Pope Francis has impressed a lot of people with his down-to-earth attitude, but he really surprised the world when he encouraged mothers to breastfeed their babies in the Sistine Chapel. On Sunday, the Pope held a ceremony where he baptized 32 babies. He addressed their mothers in the chapel, saying to the mothers that if their children are hungry, feed them. He told them not to think twice when he gave the okay, because the babies were the most important people in the chapel.
While his predecessors would have given a long, drawn out sermon at the event, the Pope gave a brief speech. It was centered on the children themselves, saying that the choir would sing but that the most beautiful choir of all would be the sound of the infants. He said that some would cry because they were uncomfortable or because they were hungry, in which case the mothers should feed them.
Another unusual aspect of the baptism was the fact that one of the babies was born to parents who were not married in church, but rather in a civil ceremony at their local town hall. According to the Catholic church, this means that their marriage is not actually recognized.
This is apparently an absolute first for the Vatican, but the Pope has said on several occasions since his election that the Church should be more lenient. He said that children of couples in what he called “irregular situations” should not be made to feel like second-class faithful. Hence, he agreed wholeheartedly to baptize little Giulia Scardia into the Catholic faith along with all the other babies.
Giulia’s mother, Nicoletta told the Italian media that they decided at the last minute to get married and they were in a hurry. She said there was no time to organize a church ceremony, but that they will do so at some stage in the future. Pope Francis was interviewed by Italian newspaper, La Stampa, in December. In that interview, he discussed food waste and recycling, along with the natural act of breastfeeding.
He said that a mother had appeared to be shy about feeding her baby in his presence, and that the child was “crying its eyes out” because he or she was hungry. The Pope said he asked the mother to, “please give it something to eat!” Pope Francis stressed that it was okay, and that mothers should not feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding during his ceremonies, even in the Sistine Chapel. Continuing the interview, he made the broader point.
“I wish to say the same to humanity,” he told them, ” give people something to eat!”
The Vatican baptism ceremony was just the latest in a series of events highlighting the Pope’s down-to-earth style. On taking up the position as Pope, he refused to use the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace which have been used by his predecessors for years, and prefers to live in a small apartment inside a Vatican guest house.
The Pope only uses the palace to receive heads of state or when he addresses the crowds overlooking St Peter’s Square. Another trapping of the office, which he has disdained, is the papal limousine. He prefers to be driven around the city in an ordinary Ford Focus, and has been known to even sit up front next to the driver.
His down-to-earth attitude is continuing to impress people worldwide and the latest news that Pope Francis gave the okay to the idea of breastfeeding in the Sistine Chapel is yet another example of this.
By Anne Sewell