Faith is “the most precious thing in life: the most authentic and most beautiful reason to live,” Pope Benedict XVI said as he baptized 21 infants in an intimate ceremony in the Sistine Chapel, marking the end of the Christmas season in the Vatican City.
Standing under Michelangelo’s magnificent ‘Last Judgment’ fresco, Pope poured water on the foreheads of 13 baby boys and eight baby girls in a January 9 ceremony. Some babies screamed, other squirmed, some slept through it. Pope Benedict XVI prayed for their “life and health so they can grow and mature in the faith”.
He said that, today, in an ever-changing society without firm cultural references, it has become more difficult to educate children in the faith, and urged parishes and parents to cooperate. He voiced the hope that the sacrament would be the beginning of “a journey of sanctity and conformity to Jesus.” The Pope encouraged the parents and godparents of the newly baptized children to help them grow in the faith, warning that such help is particularly necessary today, “in the current social context in which the institution of the family is threatened on many side.” He added that parishes must also help young families, since “the collapse of stable points of cultural reference and the rapid and continual transformation of society make the task of education truly difficult.”
The annual ceremony is held the first Sunday after the January 6 Epiphany. Following tradition, the Holy Father baptized the babies - children of Vatican employees - on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Later, at his regular midday audience, the Pope told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square that the faithful should regain an active appreciation for the great grace of Baptism. He particularly urged parents to recognize the value of giving their children a distinctively Christian name, as “an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be 'born again' in the bosom of the Church.”