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New London — As the bells of the city's many churches tolled at noon on Good Friday, about 60 people gathered at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church to observe the 12 stations of the cross by walking with a crucifix to 12 churches and other places of note in New London.
This year, because all Christians will celebrate Easter on the same day, parishioners of the orthodox church were joined by others from an Episcopal church and a Roman Catholic church.
"Easter is a unifying holiday for all Christians to recall the life, death and rebirth of Jesus Christ," Father Dean Panagos, the priest at Saint Sophia, said. "For all of us to be able to celebrate together on the same day is a very good thing."
After a brief prayer service at St. Sophia, the walkers took turns carrying the cross to various churches and other city institutions. At each location, the group said the Lord's Prayer and then read aloud passages commemorating the Passion of Christ.
The walk was meant to remind walkers, some of whom carried or wore small crucifixes of their own, of Jesus's walk to Golgotha, where he was crucified.
The 1.5-mile walk was lead by Panagos, the Rev. Robert Washabaugh, pastor at St. Mary Star of the Sea; and the Rev. Michel Belt of St. James Episcopal Church.
About halfway through the walk, the group stopped at the Church of the City on State Street, where the Ledyard High School gospel choir performed.
"It's wonderful to do this and have the bigger community together," said St. Sophia's parishioner Stephanie Ashton of Waterford. "Really, it's just that we don't follow the same calendar, but in the end (the faiths) are the same."
In most years, Catholics and Western Protestants celebrate Easter on one Sunday and the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates it about a week later. For the first time since 2011, Eastern Orthodox Easter and Western Protestant Catholic Easter coincide this year due to the alignment of the Gregorian and Julian calendars. The two Easters will be celebrated on the same day again in 2017 and then not until 2034, according to the World Council of Churches.
Even though there is no real theological difference between what Easter means in the two traditions, they operate on different calendars.
"In this day and age, when there are so many denominations and splits in the church, it is so nice to be able to show the unity that Christ called us to show," Belt said.