Fear of Mafia mobsters sees Catholic church ban all godfathers from christenings

Godparents have been banned from attending one Sicilian church where the priesthood suspects the Mafia is exploiting them.

Newborns in Catania, on the Italian island of Sicily, will be baptised without godparents for at least the next three years as part of a local Catholic church crackdown on families misusing the role.

In explaining the 'experiment', religious leaders claim many families have their most powerful acquaintances appointed as their children’s compari for expensive gifts and networking opportunities rather than spiritual leadership.

The New York Times reports that Bishops and priests in the diocese also shared concerns that dangerous Mafia mobsters were benefiting from godparent ties.

Msgr. Salvatore Genchi, the vicar general of Catania and coincidentally a godfather to at least 15 people, said: "It’s an experiment."

The Rev. Angelo Alfio Mangano, of the Saint Maria in Ognina church in Catania, told the newspaper that the ban comes on the back of "threats against the parish priest" from criminals who used the position for blackmail and usury.

Former Sicilian president Salvatore Cuffaro and godfather of “just about 20” children, once spent five years behind bars for tipping off a mafia don to government surveillance.

He said: "Despite what some priests think, I paid attention to all of my baptismal godchildren."

Cuffaro insists he accepted only one in 20 requests to be a godfather and argues that no one from the Mafia ever served as a religious godfather on the island.

He added: "At least in Sicily, where I have lived, this doesn’t exist. It’s only a religious bond; there are no bonds of illegality."

New parents have expressed their shock and anger towards the ban which leaves their infants without official godparents.

Mum Jalissa Testa, 21, had her son baptised on the first Sunday of the rule change, the NYPost reports.

She said: "It’s shocking. In our hearts we know, and they will know, that he has a godfather."

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Families from Catania are reportedly crossing over to the neighbouring diocese of Aci Trezza for baptisms which still allow for godparents.

Rev. Giovanni Mammino who works in Aci Trezza, says godfathers must swear they were believers and not organised crime figures, according to The New York Times.

"They keep coming here so that they can have the godfathers," Mammino reportedly said.

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