VATICAN CITY — A southern Italian archbishop has proposed a 10-year moratorium on the naming of godfathers in a bid to stem the way mob bosses use the “padrino” system to spread their influence and authority to the next generation.
Monsigor Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, archbishop of Reggio Calabria, spoke with Pope Francis about the proposal last weekend while he was in Rome. In a statement Monday, he said the pontiff asked the bishops of Calabria to discuss the idea and send him a written proposal.
Godparents are named when a baby is baptized and they promise to help raise the child in the Catholic faith. Fiorini Morosini has argued that, in Calabria at least, godparents are less theological role models than “points of reference” and mob friends.
Calabria is home to the ‘ndrangheta organized crime syndicate, considered the most powerful mob in Italy. As in “The Godfather” films, which depicted the influence of “padrini” in the Sicilian Mafia, ties of blood, marriage and godparents help weave the tight, clannish bonds that keep the ‘ndrangheta almost impenetrable to outsiders.
Fiorini Morosini said he wrote Francis a proposal asking to abolish the naming of godparents for 10 years “to prevent the exploitation of the church and her sacraments by the ‘ndrangheta.” Initially Francis rejected the proposal, but he appeared to have rethought the matter after visiting Calabria last month and seeing the reality of the land, the archbishop said.
During Francis’ June 21 visit, he issued his strongest denunciation yet of organized crime, excommunicating all mobsters for their “adoration of evil.” It wasn’t his first outburst: During a March meeting with victims of the mafia in Rome, Francis warned mobsters they risked going to hell if they don’t repent.