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Pandemic forces Pope Francis to cancel annual baptism ceremony in Sistine Chapel

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Vatican City, Jan 5, 2021 / 05:10 am MT (CNA).- Pope Francis will not baptize babies in the Sistine Chapel this Sunday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Holy See press office announced Jan. 5 that the newborns would be baptized instead in their home parishes.

“Due to the health situation, as a precautionary measure, the traditional baptism of children presided over by the Holy Father in the Sistine Chapel on the Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord will not be celebrated this year,” the press office said.

More than 75,000 people have died in Italy from COVID-19 — the highest number of any country in Europe. The Italian government is currently considering further restrictions amid a second wave of the virus.

St. John Paul II began the papal tradition of baptizing children in the Sistine Chapel, the site of papal conclaves, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

On last year’s feast day, Pope Francis baptized 32 infants — 17 boys and 15 girls — born to Vatican employees.

He told the parents that they should not worry if their children cry at Mass.

“Let the children cry,” the pope said. “It is a beautiful homily when a child cries in church, a beautiful homily.”

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