04 April 2017

One Easter for Western and Eastern Churches

In 2017, the Eastern and Western churches will celebrate Easter on the same date. A happy coincidence that can make the life of families and parishes easier and that confirms the recent developments in the international and local ecumenical movement.

Ecumenism

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Christians living in the Holy Land belong to different Churches: they are Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and of other denominations. These ecclesial communities have a wealth of history, tradition and spirituality that sometimes unites them and distinguishes them [from one another].

Quite often families are composed of members belonging to different churches, and so, the nuclear family becomes an opportunity to come together and foster dialogue between these communities.

BOULUS TAMER
Nazareth – Greek-Melkite Catholic Church
“I was not familiar with the Greek Orthodox Church; I did not used to pray with them. I went to the Latin or Melkite rite mass. Even though I lived very close to an Orthodox church, I had never visited it. When I met Marcelle and we got engaged, she allowed me to get to know this church. It was very nice for me to become familiar with another church.”

In 2017, Easter for the Eastern and Western Churches falls on Sunday, April 16, but this is not always the case, because some follow the solar calendar while others follow the lunar calendar. This difference has an impact on family life.

MARCELLE TAMER
Nazareth – Greek Orthodox Church
“We usually celebrated the Orthodox holidays with my parents, and the Catholic ones with Boulus’ parents. Now that our parents are elderly, we, brothers and sisters, take turns inviting them to our homes each year.”

H. E. Mons. PIERBATTISTA PIZZABALLA, ofm
Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
“Our Christians live here together. Many families, most of them, are mixed, and so celebrating together on the same day is a great relief for them, especially for the villages, where there are Orthodox families and Latin parishes and so on. This, from a pastoral point of view, it is a great relief and solves a lot of problems for pastors and for different activities.”

In recent years, steps forward have been taken and high-level ecumenical meetings have multiplied--and this has been a sign of openness and closeness between the different churches. This trend seems to also be true in the Holy Land.

H. E. Mons. PIERBATTISTA PIZZABALLA, ofm
Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
“It is a fact that the Church of the Nativity and that the Holy Sepulcher are being restored, a restoration that will continue thanks to an agreement between the Churches after decades of discussions. The fact that there was a meeting here between Catholics and Lutherans, and that there are increasingly frequent meetings between churches as well as the growing desire for collaboration are real and irreversible facts.”

The ecumenical journey will still require many steps in a process that certainly will involve not only leadership but also the people.

MARCELLE TAMER
Nazareth – Greek Orthodox Church
“Whatever I can do for the unity between the Churches depends on how I behave with others. As a lay person, I treat everyone fairly, without discrimination and prejudice. I think this fosters unity among us.”

H. E. Mons. PIERBATTISTA PIZZABALLA, ofm
Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
“Of course there is still much to do on the pastoral level, in terms of formation, education, families, where there are different understandings of the sacraments and of marriage. We need to work on [more] concrete topics. But relations have improved quite a bit.”