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Attempt by world’s churches to fix date for Easter opposed by small Yorkshire town

Whitby Abbey, the site of St Hilda’s Monastery, where the synod of Whitby was held in AD 664

Plans by the world’s major churches to agree a common date for Easter after millennia of disagreement have been criticised by councillors in Whitby, where a synod was held in AD664.

The famous meeting was held in the Yorkshire town, then under the rule of King Oswiu of Northumbria, to decide whether clerics in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom should follow the Roman tradition of Easter, or that used by the Celtic church. The synod also ruled on other controversial issues such as which hairstyles monks would follow.

The Northumbrians, although they had been heavily influenced by Irish missionaries, chiefly St Aidan, chose to conform to Rome; Kent, the first Anglo-Saxon kingdom to turn Christian, had been converted by Roman missionaries.

According to the Whitby Gazette, Councillor Joe Plant said: “The procedure has been in place for centuries – why change it? It would be disrespectful to Whitby.

The Abbey and the Synod of 664 are synonymous with Whitby and we have many pilgrims to the town as a result. There have been no problems with Easter being a movable feast. It is possible to work out the date for decades ahead through The Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer.

“If it isn’t broken why go about trying to change it?”

The town’s mayor, Councillor Heather Coughlan, is also quoted as saying: “Whitby jealously guards its history and heritage of which the Synod and Captain James Cook are a major part.

“I don’t think it necessary to interfere with something which has worked well for 1,400 years and I’m sure the people of Whitby will take the same view.

“It sounds more like a suggestion from an office manager than the Church.”