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Jesuit priest campaigns for 'real' names

Father Joseph Dias Father Joseph Dias
  • ucanews.com reporter, Mumbai
  • India
  • May 6, 2011
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A Jesuit priest in Mumbai is campaigning for children to be baptized with traditional Christian names to maintain their identity.

Father Joseph Dias claims his campaign has received support from Pope Benedict XVI.

“The pope recently warned parents against giving children celebrity-inspired names and urged them to turn to the Bible for inspiration instead,” he said today.

Father Dias quoted the pope as saying in a recent homily that “every baptized child acquires the character of the Son of God, beginning with their Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be born anew in the womb of the Church. A name is an indelible seal that sets children off on a lifelong journey of religious faith.”

The baptismal name should give a person a Catholic identity and it can be a powerful motivating factor, giving a “purpose and direction” to his or her life, he said.

Father Dias said he has been counseling parents to give meaningful Christian names instead of naming their children after perfumes, Russian ballerinas, pop stars and regions.

“Children are not merchandise or commodities or places,” said the priest, who is the assistant director of REAP (Reach Education Action Program, which aims to empower slum children and women through education), a Jesuit initiative in Mumbai.

The priest said he was surprised to come across children named Aspirin, John Kennedy, Prince Albert, Ben-Hur, Brooklyn, Diana, Adelaide  and Diamond.

Father Anthony Charanghat, spokesman of Bombay archdiocese, said, “we normally recommend baptizing children with the names of patron saints but do not force anyone.”

Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a medical scientist, who has baptized her two daughters and a son with Indian names such as Gayatri, Nivedita and Ashutosh disagrees.

“I don’t agree with Father Dias. Why should Indians be saddled with foreign saints’ names?” she asks.

“Our children today just want short, easy names to pronounce and not too common ones,” Gajiwala said.

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