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Question 53.

Father your blessing!

Must all people wishing to enter the Holy Orthodox Church through baptism be baptised with a name of a Saint or derived from a holy event or anything similar (e.g. Ευαγγελισμός - Εvangelos/Εvangelia and Σωτήρ - Sotiris/Sotira)? I thought this was the case, and personally prefer it, yet I know of an infant baptised into the Holy Orthodox Church with the name Bella Mia.

With respect,



Answer to Question 53.

Dear Evangelos,


The rules on names rests with the decision of the Holy Synod of each local Church or with the Metropolitan. Up to a few years ago in Cyprus we insisted on names being derived from names of saints or church calendar events as the examples you mentioned so that the person would have a feast-day. This would be the ideal especially as in the Orthodox world people celebrate their feast-day more than their birthday and more than not, they identify with the saint whose name they share and adopt him/her as their special saint. This is not always possible as we also have a tradition of Ancient Greek names e.g. Amalia, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Yvonne, Telemaxos, Paris, Persephone and others which have been around for centuries and very often are names of grandparents which tradition demands must be passed on to the grandchildren. The Church recognizes these names and allows them to be used although this does away with the argument that the person must have a feast-day to celebrate.
Today we usually accept the name of a child as it is registered on the birth certificate so that there would not be conflicting names between the civil and church records. As the child is registered months before the baptism, the Church has no control of the names parents choose for their babies. Also with adults joining the Orthodox Church they have the option of keeping their name as it is or being baptized with a Christian name. This is often preferred with persons from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other Eastern religions where the name is totally foreign to the Christian world.
The narrow-minded argument to keep only to names in the Greek calendar of saints and Ancient Greek names puts forth a very nationalistic attitude and denies that Orthodoxy is universal with many saints from other countries. Brendan, Brigid, Cadfan, Caidoc, Elwin and many many other Irish, Scottish, Welsh or English names would seem very foreign and unorthodox names to a Greek priest but they are names of saints recognized as Orthodox saints because they existed before the Great Schism of 1054. Another argument for Non Saint names is that we are all called to be saints. By being baptized with an unusual name, the name automatically becomes a Christian name and if the person is blessed with salvation then it also becomes a Saintís name.

With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher