Reform of the date of Easter

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The current system for determining the date of Easter has two problems: (1) its date varies from year to year, and (2) Eastern and Western churches use different methods of determining its date, and hence in most years it is celebrated on a different date in each church. It has been proposed that the first problem could be changed by making Easter occur on a fixed day every year. Some churches, including the Roman Catholic church, have stated they have no theological objection to this, but little has come of it.

Proposals to resolve the second problem have been more succesful, but they still have not been adopted. The World Council of Churches proposed a reform of the method of determining the date of Easter at a summit in Aleppo, Syria, in 1997. Easter would be defined as the first Sunday following the first astronomical full moon following the astronomical vernal equinox, as determined from the meridian of Jerusalem. The reform would have been implemented starting in 2001, since in that year the Eastern and Western dates of Easter would coincide. After that, the results of the new method of calculating Easter would differ from that used in Eastern Christianity immediately; but the new system would not differ from the traditional Western system until 2019.

The reform has not been implemented. The reform would rely mainly on the co-operation of the Eastern Orthodox, since the date of Easter would change for them immediately; whereas Western churches would not need to use the current method of calculation until 2019. However, Eastern Orthodox support was not forthcoming, and the reform has failed.

Interestingly, when the Eastern Orthodox church adopted the Revised Julian calendar in the 1920s, they also adopted a somewhat similar astronomical system for determining the date of Easter. However, that system was almost never implemented in practice.