20th Century Attempts to Fix a
Common Date for Easter Sunday:
Two main dates for Easter:
As described elsewhere, most Eastern Orthodox
churches still use the Julian calendar, while Roman Catholics and
Protestants use the more accurate Gregorian calendar. Methods of calculating the date of
Easter differ. Thus Easter is celebrated on the same day in Christianity
only about once every three or four years. In other years, the Orthodox
Easter -- called Pascha -- is delayed by one, four, or five weeks from the
Roman Catholic/Protestant date: 1
Unsuccesful 20th Century attempts to merge the dates of Easter:
In 1920, the Patriarchate of Constantinople suggested that the
Orthodox churches discuss and resolve a common date for Easter Sunday among themselves.
In 1923, the Pan Orthodox Congress unilaterally decided to revise their calendar.
Unfortunately, this prompted several schisms among Orthodox churches.
Also in the 1920s, some secular groups were proposing a fixed date for
Easter. The Sunday following the second Saturday in April was one
suggestion. This would help commercial and public groups plan more easily.
But it would sever the linkage between Easter and the Jewish Passover.
Also, it would probably further split Christian observance of Easter as
some churches adopted the new fixed date, while others continued to use the
current pair of dates.
Orthodox churches resumed discussion in 1961 during preparations for
the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church.
The Roman Catholic Church discussed a common day at the
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy at the Second Vatican Council, in 1963.
Since 1965, The World Council of Churches has discussed the topic
repeatedly. In 1997, the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches sponsored a meeting in Aleppo, Syria.
Participants included the Anglican Communion, Armenian Orthodox Church,
Ecumenical Patriarchate, Evangelical Churches in the Middle East, Greek
Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, Lutheran World Federation, Middle East
Council of Churches, Old-Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht,
Orthodox Church in America, Patriarchate of Moscow, Pentecostal Assemblies
of Canada, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Seventh-day
Adventists, and Syrian Orthodox Church. The group issued what has since
been called "The Aleppo Statemen." It said in part:
"By celebrating this feast of feasts on different days, the churches
give a divided witness to this fundamental aspect of the apostolic faith,
compromising their credibility and effectiveness in bringing the Gospel to
the world. This is a matter of concern for all Christians. Indeed, in some
parts of the world such as the Middle East, where several separated
Christian communities constitute a minority in the larger society, this
has become an urgent issue. While there has been some discussion of this
question, it still has not been given the serious attention that it
They recommended that the original Nicene formula be continued: that
Easter falls on the Sunday following the first full moon following the
Spring Equinox. They recommend three changes in the method of calculating
the date, to take effect in the year 2001:
Abandoning use of MAR-20 as the nominal date of the equinox, and
adopting the actual date, which may range from MAR-19 to MAR-21.
Abandoning the use of what they call "conventional tables" to
determine the time of the full moon, and use the more accurate astronomical
To base the day on the meridian of Jerusalem, where Yeshua was
executed by the Roman army.
They concluded that a fixed date for Easter would not work. Some faith
groups would reject the idea, and the end result would be two or three
Easter dates each year.
The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation formed in 1965 by the U.S. Catholic bishops' Committee for Ecumenical
and Interreligious Affairs and the Standing Conference of Canonical
Orthodox Bishops of America endorsed the Aleppo Statement in 1998-OCT. 3
In 1999-MAY, the Anglican Journal commented:
Communion's] Lambeth Conference reccomended the Aleppo proposal for
consideration by member churches. The Conference of European Churches
plans to do the same, and other groups, including Baptists, Methodists,
Old Catholics, Presbyterians, Societies of Friends and Free Churches, have
reacted positively. Except for the Greek Orthodox Church, most Orthodox
churches also welcome the initiative but won't yet commit to action." 4
In 2000-MAR, a dialogue established by the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) and the Standing Conference of Canonical
Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) recommended adoption of the
Aleppo Statement. 5,6
Easter for year 2001 came and passed. The World Council of Churches then promoted adoption of the Aleppo Statementfor to start in 2004, when Easter was once more celebrated on the same day throughout the world. It also was unsuccessful. Some have suggested
that a common Easter date be explored on a regional basis. One example
would be in the Middle East, where the dual Easter dates are of particular
Another effort, according to the Encyclopędia Britannica:
"In the 20th century
attempts were made to arrive at a fixed date for Easter, with the Sunday
following the second Saturday in April specifically proposed. While this
proposal has supporters, it has not come to fruition." 7