Pope Francis has lamented the abandoning of the traditionally Christian practice of not working on Sundays, saying it has a negative impact on families and friendships.
Francis on Saturday travelled to Molise, an agricultural region in the heart of southern Italy where unemployment is chronically high. While he said poor people need jobs to have dignity, he indicated that opening stores and other businesses on Sundays as a way to create jobs wasn't beneficial for society.
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Francis said the priority should be "not economic but human," and that the stress should be on families and friendships, not commercial relationships. He added: "Maybe it's time to ask ourselves if working on Sundays is true freedom."
He said that spending Sundays with family and friends is an "ethical choice" for faithful and non-faithful alike.
Francis, 77, appeared to have bounced back from a spate of illnesses which have caused him to cancel several appointments recently. He flew by helicopter to Molise for a full day of activity, including a lunch appointment with poor people and a visit to a prison.
The pontiff moved energetically and smiled often as he greeted crowds. The Vatican had described the health problems as "mild" but did not elaborate.
At one point, the pope, speaking off the cuff, encouraged parents to spend more time with children. He quipped: "Waste time with your children!" He said he liked to ask parents, "do you play with your children?"
Francis is returning to Vatican City later Saturday.