Culture

Vatican works to stop Sunday shopping in Italy

Sunday Shoppers
In what may seem an unlikely alliance, the Catholic Church, trade unions and Italian small business associations have joined forces in a bid to save Sundays from shopping and liberalized shopping hours. RNS photo by Alessandro Speciale

VATICAN CITY (RNS) 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.

Sunday Shoppers

In what may seem an unlikely alliance, the Catholic Church, trade unions and Italian small business associations have joined forces in a bid to save Sundays from shopping and liberalized shopping hours. RNS photo by Alessandro Speciale

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.”

Still, opposing the liberalization of store opening schedules is winning the church some unexpected sympathy. Lorena Vargas, 21, just learned about the bishops-backed campaign. “For once, the church is doing a good thing,” she says. “I could even start going to Mass.”

DSB/AMB END SPECIALE

About the author

Alessandro Speciale

Alessandro Speciale has been covering the Vatican since 2007 and wrote for Religion News Service from 2011-2013. Born in Rome, he studied literature at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, and journalism at City University, London. He has appeared as an expert on Vatican affairs on CNN, BBC World and Al Jazeera English.

25 Comments

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  • I agree, Connor. If they are going to promote a day they should promote the Biblical Sabbath not Sunday….but it should always be a free choice…just as God gives us.

  • For those who still study scripture we know where this is headed. It excites me to witness the Word of God being fulfilled every day. So many things that are taking place around us and yet most people are dormant even those sitting in the pews each Sabbath day. Let us continue to pray and seek God’s guidance as this country and those afar continue to fulfill the Word of God. Blessings.

  • Everyone should be entitled to a day of. Let each business and each individual choose which day to close and work. Friday for the Muslims, Saturday for the Jews and Christians and Sunday for rhe Catholics. We must all be free to choose who we will serve. Government can make it mandatory to choose one of the three.

  • It’s crystal clear in Exodus 20:8 the Catholic Youth Bible Saint Mary’s Press. Look @ Merriam Webster Dictionary says the SATURDAY is the seventh day of the week and not Sunday.

  • It would have made sense if the government would give a “rest day” which could be based on your religious belief, but that will not possibly happen. The battle is between God and Satan. God says by keeping holy His day, the Sabbath, you are accepting his authority. The Antichrist (Catholic) system’s mark of authority is keeping holy the first day of the week (Sunday). It is your choice if you wish the worship the beast (by accepting his mark of authority), or worship God on His day. Unfortunately the entire world is so deceived (as predicted in the Bible), that very few people even realise the truth about the Sabbath. I was one of the deceived ones, and my family and I only learned the truth about the Sabbath about 2 years ago.

    Articles like this makes me excited, it shows how near the end is, as the Daniel and Revelations’ prophacies are playing off in front of our very eyes!

    Another lie in the world today is about what happens when we die. This is very closely tied with the lies about the Sabbath, as it is used as a tool to make people believe in a “second chance” to do things “right”. Have a look at this page for truth about death:
    http://www.truthaboutdeath.com/

    I can’t wait to go home!

    God bless!

  • Why does is it when church and state get together on something it usually turns out bad for the people? When the state becomes involved in church matters it usually taints the religious aspect. I also agree with the others the sabath and the day from work needs to be on the Lord’s day which is Saturday not sunday.

  • PRIESTLY WORLDVIEW by Airfox 2013 April 26 Wed. 12:15
    ” Purpose of our existence”
    In us is a mirror. We are attached in our emotions. We find humanity inspire of a person higher than us. The purpose of life which we have or don’t have is to take care whatever gifts that our existence can create or substantiate. we are to learn and relearn the inner man to bring about a gospel, a living that sees life.
    In basic practical terms, We die with a cause. We must not live our dying bodies. We our recalling this life into such existence. Death is not a final stop but a beginning of wisdom.
    If we are tempted, live! If we are persecuted, live! If we are forsaken, live! If the world hates us, live! There are many signs and ways that lead not to the finish line but a shelter. Amen!

    PRIESTLY WORLDVIEW
    ” The Goal of Life”
    Man is created undivided. The moment God said you are here,means we have to move. What we think is our reality.
    There are God’s law which are given to be seemed! To be God’s worker here on this life. Our goal while we are in this body is to resurrect God’s death. Our goal is to be a God.
    What I mean is to be strong,discerning,creative,loving. I differentiate our weakness towards a God! There are different realities in our lives. The important thing is we master life. If God is God he will always give and understand. God is waiting for us to exalt Him in this existence! Amen!

  • Just another step in bible prophecy. Sabbath is Saturday. Always has been always will be. Soon they will persecute the people who want to follow the bible and worship on the real Sabbath.

  • God is not man that he may lie.What he has revealed to Daniel and John(Revelations) is being fulfilled.I am glad i worship the God of the true Sabbath(Saturday) and i am praying for those who have been deceived by the beast to know the truth about the Sabbath.

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