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An official at the World Council of Churches has called on churches world-wide to point out to churchgoers on April 15 that by a "happy" coincidence of church calendars, all of the world's Christians are celebrating Easter on the same day this year.

Referring to the fact that in most years there are two dates for Easter, Tom Best, executive secretary of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC), told ENI that this was "a terrible counter-witness to the unity we share in Christ. This is the core festival of the Christian faith. An important way to show our unity would be for all Christians to celebrate it together every year."

Best referred to an initiative launched in 1997 by the Middle East Council of Churches and the WCC to enable all churches to celebrate Easter together every year. The initiative has been warmly welcomed by many churches around the world, though hopes that this year might mark the end of division over the dates have proved unrealistic.

Differences over Easter date back to early Christianity. At present Western churches calculate the date of Easter using the Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 and now the standard calendar world-wide, whereas most Orthodox churches, including the Russian church, maintain the older Julian calendar to calculate the date of Easter.

The division about what is known as "the Paschal controversies" has prompted many discussions over the centuries, and especially in recent decades, at the highest level in churches. The issue was one of the reasons for calling the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325—on the site of present-day Iznik in Turkey.

At a meeting held in Aleppo, Syria, in March 1997, representatives of the world's main Christian traditions ...

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