Catholic Bishop Urges UK to Preserve Sunday as a Day of Rest

The Conservative government is planning to relax Sunday trading laws as part of its coronavirus recovery bill.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury preaches in Shrewsbury Cathedral March 9, 2014.
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury preaches in Shrewsbury Cathedral March 9, 2014. (photo: Diocese of Shrewsbury.)

SHREWSBURY, England — A bishop has urged Christians to speak out against plans to relax Sunday trading laws in the United Kingdom as the economy reels from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a June 21 homily at Shrewsbury Cathedral, Bishop Mark Davies criticized the government’s intention to lift the current six-hour limit on Sunday trading. 

“As we emerge from lockdown, it is regrettable that the government is considering removing the remaining legal protections of Sunday in order to make it a full trading day,” the bishop of Shrewbury said. 

“Proposals for unrestricted Sunday trading may be included within plans to revive economic activity and so place new demands upon the very shop workers and their families who have supported us throughout this crisis.” 

“Whatever economic advantages the government may calculate, the human loss will surely be greater if Sunday becomes just another working day.” 

The bishop, whose diocese covers the English counties of Shropshire and Cheshire, as well as parts of Merseyside, Derbyshire, and Greater Manchester, said that scrapping Sunday trading restrictions could lead to the downgrading of major Christian celebrations. 

He said: “We would be discarding the Christian heritage of a shared day of rest and all the human values which the observance of Sunday has involved.” 

“At a deeper level, Britain would be discarding a key element of our Christian identity for by logical extension either Easter and Christmas Day might equally be treated as merely another working day.”

“If degrading Sunday as a day of rest, of family, of community, of worship, marginally enhanced our faltering economy it would not be justified because of its deeper impact upon human wellbeing. This is a moment for us to raise our voices, so our Christian Sunday is not discarded by a political sleight of hand.” 

The bishop was speaking via livestream as public Masses are not permitted in the U.K. due to restrictions imposed by the government to contain the coronavirus. Churches were allowed to reopen for individual private prayer June 15. 

The Conservative government is planning to relax Sunday trading laws as part of its coronavirus recovery bill. According to the Office for National Statistics, the U.K.'s monthly gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 20.4% in April, the first full month of a nationwide lockdown.

On the same day that Bishop Davies made his remarks, the Daily Telegraph reported that more than 50 Conservative Members of Parliament opposed the change. It said that, given the scale of opposition, the plans “look to be in trouble.”

The U.K., which has a population of almost 67 million, has recorded 42,717 deaths from the virus as of June 22, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center -- the world’s third highest reported death toll after that of the United States and Brazil.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy