As the number of sporting events and other activities on Good Friday increases, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, says the Church needs to celebrate Easter in a way that “attracts people and speaks to their heart”.
Archbishop Coleridge, the Archbishop of Brisbane, said for some years the “erosion of Good Friday has been evident as the religious character of the day fades and it becomes part of the Easter holiday break”.
“This is largely because the social location of Christianity has been changing, with the Church no longer the dominant presence it was,” he told The Southern Cross.
“This may not be a good thing but it is a fact and, as late American psychologist Carl Rogers once said, the facts are always friendly, though not always in the way we would want.”
This year there will be two AFL football matches played on Good Friday in Melbourne, two rugby league matches scheduled for Sydney, horse racing in Victoria and Western Australia and five South Australian National Football League games in Adelaide. Since 2018 pubs have been able to open in SA, following changes to legislation that had been in place since World War I.
Archbishop Coleridge said the task of the Church was “not to lament the change or resist the tide but to ask how to adapt to a changing environment in which a more counter-cultural Church cannot claim the privileges it once took for granted”.
“There are now many more religious voices in the culture, plus the ‘nones’ who are the fastest-growing group,” he said.
“It is also worth keeping in mind that in many Catholic countries, including Italy, Good Friday is a working day.
“This was one of the things that surprised me when I went to Rome to study.”
His comments come as latest research by National Church Life Survey (NCLS) reveals that three in ten Australians do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. The Australian Community Survey found that 44 per cent of Australians believed in the resurrection in some way but more than a quarter did not know what they believed about it.
Based on the survey results, NCLS Research said only half of all Australians believe Jesus of Nazareth to be a historical figure. This was in contrast to wide acceptance amongst historians and academics that Jesus Christ was a real person who lived in first century Palestine.
Of those surveyed, 56 per cent revealed they are familiar with the Christian faith. Of this cohort, more than 20 per cent claimed to have a strong understanding of Christianity’s teachings and values.
In an earlier survey, NCLS found that the majority of Australians believe there is a connection between spirituality and wellbeing, and that using spiritual practices during tough times is important.
Nearly seven in ten Australians thought spiritual practices were important during the COVID crisis and the devastating bushfires, according to the survey.
The three most appealing spiritual practices from a suggested list of options were spending time in nature or outdoors; listening to uplifting music; and expressions of prayer, meditation or mindfulness.
The survey compares the attitudes of church attenders and the wider community on a range of social issues, tracks religiosity, and evaluates how the Australian community views churches in society.
With thanks to Jenny Brinkworth and The Southern Cross, where this article originally appeared.