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Big jump in numbers at Easter services

High turnouts for services throughout Easter at Australian churches have been attributed to the increased public profile of the events surrounding Christ's death and resurrection created by Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ.

In Adelaide, The Advertiser reported that attendences at the city's churches this Easter were up 20% compared with previous years.

"A lot more people are beginning to think about the world and their place in it," said Fr Peter Collins of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers' St Francis Church in the Melbourne CBD.

"They are trying to make some form of connection. It's not out of nostalgia but out of hope for themselves and the human family."

In his Easter Message, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney said the film has focused public attention on the Christian understanding of the whole Easter season "more effectively than any other event for years".

In Canberra, more than 1000 worshippers packed St Christopher's Cathedral. Archbishop Francis Carroll directly credited the Mel Gibson film for the increased interest in religion this Easter, saying it helped remind people of the story of the Resurrection.

In his Easter sermon at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Archbishop Phillip Wilson spoke about the sense of "unity and beginning" at Easter.

"It's an opportunity for us to express our hope, to rededicate ourselves to the tasks that are ours in engaging with the world and trying to make the world a better place," he said.

In Brisbane, people stood in the aisles and in doorways of St Stephen's Cathedral to hear Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby, the biggest Easter Sunday crowd he had seen since taking up the post in 1992.

He believed Mel Gibson's film The Passion of The Christ combined with insecurity in the world, had caused more people to turn to religion.

Whatever the future held, he hoped it would become a more permanent state.

"You never quite know - in America after the September 11 terrorism, then the churches filled up very rapidly and then they disappeared again," he said.

Aussies flock to Easter services (The Age 10/4/04)
"The Passion" Makes Impact at Easter (Zenit 11/4/04)
Fed by a spiritual hunger, the congregations grow (The Age 12/4/04)
Mel's passion helps church at Easter (The Advertiser 12/4/04)
Pell says Gibson film will heighten Good Friday observance (CathNews 8/4/04)
Fear, hope fill Easter services (The Australian 12/4/04)

At cross purposes on the Passion (The Age 9/4/04)
War, film boost church numbers (Warrnambool Standard 12/4/04)
Cross seller gets heckled (Daily Telegraph 12/4/04)
Faithful flock to region's churches (Shepparton News 12/3/04)
Thousands together for Easter (Herald-Sun 12/4/04)
Unrest and Mel resurrect Church passion (The Courier Mail 12/4/04)
Boston's archbishop puts his foot down (Sydney Morning Herald 12/4/04)
Clergy thank Mel for large crowds (Sunday Mail 11/4/04)
World's Christians celebrate Easter as Iraq crisis looms (Sydney Morning Herald 12/4/04)
Gibson thanked for packed churches (The Age 11/4/04)
Mel, terror see churches fill up (Weekend Australian 11/4/04)
Police pave pilgrims' path to the cross (Sun-Herald 11/4/04)
Kerry Marks Easter with Communion at Catholic Mass (Reuters 11/4/04)
Christian leaders struggle with world problem of terrorism (The Guardian 12/4/04)
The Passion comes to life in gory Filipino ritual (Reuters 9/4/04)
Churches seek to reignite Easter passions (ABC 9/4/04)
Gibson credited with Easter turnout (ninemsn/AAP 11/4/04)
A message of love and forgiveness (The Age 10/4/04)
Way of the cross (Ballarat Courier 10/4/04)
Leaders offer a message of hope (The Courier Mail 10/4/04)
Archbishop rejects film's violence (The Advertiser 10/4/04)
Passion wonderful: Arroyo (The Courier Mail 10/4/04)
Easter faithful flock to churches (The Age 9/4/04)
Peace a theme of pilgrimage (Herald-Sun 10/4/04)
Victim identifies church gunman (Herald-Sun 13/4/04)
Among the believers
Churches take ritual of Passion on to the streets (The Guardian 9/4/04)
Chinese Catholics sing Alleluia to celebrate Easter (People's Daily 12/4/04)
Let our lover's blood transform sin
Timothy Radcliffe: Do not be afraid (The Tablet 10/4/04)
Christopher Pearson: In praise of a return to ritual (Weekend Australian 10/4/04)
Editorial: Memories of light and darkness (Weekend Australian 10/4/04)
James Murray: Not just a holy memory (Weekend Australian 10/4/04)
Culture and the Cross (The Tablet 10/4/04)
The question is what we see (The Tablet 10/4/04)
Pilate: a search for truth (The Tablet 10/4/04)
Woken by nightmares (The Tablet 10/4/04)
Culture and the Cross (The Tablet 10/4/04)
Reasons to believe (The Tablet 10/4/04)
Violence marks Easter at Indonesian church ( 12/4/04)
A Message from the Christian Community to all our fellow-citizens of India (Catholic Bishops Conference of India)
Kerry Ignores Reproaches of Some Bishops (New York Times 11/4/04)

13 Apr 2004