January 24, 2022

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Catholic Church in Sicily Bans Godparents For Now

Catholic Church in Sicily Bans Godparents For Now

CATANIA, Italy — The mom had ready all the things for the baptism. She dressed her toddler son Antonio in a hand-crafted satin go well with with tails and an identical cream-colored prime hat glittering with rhinestones. She employed the photographers and purchased the child a gold cross. She booked an enormous buffet lunch for the entire clan on the Copacabana.

However because the parish priest within the Sicilian metropolis of Catania went via the same old liturgy, calling on the household to surrender Devil and ladling holy water on the squirming child’s head, one main a part of the ritual went lacking.

There was no godfather.

“It’s not proper,” mentioned Agata Peri, 68, little Antonio’s great-grandmother. “I positively didn’t make this choice.”

The church did. That weekend in October, the Roman Catholic diocese of Catania enacted a three-year ban on the traditional custom of naming godparents at baptisms and christenings. Church officers argue that the once-essential determine in a baby’s Catholic training has misplaced all religious significance. As a substitute, they are saying, it has change into a networking alternative for households trying to enhance their fortunes, safe endowments of gold necklaces and make advantageous connections, typically with native energy brokers who’ve dozens of godchildren.

God parenting, church officers mentioned, had fallen to earth as a secular customized between kinfolk or neighbors — many poor in religion or dwelling in sin, and was now a mere technique of strengthening household ties.

And typically mob ties, too.

Italian prosecutors have tracked baptisms to map out how underworld bosses unfold affect, and mob widows in courtroom have saved their most toxic spite for “the true Judases” who betray the baptismal bond. It’s a transgression most related to, effectively, “The Godfather,” particularly the baptism scene when Michael Corleone renounces Devil in church as his henchmen whack all of his enemies.

However church officers warn that secularization greater than something led them to rub out the godparents, a Sicilian factor that has been occurring for two,000 years, or at the very least for the reason that church’s dicey first days, when sponsors recognized to bishops vouched for converts to forestall pagan infiltration.

“It’s an experiment,” mentioned Msgr. Salvatore Genchi, the vicar normal of Catania, as he held a replica of the ban in his workplace behind town’s basilica. A godfather to at the very least 15 godchildren, the monsignor mentioned he was effectively certified for the position, however he estimated that 99 p.c of the diocese’s godparents weren’t.

The break would enable the church a while to ship Catania again to Catholic faculty, however Monsignor Genchi was not optimistic that it might stick. “It appears very tough to me,” he mentioned, “that one can flip again.”

In 2014, Archbishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of Reggio Calabria, the place the ’Ndrangheta mob is rooted, proposed a 10-year cease on godfathers, arguing in a letter to Pope Francis {that a} secular society had spiritually gutted the determine. That, he mentioned, additionally made it ripe for exploitation by mobsters.

Archbishop Morosini mentioned {that a} prime Vatican official, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who’s now on trial within the Vatican on cash laundering prices, responded that each one of Calabria’s bishops wanted to agree earlier than transferring forward. They didn’t.

However Archbishop Morosini mentioned he stored bringing the difficulty up with Francis, who “confirmed himself very attentive” to it, and, in a gathering in Might, instructed him, “‘Each time I see you, I keep in mind the godfather downside.’”

The Rev. Angelo Alfio Mangano, of the Saint Maria in Ognina church in Catania, welcomed the ban, particularly as a result of it gave him a relaxation from spiritually questionable characters utilizing “threats towards the parish priest” to strain him and others into naming them godfather.

Generally, he mentioned, the place was used for social blackmail and usury, however principally it turned a way to implement Sicily’s entrenched tradition of formality kinship.

“It creates a stronger tie between the households,” mentioned Nino Sicali, 68, as he sliced a swordfish with a machete on the Catania fish market. When he was made a godfather, he mentioned, he reciprocated by making his godson’s father a “examine” — or co-father — to his personal youngsters. Through the years, Mr. Sicali mentioned he was obligated to assist his struggling examine out financially. “He died owing me 12,000 euros,” he mentioned.

Some households sought out godfathers who opened doorways.

Salvatore Cuffaro, a former president of Sicily, mentioned that he didn’t have many baptismal godchildren, “nearly 20,” agreeing to solely about 5 p.c of requests. He was wanted, he mentioned, for his “Christian ideas,” demonstrated over a long time of political life.

“Regardless of what some clergymen suppose, I paid consideration to all of my baptismal godchildren” and instructed them to go to Catholic faculty, he mentioned.

Mr. Cuffaro, nicknamed “Kiss Kiss” for his tendency to kiss everybody, served almost 5 years in jail for serving to alert a mafia boss that he was being wiretapped. He denied these prices and {that a} Mafioso had ever served as godfather to anybody on the island.

“Not less than in Sicily, the place I’ve lived, this doesn’t exist,” he mentioned. “It’s solely a non secular bond; there are not any bonds of illegality.”

He nervous that by eliminating the custom, the church was “throwing the child out with the bathwater.”

Dad and mom baptizing their youngsters in church buildings throughout Catania on the primary Sunday of the ban had been likewise appalled on the lack of a beloved custom.

“It’s surprising,” mentioned Jalissa Testa, 21, who celebrated her son’s baptism on the Catania basilica by dancing as her husband serenaded a crowd of girls waving white napkins. “In our hearts we all know, and they’re going to know, that he has a godfather.”

Marco Calderone carried his 6-month-old son, Giuseppe, previous a newspaper clipping on the wall of the Saint Maria in Ognina church studying, “Baptisms and Christenings: Cease to Godfathers and Godmothers.”

“For them it is perhaps abolished,” Mr. Calderone mentioned. “Not for us.”

Afterward, the household posed on the church steps, and the household photographer (“You see the necklace on that child?” the photographer mentioned) referred to as for the godfather to hitch.

“Salvo,” Mr. Calderone shouted, beckoning the unofficial godfather to hitch them.

Even the household that acquired particular dispensation to have a godfather as a result of a loss of life within the household had delayed their beforehand scheduled baptism was vexed by the rule.

“I don’t perceive why the church is doing this,” Ivan Area, 29, who could be the final godfather of Catania, mentioned after the baptism of his nephew, who was wearing a three-piece powder blue go well with and white coppola cap. “I’m for the outdated traditions.”

After that ceremony, the priest turned to the household throughout the central nave. The ladies shimmered in sequins and the boys wore monkish mullets — quick within the entrance, lengthy within the again, shaved across the ears. They acquired no such allowance.

“What distinction does it make,” mentioned the proud father, Nicola Sparti, 24, who described his occupation as “somewhat little bit of this, somewhat little bit of that.” (“Flees from Carabinieri on a motorcycle,” learn a latest newspaper article about him.) “Someday the godfather’s there and the following he’s gone. However a father is ceaselessly.”

Mr. Sparti and his spouse then drove to the close by metropolis Aci Trezza for a photograph shoot in entrance of the three majestic sea rocks that, legend has it, the Cyclops heaved on the fleeing Odysseus. They put Antonio in a miniature, remote-controlled white Mercedes and cheered as he cruised the port.

Above them, the Rev. Giovanni Mammino, town’s vicar normal, got here out of the St. John the Baptist church after celebrating a christening. His diocese required varieties from godfathers swearing that they had been believers and never Mafia members. In contrast to Catania, he mentioned, his diocese had taken a center highway, permitting godparents, however not requiring them.

Now, individuals are slipping over the Catania border for baptisms.

“They maintain coming right here in order that they will have the godfathers,” he mentioned.

The Sparti household, although, had performed by the foundations and got here just for lunch. They drove to the close by Copacabana, the place they celebrated with heaping plates of pistachio pasta, cake, presents and generations of oldsters and godparents.

Alfio Motta, 22, Antonio’s uncle, watched all of it from the D.J. console, pondering of what might have been.

“I really feel just like the godfather,” he mentioned. “Even when I don’t have the title.”

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