Catholicism, Protestantism and even secular tradition bestow certain responsibilities to the role of the godfather. Far from being a mafioso, as depicted in movies, a godfather oversees the spiritual education of his godchild. These responsibilities start on the day of the baptism, when the godfather must meet certain requirements and fulfill the first of his spiritual obligations.
The selection of the godfather will vary among Catholic or Protestant sects, or even between religious and secular families. Catholicism requires that the godfather be an adult member in good standing properly baptized and raised in the Catholic faith. However, non-Catholic godfathers can be simply a family member or trusted friend. In all cases, the father of the child cannot serve as the godfather.
Confession of Faith
The godfather's primary role at the time of baptism is to profess the validity of the confession of faith into the church for the person to be baptized. In most cases, as the baptism is for an infant, the godfather speaks on the infant's behalf. In the case of an adult baptism, the godfather confirms the baptized person's faith to the priest.
Responsibilities During the Baptism
The godfather participates in the baptismal arrangements along with the parents and the priest. This includes the date, time and any other arrangements for the special day. In the Catholic faith, and especially in the Greek Orthodox Catholic faith, the godfather must also bring certain items for the baptized on the day of the baptism. This includes a change of clothes for the child, a cross and three white candles. The Greek Orthodox tradition also requires the godfather bring soap, hand towel, bath towel and special ribbons commemorating the baptism.
After the Baptism
Post-baptism, the godfather is responsible for communing with the baptized child and teaching and maintaining the spiritual relationship with the child throughout his life. In some traditions, especially Protestant and secular arrangements, the godfather will serve as the primary parent for the child in case of death or incapacity of the birth parents.
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