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Italians, backed by the Catholic Church, aim to stop Sunday shopping

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“People have the right to rest one day per week. Am I not a human being? Don’t I have a family?” Orlandini says. “The law should mandate a day off.”

But for Mauro Bussoni, the vice director of Confesercenti and the coordinator of the “Free Sunday” campaign, the problem is more systemic. “This measure favors certain retailers,” he says.

Deregulation hasn’t increased sales, and it has only increased costs for small businesses, since putting together shifts during the holidays is easier for big stores, which are more able to pay the extra costs, including overtime, Mr. Bussoni argues.

Bussoni says he fears that without regulation of the days and hours stores can operate, a competition will emerge in which only the fittest survive at the expense of mom-and-pop operations, which are already being hit hard by the recession. Istat, Italy’s statistics bureau, recently reported that retail sales for October 2012 were 3.8 percent lower than in October 2011. The process, he says, would change the face of Italian cities, threatening the quality of life of people, such as senior citizens, who rely on neighborhood stores.

The campaign’s organizers argue it’s more than a matter of competing business models, but defending the right of workers and shop owners to spend time with their families.

“On Sunday, leave us alone,” says Mina Giannandrea, a shop owner and the president of FEDERstrade, a Rome retailers’ association that’s also participating in the campaign. “People who shop on Sunday are selfish; they don’t think about those who have to work on Sunday,” Ms. Giannandrea says.

The importance of family time is the message that has perhaps resonated the most with the Catholic Church, which has thrown its support behind the campaign.

“Freedom without truth, without a higher end is mere caprice,” said Archbishop Giancarlo Bregantini, stressing the importance of a day of rest as mandated by the Bible in an interview with Vatican Radio.

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