Pope Tells Catholics to Get to Church
Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Pope John Paul II told the world's Roman Catholics yesterday that sports and rest are fine on Sundays, but not at the sacrifice of attending Mass.
In a 40-page apostolic letter, "The Day of the Lord," the pope lamented that Sunday church attendance has been declining in the face of modern industrial life, but reminded that the observance is not only good for spiritual health but a "grave sin" to miss without good reason.
"Unfortunately, when Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a `weekend,' it can happen that people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see the heavens," the pope said in the letter.
Those who skip Sunday Mass "should be convinced that they cannot live their faith or share fully in the life of the Christian community," he wrote.
The most recent annual Gallup poll found that 41 percent of U.S. Catholics say they attend church weekly, but that may include a day other than Sunday.
Vatican officials yesterday said that 28 percent of Catholics in Rome attend Sunday Mass, 17 percent go in Austria and attendance drops as low as 10 percent in countries with a shortage of priests.
"I think it's a message to workaholics," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Catholic Conference. "It is also saying you need more than just rest on the weekend. You need a day to do things that are spiritual."
At a Rome news conference, Bishop Geraldo Agnelo, secretary for the Vatican department on worship, said there may be a conflict for soccer-loving Catholics in countries like Italy or Brazil.
"What the letter says is that there should be no impediments to Christians to take part in Sunday worship and make holy the day of the Lord," said the bishop, who comes from Brazil.
"Sport is also part of that letting off of steam on Sundays," he added. …