Infants Baptized by Pope Receive Double Blessing

Parents of Newborn Reflect on the Vatican Tradition

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By Carmen Elena Villa



VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- While the sacrament of baptism is a blessing in itself, the parents of a newborn who was baptized by Benedict XVI affirm that having a Pope administer the sacrament is a double blessing.

Luca Grilone and Samantha Barreca stated this to ZENIT after the baptism of their firstborn, Gabriel Maria Andrea Karol, Sunday morning in the Sistine Chapel. In total, 14 newborn babies received this first sacrament from the Pope, in a ceremony that is an annual tradition on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

The figures in Michelangelo's famous frescoes, as well as Pietro Perugino's and Pinturicchio's painting, "The Baptism of Christ," looked on as the group of families gathered to welcome the infants into the Church.

Those baptized were all children of Vatican employees. They were accompanied by their parents, godparents and a small number of relatives.

Crying and babbling could be heard during the ceremony, as well as questions by the older siblings of the babies.  

The siblings were given the role of taking the offerings to the altar during the presentation of the gifts. As each child stepped forward, the Holy Father greeted him with a few words.

Sacred events

The event was "doubly sacred," Grilone said, "in the first place, because of the fact of baptism itself, and then because [Gabriel] was baptized by the Pope, exactly in the place where [the Pontiff] was elected."

Grilone had experienced this double blessing himself, as he received First Communion from Pope John Paul II in 1986.

Moreover, the Vatican employee once served as an acolyte in various Papal ceremonies. He recalled: "Seeing the altar servers reminded me that 20 years ago I was in their place. Now I am married and a father."

Grilone, who currently works in the Vatican Museums, married Samantha Barreca in July 2008. Their son, Gabriel, was born Dec. 1.

The new mother admitted to ZENIT that she was worried her infant would cry during the ceremony, but little Gabriel was silent during the two hours that it lasted.

"Perhaps he was praying," added the baby's father with a smile.

Barreca affirmed: "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 hopes 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."

Papal closeness

The Rite of Baptism took place in the bronze font sculpted by Mario Toffetti. 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," Barreca 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, stating, "I like the way he speaks, the way he expresses himself with little gestures."

The mother of the newly baptized continued: "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."

The Eucharistic Celebration was concelebrated by Archbishop Beniamino Stella, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and by Archbishop Félix del Blanco Prieto, the almoner of the Office of Papal Charities.