Pope Francis Baptizes 32 Babies in the Sistine Chapel

The annual ceremony on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord carries on a tradition of Pope Saint John Paul II.

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Pope Francis welcomed 29 families to have their newborns baptized in the Sistine Chapel Sunday morning, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Pope Saint John Paul II began the annual tradition of baptizing the children of Vatican employees and embassies to the Holy See.

Before the papal Mass, there was none of the usual scrambling for seats but rather an unusual amount of joyful calm for an early Sunday morning ceremony at the Vatican. Mothers, fathers, siblings, godparents and extended families were all smiling, amid the very occasional cry of one of the 32 babes in arms, which included one set of twins and one of triplets. Occasionally, a father made up a bottle while his wife held a hungry baby. 

Each family was presented with a certificate of baptism and a papal medallion, and each baby was clothed in a new baptismal robe, in fine white cotton, with the symbol of the cross and edged in gold. Fathers were handed a candle, which they took up one by one to light from the Sistine Chapel’s baptismal candle. 

In one of the most moving parts of the ceremony, each family took turns approaching the Holy Father. Pope Francis made the sign of the cross on each baby, followed by the parents and godparents. When siblings were present too, Archbishop and Prefect of the Pontifical Household Georg Gänswein helped them trace the cross on their baby brother or sister’s forehead. 

The Pope insisted during his homily that it is “the just thing to baptize your children as babies, because then they can grow up with the force of the Holy Spirit.” He was surprised how quiet the babies were throughout the Mass. “It’s a beautiful predica (sermon) when babies cry in church,” said Pope Francis.