John Paul II Baptizes 18 Infants in Sistine Chapel

Maintains Full Pace of Ministry Following Solemn Closing of Jubilee

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- The day after the solemn closure of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, John Paul II continued the relentless pace of his ministry this morning when he baptized 18 infants.

The paradoxically eloquent though inert witness of the ceremony was the Sistine Chapel, which expresses the full range of Michelangelo´s genius. Eloquent, too, were the cries of the 6 infant girls and 12 infant boys from Italy, France, and Portugal who at times interrupted the Holy Father´s words, forcing nervous mothers to reach for bottles and pacifiers to restore peace.

John Paul II addressed the parents and godparents during the brief homily, reminding them of the duty they assumed to cooperate with God´s grace in the children´s development, through their commitment to education according to Gospel principles.

The ceremony was an appointment that Pope has never missed, given his love for children, since the beginning of his pontificate. On the day the Church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus, every year the Pope has administered the sacrament of Baptism, making the recipients children of God.

The Holy Father seemed tired but happy, following the marathon of ceremonies he presided over in the Vatican during the Christmas period. When he entered the Sistine Chapel today, the Pope stopped several times to greet the faithful and lost no opportunity to caress some of the children.

The Holy Year has certainly given proof of the Pontiff´s affection for children. The first special Jubilee of the year 2000 was dedicated to children and, on January 5, just hours before the end of the Jubilee, the Pope held a celebration for them in the Vatican.

During the celebration, the Pope addressed the 8,000 children present: «You will be the first generation of adult Christians of the Third Millennium. You have a very great responsibility. You will also be the leaders of the next Jubilee of the Year 2025. I look to you with a hopeful heart. Keep the lamp of faith, illuminate the roads of life with it, and set the world on fire with love.»

Today, addressing the 18 infants who could not understand him, the Pope said: be «courageous witnesses of the Gospel in this Third Millennium.» To their emotional parents the Holy Father entrusted the task of transmitting this message when the children are older.

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