This news popped up several days ago, and it’s now getting wider attention:
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.”
Four years ago, my colleague at CNEWA, Fr. Elias Mallon, wrote about the different dates for Easter at the CNEWA blog One-to-One:
I know that the Gospels are not in total agreement about the date of the Last Supper. The Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) see the Last Supper taking place on the first day of Passover, which began at sundown on Thursday. John, on the other hand, sees the Last Supper taking place on the evening before Passover, which according to John would have begun Friday at sunset. I was aware of a group of Christians in the early church called the “Quattuordecimans” (”Fourteeners”) who celebrated Easter on the 14th of Nisan, the same day Jews celebrated Passover. For the Quattuordecimans, Easter could fall on any day of the week. Most Christians, however, celebrated Easter on the Sunday after Passover. There were some controversies between the two groups. The Council of Nicea (325), however, settled the matter and decreed that Easter would be on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere. The date of the equinox, with some slight astronomical inaccuracy, was determined as 21 March.
It would seem, then, that the question was solved in 325. What was the problem? The problem was not based on a deep, theological or mystical difference. The problem was based on an astronomical calculation: the length of the calendar year.