Pope Francis has canceled the traditional baptism of babies in the Sistine Chapel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Vatican Press Office, the decision to cancel the event for Sunday, January 10, was made as a “precautionary measure” amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Italy. They added that the newborns will be baptized instead in their home parishes. (Read: 5 Prayers of Thanks for Everyday Blessings)
“Due to the health situation, as a precautionary measure, the traditional baptism of children presided over by the Holy Father in the Sistine Chapel on the Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord will not be celebrated this year,” the Vatican Press Office said.
Because of the surge of COVID-19 cases in Italy, the Italian government is considering stricter lockdowns. (Read: 167 Catholic Priests Succumb to COVID-19 Since February)
Baptism in the Vatican
St. John Paul II started the papal tradition of baptizing children in the Sistine Chapel during the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. (Read: Contemporary Prayers at Every Sunday Mass)
Last year, Pope Francis baptized 32 infants— 17 boys and 15 girls— of Vatican employees. And because these were babies, a lot of the children were crying. But Pope Francis assured the parents not to worry if their children cry at Mass.
“Don’t get upset!” the Pope said. “The children aren’t used to coming to the Sistine [Chapel]. It’s their first time.” The Pope also advised the parents that if the babies do start to cry, they should try to make their little ones comfortable— but they also do not have to worry if the babies keep it up. (Read: Belgium Catholic Church Reports Rise in Adult Baptisms)
“When a child cries in church, it’s a beautiful homily,” the Pope said.