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Archbishop of Canterbury hopes to fix Easter date

Robert Hutton
Bloomberg News

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said he hopes the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Coptic churches can agree within the next decade on a date on which Easter would be celebrated every year, helping schools and businesses to plan ahead.

At the moment, Easter, when Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, can fall on any Sunday between late March and late April. Both the Friday beforehand and the following Monday are public holidays in the U.K. and many other countries, and schools also take their vacations around it, meaning the date has a significant impact for many businesses. Determining a specific date — the first or second Sunday in April, for example — in would remove the uncertainty.

“We’ve warned the government this was coming up,” Welby told reporters at a news conference in Canterbury, southeast England, where senior Anglicans have been meeting. “It affects almost everything in the spring and the summer.”

While both the Coptic church and the Vatican have already said they’re willing to fix a date, Welby said it would take five to 10 years to agree a mechanism for reducing the range of Easter dates.

He warned reporters not to get too excited. “I think the first attempt to do this was in the 10th century, so it may be a little while.”

The birth of Jesus is celebrated on Dec. 25 every year, a date based on a pagan festival, rather than any Biblical account. By contrast the gospels all place Jesus’s death as happening during the Jewish Passover. The date is currently calculated based on the phases of the moon.