BY ED WEST
POPE BENEDICT XVI has praised the role of parents and godparents after baptising 14 children in the Vatican.
Presiding over the annual liturgy in the Sistine Chapel last Thursday, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Pope baptised the newborns in front of their parents, godparents and siblings.
In his homily the Holy Father underlined the importance of the sacrament. “This is a great day for these children,” he said. “With baptism, they become participants in the death and resurrection of Christ, and begin with him the joyful and exciting adventure of the disciple.” He said the sacrament brought a particular responsibility for parents and godparents: to nourish the faith of the newly baptised with words and the witness of their lives. In this way, he said, the children will be able to “shine in our world, which often gropes in the shadows of doubt”. The infants, seven girls and seven boys, were all children of Vatican employees, and the Mass was marked by a family atmosphere. The siblings of the baptised carried the offertory gifts, and as each child stepped forward, the Holy Father greeted them with a few words.
Throughout the liturgy, the cries and babbles of babies echoed off the frescoed walls and ceiling of the chapel, which includes Michelangelo’s famous frescoes, as well as Pietro Perugino’s and Pinturicchio’s painting, The Baptism of Christ.
Among the children baptised as part of the annual tradition were Ginevra, Maria Magdalena, Edoardo and Giulia, who was unflinching throughout the ceremony, keeping her eyes wide open as the Pontiff spoke.
While the sacrament of baptism is a blessing in itself, parents Luca and Samantha Grilone told the Zenit news agency, having the Pontiff himself administer the sacra
ment to their firstborn, Gabriel Maria Andrea, was a double blessing. Mr Grilone had himself received First Communion from Pope John Paul II in 1986, before going on to be a Vatican employee, where he served as an acolyte in various papal ceremonies.
He said: “Seeing the altar servers reminded me that 20 years ago I was in their place. Now I am married and a father.” Mr Grilone, who now works in the Vatican Museums, married Samantha Barreca in July 2008, and their son was born on December 1. The new mother said she was worried her infant would cry during the ceremony, but little Gabriel was silent throughout. “Perhaps he was praying,” added the baby’s mother jokingly.
Mrs Grilone added: “Our child has been purified of Original Sin. We hope that with our example we will be able to advance with him on the Christian journey he begins today.” She said that she hoped her son might one day become a priest. “Perhaps it’s too early. I don’t know if it’s God’s will. We must wait to see what path the child will follow. Then we’ll see.” The Rite of Baptism took place at the bronze font sculpted by Mario Toffetti, and during the Mass the newborn’s parents received Communion from Benedict XVI. “When we received Communion in front of the baptismal font, I couldn’t contain myself,” Mrs Grilone said. “I cried and laughed at the same time. I tried to hold back my tears.” She underlined the experience of being close to the Pope. She said: “I like the way he speaks, the way he expresses himself with little gestures. Those who do not see him personally do not notice these little details.
“At the moment of baptism he seemed like a grandfather. Although he didn’t know us he expressed much affection with his look. I will always carry this in my heart, my whole life.”