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Italian bishop suspends selecting godparents for baptism and sponsors for confirmation

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ACI Prensa Staff, Dec 8, 2023 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

In order to study the most appropriate ways to restore the actual purpose of the role of godparents and sponsors, the bishop of Massa Carrara-Pontremoli in Italy, Mario Vaccari, has decided to suspend their selection for the sacraments of baptism and confirmation for three years.

The Vatican instruction on choosing confirmation sponsors states in Chapter IV that the preferred choice is the baptismal godparents, but it does not specify that it has to be them.

In a decree published Dec. 3, the prelate explained that he made his decision because the changing social context has led families to prioritize “emotional ties or good social relationships” over pastoral ones when choosing the godfather or godmother.

This, he pointed out, causes the educational and accompaniment role of the godparents in the Christian life of the baptized or confirmed to be reduced “to a simple liturgical presence.”

This can even lead to an “open contradiction” between the requirements of the Church for the selection of the godfather or godmother in order for them to fulfill their functions “and the demands of the families.”

Consequently, Vaccari explained, the decision has been made that from Jan. 7, 2024 — the date on which the decree comes into force — the office of godfather or godmother in the baptism of children, the confirmation of adolescents and adults, as well as in the Christian initiation of adults, will be suspended ‘ad experimentum’ (‘as an experiment’).”

The bishop added that during this period the diocesan Liturgy and Catechesis Commissions, together with the Catechumenal Service and in constant liaison with the Presbyteral Council, will verify compliance with the decree and study “possible new forms of accompaniment that bring back and recover the true ecclesial meaning” of godfather and godmother.

Vaccari is not the first Italian bishop to make a decision of this type. In March, Bishop Giacomo Cirulli suspended the appointment of godparents for the Dioceses of Teano-Calvi, Alife-Caiazzo, and Sessa Aurunca for three years.

The prelate also stated that this was an ad experimentum measure in order to recover the “identity and mission” of this role.

The archbishop of Catania, Salvatore Gristina, took the same measure in October 2021.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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