What's in a name? For the pope, a lot

VATICAN CITY Mon Jan 10, 2011 9:40am EST

VATICAN CITY (Reuters Life!) - If you're Catholic and are expecting a baby don't even think of naming it anything like Crystal, Heather, Track or Chelsea unless you want to upset Pope Benedict.

The pope, who baptized 21 children on Sunday at a traditional annual ceremony at the Vatican, said afterwards that every new member of the faith acquires the character of a son or daughter of the Church "starting from a Christian name."

This, he said, was "an unequivocal sign that the Holy Spirit gives a rebirth to people in the womb of the Church."

Italian newspapers had a field day with the story on Monday with headlines such as "Give your children Christian names."

One mainstream newspaper dedicated an entire page to it, including lists of names, an interview with a pastor, and a personal account by a man who recalled that priests in Italy at one time only allowed names of Italian saints.

Apparently not much has changed, so the pope doesn't have to worry too much about Italy.

According to La Stampa, most Italians still prefer to name their children after saints. Francesco (Francis) is number one for boys and Giulia (Julia) is at the top of the chart for girls these days.

The pope was born in Germany 83 years ago and baptized Joseph, which stands at number 14 on the Italian charts today.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Steve Addison)

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