A part of the Catholic Church in Sicily has issued a three-year ban on naming godparents during baptisms due to exploitation of the tradition by the mafia, among other concerns.
Church officials from the Roman Catholic diocese of Catania argue that the once-sacred role has become secularized and merely a way for parents to network and secure connections with local power brokers, including the mafia, the New York Times reports.
“It’s an experiment,” said Msgr. Salvatore Genchi, the vicar general of Catania. He added that most godparents in the region are not actually qualified to carry out the duties of a godparent, which is to bear witness to a child's baptism and serve as a spiritual guide throughout their life.
Archbishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of Reggio Calabria, home to the ’Ndrangheta mob, wrote a letter to Pope Francis in 2014 proposing a 10-year halt on godparents, explaining that the role had lost its spiritual context and had become exploited by the mafia.
Rev. Angelo Alfio Mangano of the Saint Maria di Ognina church in Catania supported the new ban, saying it would create space between him and spiritually questionable characters using “threats against the parish priest” to name themselves as godparents for children.
Former president of Sicily Salvatore Cuffaro said he was sought as a godfather for his “Christian principles,” having 20 godchildren of his own.
“Despite what some priests think, I paid attention to all of my baptismal godchildren” and told them to go to Catholic school, he said.
Cuffaro served nearly five years in prison for alerting a mafia boss that he was being wiretapped, according to the New York Times. He denies that anyone related to the mafia has served as a godfather in Sicily.
“At least in Sicily, where I have lived, this doesn’t exist,” he explained. “It’s only a religious bond; there are no bonds of illegality.”
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Original Author: Matthew Miller
Original Location: Sicilian Catholic leaders ban baptismal godparents over abuse by mafia