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Pope challenges parents, godparents

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VATICAN CITY — Before baptizing 16 babies in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis reminded parents and godparents of their responsibility to care for and preserve the Christian identity the infants were about to receive.

“This is your task throughout your lives: to guard the Christian identity of your children,” the pope said. “It is a daily commitment: Help them grow with the light they receive today.”

The pope baptized the seven boys and nine girls — the children of Vatican employees — in the Sistine Chapel during the celebration of Mass Jan. 9, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

The annual tradition of baptizing infants on the feast day, which began in 1981 by St. John Paul II, was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Although the baptisms resumed this year, the number of infants was significantly reduced. In January 2020, the pope had baptized 32 infants in the Sistine Chapel.

Delivering a brief, off-the-cuff homily, Pope Francis recalled a hymn for the feast day that said the people of Israel went to the Jordan River to be baptized “with bare feet and bare souls.”

“These children today also come here with ‘bare souls’ to receive God’s justification, Jesus’ strength, the strength to move forward in life,” he said. “Your children will receive their Christian identity today. And you, parents and godparents, must guard this identity.”

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