French bishops' leader slams Sunday shopping bill
Paris Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois says Sarkozy's plan to open more stores on Sunday will hinder social organisation.
PARIS – The head of the French bishops' conference on Friday took a swipe at President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to push through a bill on Sunday shopping, describing it as an "unhealthy development."
Sarkozy will present the bill regulating Sunday shopping hours to parliament next week despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church and unions and some resistance within the ranks of his governing UMP party.
"This is an unhealthy development because I believe that a society that has no bearings to mark its use of time is a society that is coming apart," Paris Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois, head of the episcopal conference, told RTL radio.
Sarkozy has argued that allowing more stores to open on Sundays in tourist areas and downtown cores will help spur consumer spending as his government battles a looming recession.
The measure has run into strong resistance from lawmakers who say the economic benefits have not been proven and that Sundays should remain a day of rest in France.
For many French families, Sundays are still devoted to long leisurely lunches and many bristle at American-style shop-till-you-drop retail practices.
With French divorce rates high, the Paris archbishop argued that Sundays allowed children "to be with one of their parents, which means that there is a day that helps social organisation".
Small shopkeepers - butchers, bakeries, patisseries - are open on Sunday mornings in France and some stores in designated zones are allowed to do business on Sundays.
A poll published in the daily Le Figaro showed 66 percent of the French are in favour of Sunday shopping, a practice that is well-entrenched in Britain, but less adopted elsewhere in Europe.
Germany has restrictive Sunday shopping laws as does Italy.
[AFP / Expatica]