Council of Nicaea was willing to make use of contemporary science to calculate the date of Easter/Pascha. We believe that this principle still holds valid today. Scientific observations about the cosmos reveal the goodness and wonder of God’s creation, which he embraced in the incarnation of his Son. Moreover, to deny an observable truth about the world is to reject God’s gift to us. As they witness to God’s love for the world, our churches need to use the findings of contemporary science as did the Fathers of Nicaea.

**The key today to resolving the issue in accordance with the mandate of Nicaea is to determine the Equinox from the meridian of Jerusalem (Longitude 35° 13’47.1) using the most accurate scientific instruments and astronomical data available. This will resolve the conflict in our liturgical observance by aligning existing Church calendars to the Nicene formula-- not just the calendar from one set of Churches, but from both Eastern and Western traditions. As disciples of the Risen Lord who all profess adherence to the mandate of the Council of Nicaea, we find a profound need to adhere to Nicaea’s formulae, and to calculate the yearly date accurately. As Churches whose faith is rooted in Scripture and Tradition, let us ensure we stay rooted in The One Who is Truth.
This method to resolve the problem according to Nicaea has already been supported at the Aleppo Consultation of 1997 by representatives of the World Council of Churches and of the Middle East Council of Churches (both of which Councils were the sponsors of the Aleppo Consultation). It was also supported by representatives of the Catholic Church, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and of many Christian communities.[1]

My mind would be blown. Seriously. Part of me wants the change just to see if the Protestants follow suit. Especially the ones that claim that the pope is the antichrist, etc…

I think it would be the greatest act of Christian unity in over a thousand years.

Since you ask, the answer is Yes, it is unreasonable for you to think that, for the simple reason that it’s their calendar, not yours, and it’s up to them, and them alone, to decide whether they want to change it or keep it as it is.

Who cares whether the civil society follows suit, at least initially. In contrast to Christmas, Easter is almost fully a religious feast.

In a few years, the civil society would adjust to the day celebrated by the Pope and the masses of the faithful. Having the Jerusalem Holy Fire appearing the same day would make it even more compelling.

The Protestants would almost certainly not follow, at least for some years, but after one or two generations, would adjust to the civil calendar.

I <3 the idea of synchronizing Easter via the Jerusalem meridian! That brings the event back where it began. And inasmuch as all the Churches have a common heritage there, it would not be perceived as one side yielding to the other.


I’ve got a feeling most liturgical protestant church bodies would follow suit. We generally followed the Catholic lead with regard to celebrating ad orientum, for example. Keep in mind that Lutherans, at least, still consider the Bishop of Rome to hold a place of honor in our Western Church, even if we do consider some teaching of his communion to be heterodox. A shared date of Easter would be a remarkable show of solidarity with our fellow brothers and sisters.

I’d love to see this happen…any step toward Catholic-Orthodox unity, however small, is a step in the right direction. We have more in common with Orthodoxy than any other branch of Christianity.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.