During the next 3 years, and as a test, the Archdiocese of Catania, in Sicily (Italy), will impart the sacraments of baptism and confirmation without the presence of godparents, according to a decree of the Archbishop, Archbishop Salvatore Gristina, who will enter in force this same month of October.
This striking decision is justified in the archdiocesan decree in the consequences of the secularization process that has led to stripping, in practice, the religious sense of the figure of godparents.
In this sense, it is regretted that the appointment of godparents has become “a social custom in which the dimension of faith is barely visible.”
This situation has even been exploited by mafia organizations to use baptisms to extend their networks of influence through godparents.
Catania, located on the slopes of the Mount Etna volcano, is the second largest city on the Italian island of Sicily.
The Archbishop pointed out that in the current “socio-ecclesial context” of Catania, in particular, with “the irregular family situation of many people”, families who do not meet the necessary canonical requirements are frequently selected as godparents for baptism or confirmation. for its function.
“For centuries”, Archbishop Gristina recalls in the decree, “the tradition of the Church established that godparents and godmothers accompany the newly baptized or confirmed person to help them on their journey of faith”.
He pointed out that the important thing is that the godparents fulfill their “true ecclesial function” and not the presence of specific godparents.
According to Book IV of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church, the function of the godparents is to “assist the adult who is baptized in his Christian initiation, and, together with the parents, present the child who is going to receive the baptism and seek that afterwards he leads a Christian life congruent with baptism and faithfully fulfills the obligations inherent to it ”.
Furthermore, the sponsor must be Catholic, be confirmed, have received the sacrament of the Eucharist and lead “a life congruent with the faith and with the mission that he is going to assume.”
The Code of Canon Law does not stipulate the obligation to have godparents in the sacrament. It is only stated that “as far as possible, whoever is going to receive baptism must be given a godfather.”
The Archbishop of Catania made this decision after consulting with the members of the presbyterial council, the majority of whose members were in favor.
In an interview with the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Catania, Msgr. Salvatore Genchi, expressed his confidence that this three-year suspension will help Catholics gain a better understanding of the expectations that the Church has. put on the godparents.
“We trust that things will change and that those who are going to be godparents or godmothers will do so because they understand that they are going to be witnesses on a journey of faith,” said Bishop Genchi.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, published on October 16, mafia networks used the appointment of godparents to strengthen ties between members of criminal organizations.
Even Italian prosecutors used baptisms as an indication to trace the influence of mob bosses.
This article cites a priest from Catania who acknowledged that there had been cases of “threats against the parish priest” so that he would accept the appointment as godparents of “certain spiritually questionable persons”.
Given the magnitude of the problem, the Holy See created an eight-member working group in early 2021 to seek ways to remove mafia organizations that have parasitized Catholic traditions for their criminal purposes.