Greek Orthodoxy recognizes the significant role of Godparents, or sponsors, in the sacrament of baptism. Orthodox parents carefully choose a koumbaros, which is a Godfather, or koumbara, which is a Godmother, of the same sex as the child according to strict moral requirements. Greek Orthodox Godparents guide a child in learning and in living the tenets of the Orthodox faith. Non-Orthodox individuals are not permitted to act as Godparents at Orthodox baptisms nor are honorary Godparents recognized by the church.
The Greek Orthodox Church sets strict criteria for Godparents, including requirements concerning religious affiliation, age and moral life. A Godparent should be a member in good standing with an Orthodox Church, with no history of immoral or scandalous conduct and at least 15 years of age, if male, or 13 years of age, if female; if married, the marriage ceremony must have been performed in a Greek Orthodox Church and a divorce verified by an Ecclesiastical Divorce Decree. The Orthodox Church requires a Godparent be a steward in the parish, or if from another parish, the Godparent must present a letter of good standing from the priest of the other parish.
Preparation for Godparenting
Before being selected as a Godparent for a baptismal ceremony, the Godparent is required to demonstrate adequate knowledge of Orthodox beliefs, particularly the essence of the sacrament of baptism and an understanding of the immense responsibility undertaken when becoming a Godparent. Godparents also receive the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion and are instructed in their responsibilities. A Godparent must also be familiar with the Creed, which is recited from memory during the baptismal ceremony.
The Orthodox Church requires parents to choose a Godparent -- one Godparent suffices -- to stand with the parents during the sacrament of baptism. By anointing the child with blessed oil during the baptismal ceremony, the Godparent makes a public pledge to guarantee that the baby being baptized will be brought up in the tenets and beliefs of the Orthodox Church. The Godparent also vows to ensure that the child will frequently attend Holy Communion, regularly attend church services and Sunday school and learns her prayers.
A Godparent has a continuing role beyond the baptism, including a tradition of bringing the Godchild to Holy Communion for the first three consecutive Sundays following the baptism. A Godparent may also be invited to the parents' home on the day of the baptism to wash the child after the ceremony. While non-Orthodox family members and friends are welcome to attend the baptism ceremony, these persons cannot serve as Godparents; in some cases, with the permission of the parish priest, non-Orthodox individuals are permitted to stand with the parents and Godparent during the ceremony.
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