Monday, July 02, 2007

A Common Date for Pascha?

This is one for which we could, and should, all pray. New Europe News has a report touting a member of the European Parliament's efforts to get the Orthodox and Catholic Churches to agree on a common dating method for Easter (Pascha).

Sorry to say it, but this one goes in my "I'll believe it when I see it" folder.

Pope and Patriarch may agree on common Easter

30 June 2007 - Issue : 736

Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI responded positively on the issue raised in the European Parliament of finding common dates for celebrating Easter, a question raised by Greek MEP Manolis Mavrommatis.


In a letter addressed to Patriarch Bartholomew, and with the opportunity of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Patriarch, this issue was discussed among the two leaders of Christianity. Patriarch Bartholomew sent a letter to Mavrommatis, which noted: “Pope Benedict XVI responded positively on the subject and when he returned to Vatican City, he personally looked into the issue. I received a letter for my information as proof (which I attach), signed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is the head of the Papist Council for Promoting Unity of Christians.”


Mavrommatis stated: “I believe that the convergence on such an important issue as the common celebration of Catholic and Orthodox Easter in the European Parliament and possible in the Christian world is a very important step for the two Churches. The effort of Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI is essential, especially since the dialogue brought promising perspectives for Christianity. I hope that the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, will also make an effort for fulfilling the fair request of our people and this would be the beginning of a more extensive dialogue between the representatives of the 27 Member States of the European Union.”

The real point of contention is not Easter/Pascha itself; the real problem is the difference in calendars. The Catholic Church, and most of the world, uses the Gregorian Calendar. Officially, the Orthodox still use the Julian Calendar - the one that was in use at the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325.

The problem, of course, is that the Julian Calendar does not compute the year accurately, leading to a drift over the centuries. It is this drift that accounts for the differing dates for the celebration of Easter/Pascha. The imprecision of the Julian Calendar was demonstrated to Pope Gregory XIII, who commissioned its revision, which became known as the Gregorian Calendar that we (mostly) all use today.

The Orthodox have typically refused to switch to the Gregorian Calendar: a) because the Julian Calendar was chosen for use by an Ecumenical Council and thus has quasi-theological status; and b) because the Gregorian Calendar was initiated and endorsed by the Pope.

Some Orthodox Churches do officially utilize a "Revised Julian Calendar". However, it is not universally adopted among the Orthodox. In fact, some of the most virulent in-fighting within the Orthodox Church is not this or that doctrine but "new calendar" (RJC) versus "old calendar" (JC). (In other words, if you want a peaceful conversation in the Orthodox Church, don't go there!)

To read the entire article, click here.

1 comment:

earlcapps said...

About time someone made the two sides actually work an issue out. Maybe once they realize it's not so tough, we'll see even more progress in the future.

Kind of like getting me to agree to be in the Charleston area on a given Sunday morning. Since school got out, that seems to be tough.

(I just knew you were going to bop me over the head over that ...)