Pope Francis baptised 32 babies in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday and told their mothers, including one who was married in a civil service rather than in church, to have no qualms about breast-feeding them there.
his predecessors, who usually delivered long and theology-laden
homilies at the yearly baptism event, the pope offered a brief,
improvised homily of some 300 words centred on the children.
the choir will sing but the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of
the infants who will make a noise. Some will cry because they are not
comfortable or because they are hungry," he said in a familiar, relaxed
tone to the parents.
Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine
Chapel are some of the world's most celebrated works of art. The ceiling
depicts the creation of man and the altar wall shows a severe God at
the Last Judgement. But the pope told the mothers not to feel
intimidated by the surroundings.
"If they are hungry, mothers,
feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important
people here," he said, speaking in the same room where he was elected on
March 13 as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.
Francis said in an interview last month that mothers should not feel uncomfortable breastfeeding during his ceremonies.
another apparent first in the Vatican, the parents of one of the
babies, 7-month-old Giulia Scardia, at the ceremony were not married in
church but only at a civil service in a town hall - meaning their
marriage is technically not recognised by the Catholic Church.
the pope has said several times since his election that the Church must
not make children of couples in irregular situations feel like
second-class faithful, and he agreed to baptise Giulia Scardia into the
"We decided to get married very quickly," Giulia's mother
Nicoletta told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. "We were in a hurry
and there was no time to organise a church ceremony. Maybe we will do it
Sunday's service was the latest example of the more down-to-earth style Francis has introduced in the Vatican.
has renounced the spacious papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace
used by his predecessors and lives is a small apartment in a Vatican
guest house. Francis uses the palace only to receive heads of state and
to address crowds from one of its windows overlooking St. Peter's
He has also given up the papal limousine and is driven
around Rome in a Ford Focus, sometimes sitting in the front seat next to
Baptism is the sacrament at which infants or
converts are initiated into the Christian faith. Francis poured water on
the foreheads of the infants as part of the ritual.