Breastfeed babies if you want, pope tells mothers in Sistine Chapel

Sun Jan 12, 2014 11:13am EST
 
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis baptized 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.

Unlike 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 centered on the children.

"Today 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 Judgment. 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.

In 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 recognized by the Catholic Church.

But 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 baptize Giulia Scardia into the faith.   Continued...

 
Pope Francis baptises one of 32 babies during a mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican January 12, 2014, in this handout courtesy of Osservatore Romano. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters