Pope Asks: Is Working on Sunday “True Freedom”?

“Maybe it is time to ask whether work on Sunday is true freedom.”

Pope Francis spoke on Saturday, July 5, to a group of young workers in the remote Italian region of Molise, southeast of Rome.  Speaking in the auditorium of the University of Campobasso, Pope Francis began his pastoral visit by challenging his audience of workers to “waste time with their children.”

As in his other pastoral visits, the Holy Father took time to listen to the testimonies of people from the local population:  a farmer, a pregnant woman with a fifteen-month-old daughter who was struggling to reconcile her work at Fiat with her family life.  He explained that the economy does not take precedence over the human person; and he encouraged the woman (and other parents) to “lose the time to play with your children.”

The Pope applauded the idea, more common in Europe than in America, of a “work-free Sunday”–insisting that the economy does not take precedence over the human, on free and non-commercial relationships, relationships with family and friends and, for believers, the relationship with God and the community.

In an area severely affected by unemployment, he spoke nonetheless about the link between work and dignity.   “The unemployed person can always find help from Caritas or another association… but he can’t bring the bread home,” the pope explained to highlight the importance of finding the dignity that only work can offer.  In his homily in the open-air Mass at Campobasso, he stressed that “dignity of the human person is at the center of perspective and of any action.”

He encouraged those gathered to embrace a “pact for work”:  “So many jobs,” he said,

“…could be recovered through a strategy developed with national authorities who can take advantage of the opportunities offered by national and European standards. “

Later in the afternoon, he returned to the theme in his address to a crowd of about 20,000  gathered at the Castelpetroso church, this time continuing the theme he introduced in his May 26 press conference after his Holy Land visit, and talking about the challenge of unemployment:

“We must not resign ourselves to losing a whole generation that does not work…a generation without work, it is a defeat for humanity. 

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Two years ago, I reported on the growing trend in European nations to close shops and businesses on Sundays.  I had read in L’Osservatore Romano that thirteen European nations had joined together to say “No” to working on Sundays.  The European Sunday Alliance—a special-interest group of various unions, associations of civil society, as well as Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox communities—united to confirm their belief that Sunday should be a day of rest.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered peacefully in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland and Spain.  At the same time, the Croatian Bishops’ Conference, through its Commission for Justice and Peace, released a statement intended to raise Christians’ awareness of the importance of the Sunday rest. “It is necessary,” said the Croatian bishops’ document,

“to respect Sunday as a day of rest for everyone, a day for families to be together, a day for volunteer and charitable works, for cultural and social activities and a day for Christians to celebrate and glorify the Lord.”

I recalled the days when stores here in the U.S. were shuttered on Sunday–when signs in shop windows said simply,



With grocery stores, big-box stores, department stores and most pharmacies closed on Sunday, and with no Internet and only three television stations from which to choose, families naturally spent more time together.  Parks were crowded with picnickers, baseball diamonds were in constant use, childhood obesity was rare because kids never stopped moving.

Those were the days.

What could we do to bring back that sense of community, that love of the outdoors, that place of honor given to Mom, who had prepared an aromatic, homecooked Sunday dinner?  Any ideas?


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Sue Korlan

    The first thing to do is to stop shopping on Sundays. If no one is shopping, the stores will close so they won’t lose money.

  • The day when we saw business people in Church seems long gone; most owners think nothing of making people work on Sunday.

  • Elizabeth

    This mom doesn’t want to cook on Sundays. I want to rest too!!!!

    • kathyschiffer

      Elizabeth, I’m thinking of the orthodox Jewish folks who don’t cook on the Sabbath–so they pre-bake foods. There is even a “Sabbath mode” on some kitchen ranges, which turn themselves on and off at the appropriate time. Plan Sunday picnics, and make macaroni salad on Saturday?

  • Margaret O’Hagan

    And the next thing to do is to lobby for support for the single income family. People have no time these days…..

  • I totally support having stores closed on Sunday and everyone spending time with their family. It’s a good thing to do. I fail to understand however the link the Holy Father makes with freedom. Freedom it would seem would be to have the ability to make the choice as to whether one works or not. Either being forced to work or being forced to not work would be a lack of freedom.

    • Donalbain

      Freedom = Doing what the Christians tell you to do.

  • Mike

    Nice article. I think corporations are responsible for this. No small business owner wants to be open on Sunday, but corporations can squeeze out yet more profit by requiring their workers to come in.

  • Maria

    “What could we do to bring back that sense of community, that love of the outdoors, that place of honor given to Mom, who had prepared an aromatic, homecooked Sunday dinner? Any ideas?”

    Live in a different economy. The American, global, outsourced-to-cheaper-labor economic system can no longer sustain Sundays off. You can thank Walmart and other supposedly “Christian” corporations for that.

    But on the small scale: Our young family is blessed not to have to work on Sundays. So we go to Mass, cook a big 2 o’clock meal and invite the neighbors every week. The invitation is casual, so people can drop in and out if they want without having to make a serious commitment.

    • Sounds delicious. Do you make a meat sauce on Sunday? My mother (also named Maria) used to make a meat suace every Sunday. I wish I was your neighbor…lol.

  • Elijah

    One thing that I think we could do would be to stop shopping on Sundays. If it isn’t profitable for businesses to be open on Sunday then they will stop forcing their employees to work on Sundays. I know that not everyone will refrain from shopping on Sundays, but if every Christian would refuse to spend a single dime on Sunday there would be an effect.

  • Two years ago I would be right with you on this. Then our power went out on Holy Thursday and didn’t come back on till Monday afternoon. Some friends had invited us for Easter dinner, but other than that we were pretty much on our own since we were relatively new to the area. We didn’t know anyone well enough that it would have been okay to ask to come over for all our meals for a few days, because they had their family plans (though one family offered us their hot shower!). We ate Easter breakfast at McDonald’s, then went to Wal-Mart to buy some ice for the refrigerator and some other things (since our regular grocery store was closed). I was surprised at how many people were doing their regular grocery shopping on Easter, of all days, but I was grateful that we had food that morning, and that we didn’t lose much of our perishable food because of the ice. After that experience, I am not really sure what I think about the Sunday-business issue.