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Eastern and Western Christians celebrating Easter together

Christians everywhere will celebrate Easter on the same day this year because of a calendar quirk, a coincidence that has revived interest in trying to set a universal date for the observance.

Both Western and Eastern churches agree that the date should be based on a principle set in the year 325, which states that Easter falls on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. However, the dates vary because Protestant and Catholic Churches follow the 16th-century Gregorian Calendar, while the Orthodox churches use the older Julian Calendar. The two currently differ by 13 days.

Easter can occur between 22 March and 25 April for the Western Christian churches, while the range for Orthodox Easter extends from 4 April to 8 May.

"Especially in regions where Christians of the Western and Eastern traditions live closely together and may even constitute a minority, as for example in the Middle East, this situation is extremely painful," said a statement Monday from the World Council of Churches.

The council includes non-Catholic Christian churches, including Orthodox faiths, from across the world.

This year, by chance, both calendars set the same day for the spring equinox and the full moon following it, meaning that Eastern and Western churches will celebrate Easter on the same day.

Church leaders have pondered the idea of agreeing on a single date for Easter for decades. In 1975, the Catholic Church proposed that the date should be fixed on "the Sunday following the second Saturday of April." The idea was later dropped because it could not be accepted by all Christian faiths.