The Catholic churches of the Holy Land plan to observe Easter according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar, the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land announced this week. The change could come as early as next year, the Catholic Culture website reports.
Father Pierbattista explained that the change was prompted by a desire to strengthen ecumenical ties between Catholics and Orthodox, and also by pastoral concern for the many families in the Holy Land that include both Catholic and Orthodox believers.
The Orthodox churches set their liturgical feasts according to the old Julian calendar. In some years, the Orthodox observe Easter on the same day as Catholics; in other years, the date may differ by one week -- as it does this year -- to as many as five weeks.
The change in the liturgical calendar for Catholic churches would not apply to the basilicas in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which draw thousands of Catholic pilgrims for Easter and Christmas every year.
This joint celebration of Easter by Catholics and Orthodox Christians can be considered a major breakthrough in the reunification of Christianity, which was divided into the Catholic and Orthodox churches in 1054, in what is known as the Great Schism.