Pope Francis baptized 16 newborns in the Sistine Chapel on the occasion of the solemnity of the Baptism of Christ, January 9, 2022. He enjoined the parents and godparents of the baptized – nine girls and seven boys – to preserve the “Christian identity” received by the children, stressing that this is “a daily task.”
In a brief impromptu homily, the Pontiff explained that on the day of their baptism, the children enter the Church “with bare feet and a bare soul” to receive “the strength of Jesus, the strength to go forward in life.”
He asked the parents and godparents “to help them grow with the light” received on this occasion.
As in previous years, the Pontiff was keen to give practical instructions regarding the “protagonists of this ceremony,” the children. He urged parents to make sure that “they are not too hot” and that they are comfortable.
“If they are hungry, you can breastfeed them, before the Lord there is no problem anyway,” added the 266th pope. And he encouraged the parents to let the children make noise: “One starts and they all take up the chorus as in an orchestra!”
How to be baptized by the pope
Instituted on January 11, 1981, by Pope John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate, the celebration of the baptism of children of employees of Vatican City and the Curia was first held for two years in the Pauline Chapel. In 1983, it was moved to the Sistine Chapel, famous for being the place where the College of Cardinals meets during the conclave to elect a new pope.
The ceremony, held on the first Sunday after the Epiphany for the solemnity of the Baptism of Jesus, was originally reserved for the children of the Swiss Guards. It has gradually been extended to other children of the Vatican – this year, for example, to the little boy of a journalist from the French-language edition of Vatican News.
To be baptized by the pontiff under Michelangelo’s fresco of the Last Judgment, the child must not have blown out his or her first candle. Given the relatively small size of the chapel, only the two parents accompanied by the godfather and godmother – and often the other children of the family – are invited to this jovial ceremony, accompanied by the songs of the Sistine Chapel Choir.