The Pope has declared war on parents' growing insistence on shunning the saints and naming their children after fashion designers, Sanskrit titles and things that don't mean much.
The Holy See fears that parents are choosing modish names such as Chanel, Swami and Pesche at the expense of Maria, Martina and Giuseppe, egged on by celebrity examples.
"Every baptism should ensure that the child is given a Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit will allow the person to blossom in the bosom of the Church," Benedict XVI said, while baptising 21 infants in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday. "Do not give your children names that are not in the Christian calendar."
The current code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, states that parents, godparents and parish priests should ensure a child is baptised with a name in keeping with Biblical tradition. But many parents in celebrity-obsessed Italy are unable to resist the temptation to stray onomastically when so many stars from TV and cinema opt for less traditional names.
The first little examples of Mela (Italian for Apple) and Pesche (Peaches) are already up and walking, say the Italian newspapers, thanks to the decisions of Gwyneth Paltrow and Bob Geldof to pick names at the greengrocer.
And Italian celebrities can field plenty of odd names themselves. The actress Monica Bellucci named her daughter Deva, although no one knows why, precisely.
Even leading politicians have chosen unusual names. The pugnacious Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa christened his three sons Geronimo, Lorenzo Cochis and Leonardo Apache. The Northern League leader Umberto Bossi named his third son Eridano.
- THE INDEPENDENT