The Synod of the Kerala-based Syro Malabar Catholic Church has directed its priests to use their Christian names, which is a “mark of their Christian identity”. The directive is being seen as an indirect message to the young Catholic priests to drop their Hindu names. The Church spokesperson, Father Paul Thelakatu, said the Synod, an assembly of all bishops, last week discussed the issue as names of certain seminarians (those studying for priesthood) were not serious enough for a priest.
“A person is his name, so names are the primary mark of one’s identity. The priests have to use their Christian names, which is a mark of their Christian identity. The recommendation is to use the Christian names given at the time of baptism. The Synod directive is to use traditional Christian names as far as possible,” said Thelakatu.
The Church spokesperson claimed that often many Christian girls and boys had more than one name — one name in the register of baptism, and another by which the child is usually known. Adding that the confusion was not good, he said that many Christian names in Tamil were local and Christian at the same time. Interestingly, the Church directive comes at a time when many in the young generation of Catholic priests have started sporting names identified with the Hindus. The order to priests to stress their religious identity also comes amid the several churches in Kerala acquiring symbols associated with Hindu temples — like flagpoles and kalvilakku (stone lamps), modeled after the similar ones seen in the temples.