A Call to Jointly Celebrate the Resurrection of Christ


2012 At present Christians throughout the world celebrate the great feast of Easter on two different days—a sad sign of the divisions that tear them apart. However it happens that on 4 April 2010 and 24 April 2011 the feast of Easter falls on the same day according to both eastern and western calendars. The signatories of the text below call on Christians of all denominations to use this period to prepare to celebrate the feast of Easter on the same day, on 8 April 2012.This date is calculated according to the rule and method agreed by Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox in 1997. The advantage of this calculation, as all agree, is that it actualises the rule established by the fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea.

In the early Christian centuries there was disagreement about the date of Easter. The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, in 325, settled the question by establishing the rule that Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring equinox. This kept a link between the Scriptures and the feast of Easter, while the Council acknowledged that the celebration of Easter should not be a cause for division among Christians. When Pope Gregory XIII, aware of the inaccuracy of the Julian astronomical calculations in force at the time, reformed the calendar in 1582, this had the effect of destroying the consensus.Most Orthodox Christians wanted to keep to the Julian calendar. Today all the Churches recognise that there are inaccuracies in both methods of calculation.

A conference was held at Aleppo in Syria, 5-10 March 1997, when the representatives of the major Christian traditions agreed on how to establish a common date that would be acceptable to the whole Christian world. The proposal was that the Churches would continue to follow the Nicaean rule for calculating the date of Easter, but they would rely on very exact modern astronomical data, and use the Jerusalem meridian. This conference at Aleppo, hosted by the Syrian Orthodox Church, included representatives of the Anglican Communion, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, the evangelical Churches of the Middle-East, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, the Lutheran World Federation, the Middle East Council of Churches, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church, Seventh-day Adventists and the World Council of Churches.

If the astronomical calculation of the Nicaean rule is more accurate in the Gregorian than in the older Julian calendar, the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches took a step towards the Orthodox at Aleppo by agreeing to fix the date of Easter according to a cosmic calendar rather than by deciding on a fixed date, as the Holy See had proposed before the pan-Orthodox meeting at Chambésy in July 1977.

This pan-Orthodox meeting at Chambésy recalled that the symbol of the Spring equinox is that of the first day of creation, marking the separation of day and night and proclaiming the victory of light over darkness. The symbol of the full moon (which earlier marked the Jewish Passover) is that of the fourth day of creation, marking the creation of the two lights, and anticipating the victory of light over darkness. Finally the symbol of the first Sunday after the full moon of the Spring equinox recalls the Resurrection of Christ, the unique and definitive victory of life over death in human history, leading to the eternal eighth day of creation.

Thus the feast of Easter is always celebrated according to the Nicaean rule after the Jewish feast of Passover (since the old Jewish calendar linked the covenant between God and humanity with the crossing of the Red Sea and the fourth day of creation). Thus, celebrating Easter according to the Aleppo proposal allows all Christians to recover the meaning of the message of the fathers of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, that on the day of the Resurrection the whole earth is given light. One hemisphere receives all the light of the sun, and the other receives all the light of the moon.

The representatives of the major families of Christian Churches who met at Aleppo made a second recommendation, namely that there should be a period of study and reflection on this consensus in order to facilitate its acceptance.

In April 2009 an ecumenical seminar was held at Lviv, organised by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Catholic University of Lviv. It gathered representatives from all the Christian Churches of the city (Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants), as well as representatives from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and from the World Council of Churches. They studied the consensus reached at Aleppo in a very positive way. They also expressed the desire that 2010 and 2011, when by chance Easter falls on the same day according to both calendars, should be a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter on the same date in 2012. This would be on 8 April 2012, the date that would conform by astronomical calculations to the Nicaean rule. At the press conference that followed the seminar, participants explained that because the Orthodox Churches had confirmed the consensus represented by Chambésy in 1977 (at the preparatory conference for a Holy Orthodox Council in 1982) this was a real possibility.

Together Christians throughout the world can unite their prayers and their efforts to ensure that the years 2010 and 2011 lead to the widest possible celebration on 8 April 2012—wherever Christians arrive at a consensus and obtain the blessing of their bishops or church authorities—of the victory, the true victory, of Christ over death.

Signatures (Surname, Christian name, email address), preceded by the message: “I support the call to celebrate the feast of Easter on the same day, 8 April 2012, following the Aleppo consensus, wherever Christians obtain the blessing of their bishops or church authorities.”

should be sent to the Institute of Ecumenical Studies (UCU) of Lviv: