EU Direction

Clergymen should make themselves available to their flocks day and night instead of keeping visiting hours and relaxing once the church doors close. “One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day,” the pontiff said in a homily in Saint Peter’s Basilica.


The Head of State,
Vatican City.

Your Holiness,

Whilst you are, of course, entitled to make what demands you will of Catholic clergy in other jurisdictions, I write to remind you of the Working-time Directive which applies throughout the European Union.

It gives EU workers the right to a minimum number of holidays each year, rest breaks, and rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours; restricts excessive night work; a day off after a week’s work; and provides for a right to work no more than 48 hours per week. It was issued as an update on earlier versions from 22 June 2000 and 23 November 1993. Since excessive working time is cited as a major cause of stress, depression and illness, the stated purpose of the Directive is to protect people’s health and safety.

The Vatican is not a signatory to the Treaty of Rome, so naturally the Directive does not apply to yourself or to clergy not of European citizenship. But I must ask you to make it abundantly clear that it does apply to Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Clergy and lay employees of the Church throughout the countries of the Union.

I am sure you will agree that litigation on this matter would damage the standing of the Catholic Church in the countries in question and throughout the Union. And that your admonition on this matter might well be construed as endorsing regressive patterns of employment.

With all good wishes,

Jean-Claude Juncker,
President of the European Commission.

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