Vatican works to stop Sunday shopping in Italy

VATICAN CITY — The Roman Catholic Church, trade unions and small business associations have joined forces in a bid to … Continued

VATICAN CITY — The Roman Catholic Church, trade unions and small business associations have joined forces in a bid to save Sundays.

In a bid to spur economic growth, outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti backed a new law that allows shops to stay open on the Sabbath.

But Sunday traditions are strong in the European nation, and the change provoked strong resistance from religious and secular groups.

Last month, an Italian shop owners association and the country’s Catholic bishops’ conference launched a campaign to “free up Sundays.” They aim to gather the 50,000 signatures needed to try to repeal the liberalizing shop law.

Confesercenti, the shop owners association, fears that mom-and-pop stores — the backbone of the Italian retail sector — will be squeezed by large retailers and American-style malls.

The issue extends beyond Italy. In Brussels, dozens of religious groups — including the Catholic Church — unions and business associations from 27 countries have formed the “European Sunday Alliance” to lobby the European Union to keep Sunday as a continentwide day of rest, at least in principle.

Johanna Touzel, the alliance’s spokeswoman, said that setting Sunday aside is not necessarily a religious issue, and not discriminatory towards Jews and Muslims. “We need one day when everyone can rest — this is the origin of Shabbat. And in fact, even Muslim organizations support us.”

For the Catholic Church, keeping Sundays free from shopping and work concerns is of larger consequence than the economy.

The Rev. Marco Scattolon of Camposampiero, Italy, became an instant celebrity when he labeled Sunday shopping a sin and called on his parishioners to do penance for it. Sundays, he told the Corriere del Veneto newspaper, are important “not just in the religious sense.” ‘’They are one of the few occasions left for families to be together.”

Bishop Antonio Mattiazzo of Padua sided with Scattolon while other bishops publicly signed the Confesercenti campaign.

“The broad consensus in opposing Sunday openings shows that having a common weekly day for rest is something that benefits everyone, not just believers,” says Luca Diotallevi, a Catholic sociologist who advises Italy’s bishops on social issues. “Sunday has not just a social value but a theological one too: Man needs to have a holy day.”

Others go even further in arguing for work-free Sundays.

Mimmo Muolo, a journalist for Italy’s official Catholic newspaper Avvenire, in his recent book, “Le feste scippate” (”The Stolen Holidays”), argues that “the 24/7 retail cycle has reintroduced a system of slaves and masters.” He said that employees who have no choice but to work on Sundays — and thus have no time for family and other social activities — are “Sunday slaves.”

At least in Italy, there are signs that few businesses have taken advantage of the reform.

Before the usual Christmas shopping rush kicked in, it was difficult to find many open shops on Sundays outside the tourist areas of the city centers.

“It is pointless because people don’t have enough money to spend,” says Anna Lucentini, 35, a saleswoman on one of Rome’s busiest commercial streets.

She says that the only result of the Sunday-opening reform is that employees will have to work more at their bosses’ request. “In Italy, those who still have a job are afraid to lose it and so let themselves be exploited without complaining.”

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • AmericanIndian

    Tragic overkill by a lost and confused church. Are you kidding me? I live in Italy. This is not even an issue, considering all the problems we have in this country, this is where we see activism from the so-called church? The church seems to forget that shopping is a religion in modern capitalist societies.That an issue like this is prominent really shows how lost and confused the church has become. If this were not December I would think this is a joke.

  • ONE OF MANY, USA CITIZEN

    And what day of the week does the RCC make it’s largest profit? The Vatican state owns commercial property in Rome that the Italy goverment would like to tax.

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

concert
Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.