Members of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches in South Korea will meet for a combined prayer service for Christian unity on Easter Sunday, April 15.

The committee for church unity of the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), along with the Korean Catholic Bishops' Committee for Promoting Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue, the Korean Orthodox Church, and Korean Lutheran Church, have agreed to hold a Common Easter Prayer for Christian Unity on Easter Sunday at the Korean Orthodox Cathedral in Seoul.

Together these churches represent about 7 million Christians, including 3.5 million Catholics. South Korea's total population is about 47 million, of whom about 28 percent are Christian. The NCCK has eight member churches, including Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, Evangelicals, the Salvation Army and Assemblies of God. The Korean Orthodox Church is an associate member. Many other churches are linked to the more conservative Christian Council of Korea.

As many Orthodox churches follow a different calendar from Protestant and Catholic churches, in most years there are two differing dates for Easter. But this year the dates coincide. So many of South Korea's Christians are using the opportunity to celebrate Easter together and pray for church unity.

Churches in South Korea have been engaged in discussions about unity for many years, particularly in annual preparations for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year's Easter prayer is a direct result of those long-term discussions.

The Easter prayer meeting is expected to last about 90 minutes, and has the support of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomeos I.

Kim Dong-wan, the general secretary of NCCK, told ENI that the Common Easter Prayer would be an important step towards the true and full unity of Korean churches. "I hope this Common Prayer will be held every year, and also hope all Christians in the world celebrate Easter on the same day from this year on."

Min Sungsik is managing editor of the Christian Newspaper in Seoul.

Related Elsewhere

Last year, our Christian History Corner examined why Western and Eastern Christians usually celebrate different dates for Easter.

"Toward a Common Date for Easter," also known as the Aleppo Statement, was the result of a consultation in Syria between the Middle East Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. The groups sought to reconcile the differing methods for determining Easter. Though Orthodox and Protestant leaders have since tried to reignite the statement, it appears dead.

Frequently Asked Questions about Easter Dates and Calculation of the Ecclesiastical Calendar both give more information about the history of Easter calculations. The latter includes a CGI script for calculating Orthodox and Western Ecclesiastical Calendars.

The controversy over Easter is no small matter. As Christian Historyissue 60, "How the Irish Were Saved" pointed out, Celtic and Roman Christians fought over the dates at the Synod of Whitby in 664.