Pope Benedict XIV – Quod Provinciale – On Christians Using Mohammedan Names, 1 August 1754

[Pope Benedict XIV]
To Our Venerable Brothers the Archbishops and Bishops as well as Our Beloved Sons, the Parish Priests and Missionaries of the Province of Albania. Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, We give you Greeting and Our Apostolic Blessing.

Forbidding Use of Mohammedan Names

The Provincial Council of your province of Albania, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, was held in the year 1703 during the pontificate of Our predecessor Pope Clement XI. It decreed most solemnly in its third canon, among other matters, as you know, that Turkish or Mohammedan names should not be given either to children or adults in baptism.

It also decreed that the faithful of Christ should not allow themselves to be called by Turkish or Mohammedan names which they had never received, for the purpose of either exemption or immunity from taxes, or the advantage of free trading, or avoiding penalties. We have confirmed and commanded the observance of this decree in Our encyclical letter Inter omnigenas, addressed to the kingdom of Serbia and its neighbouring regions. This encyclical letter, covering many subjects of religion and discipline, was published on the 2nd of February 1744 in the fourth year of Our pontificate. This prudent and saving statute was established by your predecessors with great wisdom and devotion as a shining example of your Catholic faith and sincere Christian piety; in our 1744 encyclical, We strictly ordered it to be imitated and fully observed by other churches. Just as adhering to it clearly results in the greater fame and reputation of your province and in greater benefits for securing the eternal salvation of souls, so if it should be neglected, it would greatly dishonor your province and openly endanger these souls.

In Our letter mentioned above, We designated that abuse as a cowardly concealment of the Christian profession, approaching infidelity. Since then, We have learned with great mental anguish that many people in that province continue to take Turkish or Mohammedan names despite the consideration of their eternal salvation. They do so not only in order to be immune and free from those taxes and burdens which have often been and continue to be imposed on the faithful of Christ, but also in order that neither they themselves nor their parents may be thought to have abandoned the Mohammedan sect, thereby avoiding the requisite penalties. For all this cannot take place without a pretense of the errors of Mohammed, even if the faith of Christ is adhered to in the heart, and this is at variance with Christian sincerity. It involves a lie in a most serious matter and includes a virtual denial of the Faith, most insulting to God and scandalous to their neighbors. It even gives the Turks themselves a suitable opportunity to rate all Christ’s faithful as hypocrites and deceivers, and accordingly to persecute them justly and deservedly.

2. Our sorrow and anguish is further increased by the fact that some of you yourselves, venerable brothers, and of you also, beloved sons, parish priests and missionaries, take no measures against so vile and hateful a pretense. In fact, some of you even connive at it; by being impressed by empty motives to find excuses for sins, you do not hesitate to allow those who take common Turkish or Mohammedan names and desire to be addressed by them, to partake of the Sacraments with no pang of conscience at all, to the public offense of the obedient faithful.

3. We who are entrusted with the care of all the churches and the supreme administration of the sacred Apostolate; in this capacity, We are obliged to lead all Christians back to the way of salvation and to present them to God pure and sincere, walking in the spirit and in truth without stain. We have heard Our Venerable Brothers, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, who are general Inquisitors for evil heresy on this subject. In accordance with their advice, We first renew and confirm by Our Apostolic authority in this letter the praiseworthy canon of the council of your province of Albania, and We command that it be strictly observed. Also We extend the decrees of Our church by the same authority and uniformity to include your province; We equally strictly prohibit any of Christ’s faithful from daring to take Turkish or Mohammedan names in order to be considered Mohammedans, in any case, under any pretext, or in any conceivable circumstances.

4. Furthermore, venerable brothers and beloved sons, We ask and urge you in the Lord to think seriously about your ministry and the strict account you will have to give to the Eternal Judge Jesus Christ, the Supreme Prince of Pastors, for the sheep entrusted to each one of you; to this end, We urge you to take personal care by your good works that your election will be assured. Since it would be very careless and negligent on your part not to, do not fail to patiently convince, implore, and exhort the faithful of Christ in your Province to lead a good life among the nations. Urge them in all affairs to conduct themselves so as to be an example of good works in order that those who oppose them may be chagrined since they have nothing evil to say of them, and they cannot accuse them of being evildoers who for the sake of base gain profess one thing with their lips while believing differently in their hearts. But if they do not accept your warnings and Our commands, they must be compelled by the rod to follow the norm of Apostolic discipline. The sanctions and penalties provided for by your Albanian council and by Our letter mentioned above must be fully applied in their case: that is, they must be declared unfit to receive the Sacraments in their lifetime, and if they die unrepentant, to benefit from prayers after death. Insofar as it is necessary, We renew and reapply these penalties; We enjoin you to ensure their due execution. This should not be hard for any one of you, venerable brothers and beloved sons, for none of the schismatics and heretics has been rash enough to take a Mohammedan name, and unless your justice abounds more than theirs, you shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.

5. Finally, gravely advise those who have converted from Mohammedanism or the children of such converts, if they lack confidence in their constancy in the Faith, fearing punishment by their rulers if they abandon their Turkish names, to emigrate secretly from those territories and come for refuge to Christian lands. There they shall in no way lack the help of God who gives food to all flesh, or the charity of the faithful, especially if their Bishops provide them with letters of recommendation. In the meantime, We lovingly grant you Our Apostolic Blessing, venerable brothers and beloved sons, and We desire each Venerable Brother Bishop to extend it in Our name to all the orthodox faithful of Christ in his own diocese.

Given at Rome in Saint Mary Major on the first day of August, 1754, in the fourteenth year of Our Pontificate.