Prelate: Good Friday Is Not for Football

Urges Games to Not Be Played on Sacred Days

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MELBOURNE, Australia, JULY 27, 2009 ( As professional sporting schedules are being set for the coming months, the vicar general of the Melbourne Archdiocese is affirming that football games should not be played on Good Friday.

Bishop Les Tomlinson stated this today, as reported on the archdiocesan Web page, that the Church does not want the Australian Football League games to take place on this particular Friday.

He underlined the sacredness of Good Friday for Christians, citing the message already given by Archbishop Denis Hart, the head of the archdiocese.

Bishop Tomlinson affirmed that Melbourne's Catholics, like any other people in the city, love football and are "very proud" of the "sporting culture."

However, he added that "Easter and the Easter holidays are a season of the spirit and the spiritual for Christians."

The prelate explained: "It's not just about the three o'clock ceremony. It is about the day.

"From our awakening to the end of the day, it is the day Christians remember that Jesus Christ suffered and died for us so that we might know and enjoy the love of God for all eternity."

The bishop asserted that "any proposal to play games on Good Friday fails to properly consider the spiritual needs of people in our community."

He affirmed the "exemplary and courageous leadership" shown by the league thus far, in "resisting pressures" to schedule a game on Good Friday.

Bishop Tomlinson continued, "I urge the [football league] to continue to show leadership in this matter; as it has done so effectively in other aspects of sporting culture."

For love of football

The prelate's words follow recent events that have stirred the debate about religion's place in athletics.

Last month in South Africa, after winning the FIFA Confederations Cup Final, the Brazilian soccer team was criticized for kneeling down and praying in gratitude on the field.

The team was warned not to make these expressions in the future, and the International Federation of Association Football promised to prohibit these religious acts at next year's competition.

Edio Costantini, president of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, stated that "sports such as soccer are the fruit of the world's people because of its fans and their love of football."

"If you eliminate each form of religious expression or celebration," he added, "then I believe you deprive football of this 'fire' within the players."