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Khajag Barsamian

Orthodox Archbishop, Armenian Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin
 biography

First, I would like to express my appreciation to the Community of Sant’Egidio for organizing once again this International Meeting for Peace “The Cry for Peace – Religions and Cultures in Dialogue”. And I am happy to be part of this Forum in which we are discussing a very important topic “A Shared Easter Date: No Longer a Dream, but a necessity to Unite the World”.

These past few years have been very challenging to the world: Covid-19 Pandemic has shaken the entire humanity and the recent serious political conflicts have created an atmosphere of major treat to the world. For that, there is an urgent need for unity.

We remember how the modern ecumenical movement during the last century has become a springboard to create an environment of mutual respect, openness and rapprochement among the churches which have been deeply divided by history, theology, culture and geography. And how in 1948 the World Council of Churches was established in Amsterdam and how the ecumenical movement destroyed the walls of isolation and open the gates for dialogue, cooperation, understanding and respecting each other and through which active interaction began.

On 11 October, I was invited to be present to the 60th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council at St. Peter’s Basilica, presided by His Holiness Pope Francis. Pope John XXIII called the council because he felt the Church needed “updating”. The sixteen documents produced by the council proposed significant developments in doctrine and practice: an extensive reform of the liturgy, a renewed theology of the Church, of revelation and of the laity, a new approach to relations between the Church and the world, to ecumenism, to non-Christian religions and to religious freedom.

In his inspiring message Pope Francis said “Brothers and sisters, let us return to the Council’s pure sources of love. Let us rediscover the Council’s passion and renew our own passion for the Council! 

All of us are children of God, all brothers and sisters in the Church, all of us making up the Church, all of us. That is how the Lord wants us to be. We are his sheep, his flock, and we can only be so together and as one. Let us overcome all polarization and preserve our communion. May all of us increasingly “be one”, as Jesus prayed before sacrificing his life for us (cf. Jn 17:21). And may Mary, Mother of the Church, help us in this. May the yearning for unity grow within us, the desire to commit ourselves to full communion among all those who believe in Christ. Let us leave aside the “isms”, for God’s people do not like polarization”. 

In modern history, inter-church relations received a completely new development after the Second Vatican Council. And with such spirit the Christians can search new ways to bring healing to the divided world and find paths of reconciliation. 

It is commendable that Sant’Egidio has chosen the topic “A Shared Easter Date: No Longer a Dream, but a necessity to Unite the World” for our conversation as one of the important ways to express our unity. Christ’s Resurrection is the foundation of our faith as Christians. Celebrating together on the same day of this important feast will be a very important step to realize our unity in our Risen Lord. 

Unfortunately for the whole of Christian history, the date of the celebration of Easter has been a controversial question: controversial enough even to lead to excommunications and nearly to schism. There is a split between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches about the correct date. 

In recent past already some positive developments took place in order to resolve this issue.

Pope John Paul II, taking advantage of the common day of Easter of 2001 for Eastern and Western Christians, raised the ecumenical question of finding ways to celebrate Easter on a common day every year.

In his homily concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2001, John Paul II commented on the happy coincidence of that year’s feast of Christ’s Resurrection on the same day for East and West as an important time for Christians to bear common witness and encourage them “to find ways for a common date for this feast.”

For Pope John Paul II the celebration of Easter “should no longer be a cause of division,” urging the ecclesiastical communities to return without delay to a common celebration of the Paschal Feast, as he stated in his address to the ecumenical meeting at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Syria on May 5, 2001. 

In March 1997 an important consultation sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches met in Aleppo, Syria, and issued a statement, “Towards a Common Date for Easter.”

This statement, which calls attention to the centrality of Christ’s Resurrection as a sign of Christian unity, recommended maintaining the norms established during the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. 

His Holiness Pope Tawadros, of the Coptic Orthodox Church has been the most vocal church leader in promoting the effort to find a common date for Easter. In May 2014, he sent a letter to then Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Archbishop Jean-Paul Aimé Gobel, proposing to Pope Francis and the Catholic Church that a serious effort be undertaken to find a common date. During Francis's visit to Egypt in 2016, the two spiritual leaders signed a common declaration  exhorting their churches to, "deepen our shared roots in the one apostolic faith by praying together and by seeking common translations of the Lord’s Prayer and a common date for the celebration of Easter."

Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, for example, is totally free to agree on a common date for Easter with the Catholic Church and put it into practice. No other Orthodox church could prevent that. And, with leaders like Francis and Tawadros, who clearly see eye-to-eye on this issue, Catholics and Orthodox Copts may be celebrating Easter on the same day again long before 2034.

During last March, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and Orthodox Archbishop Job Getcha of Telmessos have agreed to work to find a common date to celebrate Easter and give united witness to Christ’s Resurrection.

Archbishop Getcha suggested that the year 2025, which coincides with the 1,700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and during which the Eastern and Western Church will celebrate Easter on the same day — April 20 — might be an opportune time to reform the calendar. 

The time has come to look with hope to a common Easter celebrated and witnessed in unity, in the East and the West, following the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. The time for Christians to proclaim: “Christ is risen! Indeed, he is risen!” and share their liturgical treasures and services might be nearer than we think, and the Church of the first millennium is coming to the rescue.

 



Khajag BARSAMIAN at #thecryforpeace:
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo
Forum 6 - Pasqua comune: da sogno a necessità per unire il mondo