VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis baptized 16 babies in the splendor of the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, continuing a decades-old Vatican tradition that was interrupted last year by the pandemic.
Francis told the parents of the nine girls and seven boys he had officially introduced into the Catholic Church by baptism that their duty was to “preserve the Christian identity” of their children.
As he has done in the past, Francois immediately sought to put parents at ease, telling them to make sure their babies, dressed in lacy, frilly outfits and wrapped in soft wool blankets , do not get too hot during the long ceremony in the chapel. where the popes are elected by the cardinals in secret conclaves. He also told mothers to feel free to breastfeed their babies if they were hungry in the frescoed ceiling chapel by Michelangelo and “before the Lord without any problem.”
“Please, they are the protagonists” of the ceremony, said Francis, referring to the babies.
“And if they cry, they cry, because they have a community spirit, let’s say, a gang spirit”, and a baby cries, others do too, “and immediately there is an orchestra”, the Pope said lightly.
By asking to have their children baptized, parents commit to “teaching them to love God and their neighbor,” Francis told each mother and father. As if to underline his papacy’s teaching to take care of the needs of those living on the fringes of societies, Francis chose his official chaplain, a Polish cardinal, to celebrate mass with him.
One of the children who was baptized on Sunday is a boy whose father has passed away. He was held in his mother’s arms while the pontiff poured water, symbolizing the elimination of sin, over his head.
In 1981, Pope John Paul II began the tradition of baptizing children whose parents are employees of the Holy See, and since 1983 the ceremony has been held in the Sistine Chapel. Last year, as part of the precautions against COVID-19, François did not organize the baptism ceremony.
On Sunday, all of the participants except the pontiff, the babies and the very young siblings of the children, wore masks – almost all of the more protective FFP2 type – to help curb the transmission of the coronavirus. The number of daily cases of confirmed infections in Italy has skyrocketed, topping 200,000 on January 6.