Catholics Are Allowed to Play Soccer on Sundays, Vatican Says

Pope Francis receives a football ball from a delegate of Miami's school during a meeting with the Scholas Occurrentes organisation in Rome, Italy, May 11, 2018. The Vatican has condoned playing sport on Sunday in a new document. REUTERS/Max Rossi

The writings of Thomas Aquinas laid out the tenets for the Catholic faith and five reasons for the existence of God—now it turns out he supported sport on Sunday too.

The 13th-century medieval philosopher, most renowned for his treatise Summa Theologica, was cited in a 52-page document by the Vatican condoning playing sport on the day of rest—as long as it does not get in the way of going to Mass.

Considered a gray area for Catholics, the issue of Sunday sport is addressed in the document titled Giving the Best of Yourself.

Referring to medieval times when lay Catholics played games on feast days, the report released on June 1 stated: "Such play found theological support in the writing of Thomas Aquinas who argued that there can be 'a virtue about games' because virtue has to do with moderation.

"If sport runs the risk of being the occasion to divide a family and to diminish the sanctity of Sunday as a holy day to uphold, it also can help integrate a family with other families in the celebration of Sunday, not only in the liturgy but in the life of the community," the document says.

"This does not mean that sport matches should not take place on Sundays, but rather, such events must not excuse families from attending Mass and should also promote the life of the family within the community."

The document also warned against over-commercialization of sport and a 'winning at all costs' mentality. It also criticized drugs, corruption and violence in sport.

The document got the support of Pope Francis, who as a child in Argentina was a fan of the Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo.

"We need to deepen the close connection that exists between sport and life, which can enlighten one another," he said, according to the Catholic Herald.

Santiago Perez de Camino, of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the church had never forbidden sport on Sunday, but had not viewed it positively in the past.

Circa 1260, Italian philosopher, theologian and writer St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). He is cited by the Vatican as having endorsed sport and games as a means of strengthening faith. Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images

"The church wants Sunday to be a day of rest and going to Mass, but knows the day has 24 hours and a solution can be found," The Times of London reported.

A number of top-level sportsmen in the past have refused to compete on Sunday, including Eric Liddell, who did not compete in the 100 meters at the 1924 Olympics as the heats were on a Sunday.

His victory in the 400 meters was the subject of the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire.

The current world record holder for the triple jump, Jonathan Edwards, refused to compete on Sunday at the 1991 World Championships although in 2014, he told The Mirror he has stopped believing in God.

He told The Times of London: "For a lot of kids brought up in strict Christian homes like me, it will give them a little more latitude to enjoy sport.

"For me, it was about whether God thought it was OK for me to compete on Sundays."