By Cindy Wooden

         VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the Sistine Chapel, where popes are elected, Pope Francis baptized 16 infants, who, he said, "give us the witness of how to receive the faith: with innocence and with an open heart."

         Celebrating the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 7, the pope baptized seven girls and nine boys, including one set of twins, during a morning Mass with fewer than 300 people in the chapel. Afterward, he led the recitation of the Angelus prayer with about 12,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

         While Pope Francis led the baptismal prayers and poured the water over the heads of the infants — many of whom were squirming and a few of whom cried loudly — he was assisted in anointing the babies by Cardinals Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, and Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

         Thanking the parents for bringing their children to be baptized, Pope Francis assured them — as he usually does during baptisms — that they should not worry about the babies crying or fussing during the Mass, that they should feel free to feed the babies if they are hungry or take off some of their baptismal finery if they get overheated.

A baby reaches out to Pope Francis after he baptized her during
Mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 7, 2024, the feast
of the Baptism of the Lord.
CNS photo/Vatican Media

         After the parents received candles lighted from the Paschal candle, Pope Francis encouraged them not to keep the candle stored away but to have it handy to look at "in difficult moments. This candle reminds us of our Christian roots; never extinguish it in our hearts."

         At the end of the liturgy, he asked them to make sure their children know and celebrate the date of their baptism because "it is like a birthday. In baptism they became Christian. Teach your children to celebrate this every year."

         In his Angelus address later, he told the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square that they, too, should know and celebrate the anniversary of their baptism, because "with your baptism, you were born into the life of grace."