Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Moscow on Catholic unified Pascha date: More info, please.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian Orthodox Church has cautiously welcomed the willingness expressed by Pope Francis to establish a common date for Easter, so that Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants will celebrate the Resurrection on the same day.

According archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations, the Pontiff’s statements as reported in the media are not sufficient to give a proper understanding of the essence of his proposal.

"I would prefer to know the exact statements of Pope Francis first, transmitted by different sources of information," said Balashov, in an interview with Tass news agency, noting that "if the Church of Rome intends to abandon Easter according to the Gregorian calendar, introduced in the sixteenth century, and go back to the old one (Julian), used at a time when the Church of the East and West were united and used to date by the Orthodox, then this intention is welcome". If, instead, the idea is to "have a fixed date for Easter and not tie it to the first full moon after the spring equinox, as established in the East and in the West by the Council of Nicaea in 325, then this proposal is totally unacceptable to the Orthodox Church”, warned Balashov. "We will wait for official Vatican sources," he added.

The Orthodox Russian representative further underlined that Constantinople and Moscow are at odds over Easter and that contrary to what is reported in the press, the pan-Orthodox council is expected to debate a review of the date on which to celebrate Easter. Either way, Balashov acknowledged that the Pope "wanted to make a real step forward, towards the Orthodox. It is a gesture of good will. This approach, however, cannot be accomplished through the radical change of our common traditions from the first millennium of Christianity. "

Just like the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on the Sunday after the first new moon full, but following a different schedule. This year, the Catholic Easter was celebrated on April 5, while the Orthodox on April 12. The next time the Catholic and Orthodox Easter will coincide is April 16, 2017.

The pontiff's proposal does not seem to have been discussed in the 16 June meeting at the Vatican with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. According to the communications office of the Russian Church, the meeting focused on "the situation of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the need for concerted action to protect the traditional concept of family in the secular society of today ". Before being received by the pope, Hilarion had a meeting with the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch.
Original article here...
Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis today proposed that all Christians celebrate Easter at the same time. He did so, noting that “The Catholic Church has been willing since Paul VI to set a date and give up the first solstice after the full moon in March" by which Easter is established.

He must the proposal to find an agreement during a highly ecumenical meditation pronounced in Spanish during the third world retreat for priests, which brought together in the Basilica of St John Lateran about a thousand priest from 90 countries and 5 continents.

With ecumenical goals in mind, the pope said that he had invited the Orthodox ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to present his encyclical on ecology. "We are friends,” he said, “ but he had a commitment, and so sent the Archbishop of Pergamum Zizoulas. This way, the encyclical will be presented by one of the greatest Orthodox theologians.

“Ex oriente lux, former occidente luxsus,” said the pope in relation to Orthodox Christians. "From the Orthodox East and its Asian part comes the light" of spirituality, while the West exports "luxury, hedonism, consumerism," all things that are causing "decadence," said the pontiff. Indeed, he emphasised Asia’s “spiritual reserves,” noting the cultural and pastoral contributions from the Churches in Japan, Korea, Thailand, and others

Citing the fate of migrants in the Indian Ocean faced with refoulement, he warned that forcing back migrants is a “sin”. What is more, this “kind of attitude in a continent that has a mystical treasure-trove is not inherent, it comes from another part. [. . .] Likewise, the fundamentalism found in some parts of Pakistan where Christians were burnt alive for bearing the Gospel is not inherent. [. . .] There are problems, but Asia is a promise, a future, full of spiritual reserves."

The long meeting gave the pope an opportunity to announce that he would travel to Uganda and the Central African Republic in November. Kenya could be added but it is an idea that is only a possibility. In response to a question from an African priest, Francis said that “Africa is generous with the world, but the world is not generous with Africa, because it uses and treats it as a land to be exploited.”

The pope spoke again about the homily. “In homilies,” he said, "have pity on the people of God. [. . .] People cannot bear more than eight minutes, then they turn off. They want you to speak to the heart. An idea, an image, a feeling is what a homily must have”. Thus, "it is not a lecture or a lesson in catechesis;" it is "positive, not restrictive language."

"Get together as priests to prepare homilies. Please, do not scare the people of God, do not waste time. Talk of God's Kingdom, the Beatitudes, the love that transforms the heart. God's love is stronger than any murderous terrorism."

"Who are we? Puritans? Please [avoid] a Church without Jesus and without mercy! Do not drive away faithful people," he said citing the case of a priest in Buenos Aires who refused to baptise the child of a single mother.

"When this happens, the heart of a priest is bureaucratic; it is closely tied to the law of the Church. The Church, which is like a mother, becomes for many believers a stepmother. Please, make others feel that the Church is always a mother!"

"Be merciful! Be merciful!" he repeated. "The mere fact that someone comes, and kneels in the confessional is a sign of penance; the deed precedes the word, it is an act of penance. The fact that someone comes with this deed to the confessional means that he wants to change. [. . .] Mercy in confessions, mercy."

The pope also spoke about the status of women in the Church. "I am glad to see women in the front row because women too receive the Holy Spirit. Women’s genius is a grace; the church is a woman, the Church is feminine, not masculine. ‘She’ is the bride of Christ, the mother of the holy faithful people of God."

"The Church is a woman,” he added, “and women are the image and model of the Church, of the mother, expressing in a special way collaboration. In response to feminist claims (I say) that Mary is much more important than the apostles."


  1. Regarding the Easter date, Balashov is being overly polemical and setting up a false dilemma. He is also being overly divisive for no good reason when it comes to Russian relations with Constantinople (alas, this is simply the Russian way). Nothing he said at all contradicts this document (http://assemblyofbishops.org/news/scoba/celebrating-easter-pascha) which is now FIVE YEARS OLD and has not been acted upon.

  2. "no good reason"

    I don't know, I can think of several reasons I want Moscow to continue to balance out the EP's desperate attempts at "relevancy". Also, of course that document has not been acted upon - the whole "calendar issue" within Orthodoxy is not an issue of "science" or "accuracy" and will not be solved/moved on such terms, nor should it...

  3. Your comments make you sound like you support combative divisiveness between Moscow and Constantinople. Please defend this position in the light of Christ's injunction that we love one another.

    Furthermore, the document from the SCOBA site does not reduce any calendar issue to simply science or accuracy. It merely provides a way forward on the Easter date for both Catholics and Orthodox that would be acceptable to both churches.

    You seem to have bought into the idea that a shift in the mode of calculating Easter, regardless of how beneficial, unitive, traditional, or scientifically accurate it may be, would be a "moral compromise." This is simply not true...look at the history of Easter date calculation in the universal church in the first 5 centuries, and cross-apply this information to the current problem with East-West Eastern calcluation (namely, disparate Easter celebrations are a poor witness to Christ's mission of unifying His Church).

    1. They don't "sound" that way to me! ;) Look, I support peace, love, and "can't we all just get along" as much as the next guy. However, Christianly speaking, the world is not quite that simple is it. Following Christ does not mean living in denial. One can not deny that the EP is in a desperate situtation, and has been maneuvering with the wisdom of a serpent for the last 100 years or so, but that is living in delusion. One can not deny that Moscow is a balance to that (what, with an actual flock and all), even if they also maneuver for their own reasons.

      The calendar issue (just within Orthodoxy - leaving RC out of the equation for the moment) has been divisive from the beginning (going on a 100 years now). It really needs to be resolved *within* the Church before we can even begin to use it as some ecumenical tool. Besides, if you think that the date of easter is somehow significant and relevant to the "Great Schism", well I have some beach front property in Arizona I want to sell you. Really, if it were over such small things, then it would not be a schism at all...