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VATICAN LETTER Nov-3-2006 (710 words) Backgrounder. With photo. xxxi

What's in a name? In Italy, probably a saint

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Perhaps it is not so unusual that the Vatican, surrounded by Italy, named a parking garage after a saint.

A recent nationwide study by the Milan Chamber of Commerce showed that some 21,000 Italian companies are named after saints -- 1,000 more than in 2005.

The study was published on the Nov. 1 All Saints' Day and showed that 65 Italian businesses have "ognissanti," Italian for "all saints," in their name.

Several of these establishments around the country are funeral homes. In Florence there are a condominium and a hardware store called All Saints, but the names are more a matter of location than devotion, since they are both in the All Saints neighborhood.

Although it is the place where all saints have been made since at least the 1500s, the Vatican does not have a church, a building, an office or a parking garage named All Saints.

The Vatican chooses more carefully.

With the exception of the Vatican's annual feast day, the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, only the Swiss Guard chapel -- the Church of Sts. Martin and Sebastian -- has a double-barreled name.

In addition to the St. Rose parking garage, the Vatican features the St. Pius IX Ramp, St. Pius X Street, St. Mark Boulevard, St. Benedict Boulevard, the Tower of St. John and the St. Charles Palace.

Besides St. Peter's Basilica and the Swiss Guard chapel, there are churches inside the Vatican walls dedicated to the Holy Savior, St. Anne, St. Stephen, St. Egidio, St. Peregrinus and St. Mary.

Of course, the names one hears most at the Vatican are those of Jesus and his mother.

In his homily for the feast of All Saints, Pope Benedict XVI said, "In truth, he -- Jesus -- is the blessed one par excellence."

And he described Mary as the "mirror of every holiness."

While people have saints they invoke when they have a special need, like calling on St. Anthony to help them find something, Pope Benedict said Christians should invoke the saints first of all to ask their help in living holy lives as the saints did.

The pope's focus on Jesus and Mary was underlined in reaction to the results of an Italian poll on saints.

Some orthodox feathers were ruffled when the poll, conducted for the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana, reported that 31 percent of those surveyed said they had invoked the help of St. Padre Pio, 9 percent said Mary and only 2 percent said they had prayed to Jesus for help.

But Father Tonino Lasconi, religious education expert, told Vatican Radio it was not fair to condemn the majority who responded to the poll; in fact, those who answered Jesus or Mary were the ones who probably did not understand the question.

The poll takers asked 600 practicing Catholics, "Have you ever invoked the help of a saint?" Of the 70 percent who said "yes," the survey asked, "Which saint?"

Father Lasconi said regular churchgoers regularly pray to Jesus and Mary, so it is obvious that most respondents assumed the question was looking for other figures.

The list provided by respondents also included St. Anthony, St. Francis, St. Rita, St. Joseph and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The survey also asked, "Do you have an image of a saint in your home or car?"

"Yes," said 71 percent of those polled.

Again, and by a larger margin of 48 percent, respondents mentioned their pictures of St. Padre Pio first, then St. Anthony, Mary, St. Francis and St. Rita.

The polling company said there were "significant differences" depending on where the respondents lived.

"In the northwest, images of St. Francis prevail; in the northeast and on the islands, it is the Blessed Virgin; in central regions it is St. Rita; and in the south, it was Padre Pio with 71 percent" of respondents saying they had his photo in their car or home.

If the survey had been limited to Roman shopkeepers and Roman taxi drivers, Padre Pio still would have come out on top -- his figure is a fixture near cash registers and on dashboards.


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