The Catholic Church has welcomed an overflow of parishioners into its four Wollongong churches as thousands gathered on Sunday to mark one of the religion’s most sacred days.
Wollongong Bishop Peter Ingham said ‘‘bumper’’ crowds flocked to Easter Sunday mass services in Wollongong, Fairy Meadow, Balgownie and Gwynneville.
‘‘People have a great sense at Easter and Christmas of it being a special Christian festival,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve been celebrating since Thursday...it’s a great feast of hope.’’
In his address, Bishop Ingham asked church-goers to remember to treat others as they would like to be treated, saying he believed the rise in violence in society can be attributed to the decline in religious faith and values.
‘‘People are better in the way they treat each other when they follow the gospel,’’ he said.
‘‘Treating people as we wish to be treated - that’s how Jesus says we should be treating each other.
‘‘If we lose our capacity to love and reach out to others, then our lives become bleak and dark.’’
An Easter Monday service will be held at 8am at St Francis Xavier Cathedral Parish in Wollongong.
As Scott Morrison and other Coalition ministers attend church this Easter, Adelaide's Anglican Archbishop Jeffrey Driver says he has a message he hopes reaches them.
Reflecting on the Abbott government's asylum seeker policies, particularly the detention of children, the archbishop said: "I would remind them that Jesus did say, 'Let the little children come to me'."
Archbishop Driver, the convener of the Anglican Refugee Network, has been protesting with other church leaders against the government's asylum-seeker policies. He says he has written to Mr Morrison – a devout Pentecostal – but has not heard back. In recent weeks, Christian groups have done "sit in" protests in the offices of Mr Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
The archbishop, who signed a joint statement with other Anglican leaders condemning the government's mandatory detention of children, has spent this Easter week reinforcing the message. He hopes an Easter appeal might sway Coalition ministers, particularly those of faith.
Other Christian groups have joined in the protests in recent months. The Association of Baptist Churches has repeatedly expressed concern about the "morally bankrupt" asylum-seeker policies under both Labor and the Coalition. Uniting Church leaders have led services "of lament" to pray for asylum seekers. The Catholic Church has not been as vocal, but the Jesuit Refugee Service has publicly condemned Mr Abbott's use of the word "illegal" to describe asylum seekers arriving by boat.
"I don't want to reflect on the individual integrity of certain ministers," Archbishop Driver said. "I would like to believe they are acting in what they believe to be the best interests. [But] a child should only be detained as a measure of last resort."
Asked about the Christian protests, Mr Morrison said: "People are entitled to voice their opinions in an open society and need to do so in accordance with the law."
Jonathan Swan and Lisa Visentin, smh.com.au