Holy Land Catholics and Orthodox to celebrate Easter simultaneously
Most of the Catholic communities in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus are preparing to celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week. However, they will be joining their Orthodox brethren in celebrating Holy Week during the first week of May, according to the Julian Calendar followed by the Orthodox communities. This bucks the practice of most Christians elsewhere who follow the Gregorian calendar, which celebrates Holy Week March 24-29, with Easter falling on March 30.
The unification of the Easter dates in most of the area followed a directive issued on October 15, 2012 by the Assembly of Catholic bishops in the Holy Land, where it was established that within two years all Catholics in the Diocese of the Latin Rite and the various Eastern rites will celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar, coinciding with the Easter liturgies celebrated in the Orthodox churches.
The adoption of the Easter date according to the Julian calendar (which in 2013 falls on May 5) comes into force throughout the Holy Land, with the exception of the areas of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where the Gregorian calendar will continue to be followed both to respect the constraints imposed in the Holy City by the system of the "Status Quo" (which regulates the coexistence of the different Christian Churches in Holy Places such as the Holy Sepulchre), and to take account of the arrival of foreign pilgrims who come to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The unification of the date with which Christians of different confessions celebrate Easter still raises some eyebrows among some Maronite Catholic bishops. It is however, for Bishop William Shomali - the Patriarchal Vicar of the Latin Rite - an eloquent form of ecumenism. Said Bishop Shomali, "Members of the same family or the same village belong to different ecclesial realities now they can celebrate on the same days the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In order to also give a witness of unity with our non-Christian neighbors." By 2015, the provision for a common Easter date should be confirmed or recalibrated in accordance with the directions also given by the Vatican.
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