The Irish Bishops have appealed for families and communities to make a special effort to keep Sundays sacred. On the second day of the March General Meeting of the Irish Bishops' Conference in Maynooth, the bishops published the following statement: Ever since the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sunday has held a special place in the weekly lives of His followers. Irish Christians named the day itself after Him: An Domhnach, the Lord's Day. It is a day different in character to the other six days of the week, a day when we set aside all non-essential work so as to be free to devote time to family, to religious practices, visiting the sick and the elderly and to leisure and recreational pastimes. Until recent times we maintained a good balance between these elements of Sunday life. One of the essential ways by which this balance was maintained was the tradition whereby sporting and leisure activities for young people on Sundays did not begin until early afternoon. This enabled families to attend Mass and other religious services together and to regularly share the Sunday meal as a family unit. Now, however, there seems to be an ever-increasing frequency in the scheduling of under-age training sessions and competitive games for Sunday mornings. We wish to draw the attention of all parents and guardians to the conflict of interests this scheduling can cause for children and teenagers. We wish also to bring this conflict of interests to the attention of officials and coaches, whom we recognise as persons of generosity and goodwill. Dedicated young sports people can be afraid to miss a training session or a game for fear they will lose their place on the team. When practice sessions or competitions occur repeatedly on Sunday mornings then a young participant can lose the habit of going to Sunday Mass. This conflict of interests becomes all the more acute for a multi-talented youngster since he or she may wind up with a non-stop round of Sunday morning engagements. Catholic parents and guardians too can lose sight of their responsibility of attending Sunday Mass because they may need to travel with young people to events or attend to support them. It is sometimes claimed that a young player or a family can go to the Saturday Vigil Mass in advance of a Sunday morning engagement. However, for any number of practical reasons, this may not always be possible on any given weekend. It would be unreasonable for organisers or coaches to presume on this as a solution. In recent times, healthcare experts have raised concerns about the increasing numbers of children who do not engage in any physical activities or pastimes. It is a concern that we share. We wish to compliment the very many adults who voluntarily give of their own free time to promote sporting and other creative pastimes among the children and young people in our parishes and local communities. In addition to making a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of the youngest generation they also build a sense of belonging, identity and community spirit among families and all age groups. We are conscious also of the difficulties experienced by some young people who take on part-time weekend jobs. Sometimes they find themselves required to work on both Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings without being given time off to attend either a Vigil or a morning Mass. We appeal to employers to ensure that their young part time employees are afforded time to go to church at weekends. We appeal, therefore, to all people of goodwill, to respect the spiritual needs of children and adolescents, particularly as these relate to family life and religious practice on Sundays, and to refrain from organising events that clash with Sunday morning religious services. Source: Irish Catholic Media Office
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