The Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed that he is working with Pope Francis in an effort to establish a common date for the celebration of Easter in all Christian communities.
Speaking to reporters at the close of a meeting of the world’s Anglican primates, Dr Justin Welby said that he thought a common date for Easter could be established in “between five and 10 years”. He said that he hoped to see the joint celebration before he stepped down from his current post – although he conceded that previous efforts to settle on a common date had failed.
To date, Archbishop Welby said, the conversations about a common date have involved himself, Pope Francis, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Last June, Pope Francis said that the Vatican wants a common date for Easter, and indicated a willingness to change the Catholic calendar towards that end. A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said that the Moscow Patriarchate would welcome a common celebration – as long as the date was determined according to the Orthodox calendar. Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy director of ecumenical affairs for the Moscow Patriarchate, said that he was waiting to hear details of the pope’s proposal.
“If the Church of Rome intends to abandon Easter according to the Gregorian calendar, introduced in the 16th century, and go back to the old one, used at a time when the Church of the East and West were united and used to date by the Orthodox, then this intention is welcome,” he said. But establishing a fixed date for Easter would be “totally unacceptable”, he said.