During a baptism at a church in Romania, a priest completely immersed a baby’s face in a baptismal font three times during baptism. The six-week-old baby boy died from cardio-respiratory arrest the next day.
When paramedics arrived, they resuscitated the baby in the church. They transported him to Suceava County Hospital where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, but he died only hours later, according to CNN affiliate Antena 3.
In the city of Suceava, the Archdeacon of Saints Constantin and Elena church said he discussed what happened with the priest who performed the newborn’s baptism. He said the baby cried during and after the immersion, which would indicate the baby’s vital signs were normal. But the baby born prematurely suddenly weakened as his body went limp. The priest called the ambulance at that point, he said.
The family of the baby recalled a different account of the incident. The parents informed Antena 3 news that their son stopped breathing by the time he was removed from the font, then called the ambulance.
An absolutely tragic end to an absolutely unnecessary practice. Religion is magical thinking rooted in mythology, with priests/pastors acting as wizards. These poor parents https://t.co/uffeNO5BUy
— Janice Selbie (Wise Counsellor) (@Wise_counsellor) February 5, 2021
”We wanted to christen him, and I can tell you he was crying, but the priest plunged him into water three times, and he inhaled water. The priest took him out and wiped him down. I found out from doctors that he’d inhaled 110 milliliters of water. He was bleeding from his nose, and we put his head down to get out the water, but he didn’t recover; his heart was beating, but it was very weak,” recounted the father.
"It is, without a doubt, a tragic case, a case that will have to be investigated. Let's not imagine that a child can be put in water without covering his nose, mouth, and ears," Vasile Bănescu, the Romanian Church’s spokesman, said to Antena 3 news source.
"There is a technique that an experienced priest always uses. This is how baptism is celebrated with the utmost care," Bănescu added.
An online petition demanding changes to the baptismal ritual gathered more than 56,000 signatures within three days.
“The death of a newborn baby because of this practice is a huge tragedy,” said one message accompanying the petition. “This risk must be ruled out for the joy of baptism to triumph.”
"Through this petition we want the practice of baptism to be symbolic by sprinkling the baby on the top of the head and not its complete immersion three times, and this non-invasive practice to become mandatory in all Orthodox Churches in Romania and in the Diaspora," said Vladimir Dumitru, who began the petition said in an email to CNN.
Local news source, Objective of Suceava, reported that the current Catholic Church requires clergy who perform baptisms to sprinkle water on their foreheads instead of immersing them in the font. Police launched an investigation into a possible manslaughter conviction but have not yet charged anyone.
At least 80% of Romanians are Orthodox. Citizens consider the Church as one of the most trusted institutions, as recorded by recent opinion polls.