GOOD Friday should be dumped as a public holiday and replaced with a national reconciliation day recognising Aborigines, a Melbourne cleric says.
The Reverend John Evans, the Uniting Church Minister at the Church of All Nations in Carlton, said Good Friday had lost its religious significance outside the Christian community.
He also said Australia was becoming a more multicultural, multifaith society and having Good Friday as a public holiday may no longer be appropriate.
Dr Evans applauded Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s public apology as a major step towards reconciliation, but said a day such as Good Friday should be set aside to mark the recent steps forward.
“We have done a great thing with the national apology but when you look at our public holidays there are no public holidays that recognise the role and place of Aborigines as the first people of this land,” he said.
Dr Evans said any day, not just Good Friday, could be suitable for a national reconciliation day. The exact day should be put to the Aboriginal community, he said.
In a statement released today, Dr Evans said: “Whether Good Friday is a public holiday or not will not change or challenge the day’s significance. In fact, in the place of Good Friday, there should be a national holiday to mark our endeavours towards Aboriginal reconciliation”.
When asked about the statement, Dr Evans said: “That would be the gift that I would be prepared to make, that if the only way we could get a public holiday for national day of reconciliation is that it’s Good Friday, I’d be for it.”
He said Good Friday would not lose its name or significance as a result.
“We will never not have Good Friday. The question is should it be a public holiday,” he said.
“And I would welcome it to be a public holiday but I would also observe that it is not being treated as a holy day.”
Dr Evans said a national reconciliation day fits in with the message of Easter, which he said was about reconciliation between individuals, God and each other.
But Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Christopher Prowse said despite the importance of reconciliation it would be inappropriate to have such a day on Good Friday.
“Aboriginal issues are very important for Australia, however the Good Friday observance has a different focus and that focus should not be deflected by other issues, however important.”
But another day could be set aside for reconciliation, he said.