Italians are being asked to choose between going an extra mile to help the nation's economy or keeping the traditional Christian day of rest work-free, after Prime Minister Mario Monti announced his support for a new law that would keep businesses open on Sundays.
The Roman Catholic Church, small business owners and Christians around the country have voiced their opposition to such plans, however. Sunday is considered a day of rest and a time for corporate worship for many Christians, who also believe the Bible calls for a sabbath.
"They are one of the few occasions left for families to be together," the Rev. Marco Scattolon of Camposampiero in Italy explained about the need to keep Sundays holy, saying that it was not just a religious issue.
Catholic bishops have even launched a campaign in protest of Prime Minister Monti's plans, and are hoping to get 50,000 signatures in order to try and repeal the law, the Religion News Service reported.
Small business owners under an association called Confesercenti fear that opening stores on Sundays actually serves to benefit larger retailers.
"The broad consensus in opposing Sunday openings shows that having a common weekly day for rest is something that benefits everyone, not just believers," added Luca Diotallevi, a Catholic sociologist who works with 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."
"People say: 'It's nice to have shops open on Sunday.' But I don't make extra sales on Sunday," says Aldina Orlandini, who runs a clothing shop in Bologna, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
"People have the right to rest one day per week. Am I not a human being? Don't I have a family?" Orlandini added. "The law should mandate a day off."
Catholic unions from 27 countries in the European Union have at the same time formed the "European Sunday Alliance" in Brussels, in order to lobby the E.U. to keep Sunday as a day of rest all across the continent, which is still predominantly Christian, despite the influx of Muslim immigrants and the steady rise of secularism in the past decade.
The European Sunday Alliance explains in its mission statement that "a work-free Sunday and decent working hours are of paramount importance for citizens throughout Europe." The organization claims that "all citizens of the European Union are entitled to benefit from decent working hours that, as a matter of principle, exclude working late evenings, nights, bank holidays and Sundays."
The organization has also posted several studies on its website explaining the health benefits of employees taking at least one day of rest throughout the week
Johanna Touzel, the group's spokeswoman, has said: "We need one day when everyone can rest -- this is the origin of Shabbat. And in fact, even Muslim organizations support us."