Uproar in Romania after baby dies during Orthodox baptism

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BUCHAREST | Many Romanians mobilized this week on social networks to convince the Orthodox Church to change the ritual of baptism after the death of a baby, the day after such a ceremony.

“The death of a newborn baby from this practice is a huge tragedy. This risk must be excluded so that the joy of baptism triumphs, ”wrote the initiators of an online petition, which had collected more than 56,000 signatures on Thursday.

A six-week-old baby died in hospital Monday, shortly after being baptized at a church in Suceava.

According to Orthodox ritual, he had been immersed three times in holy water. Victim of a cardiac arrest, he was rushed to hospital where he died a few hours later.

The autopsy revealed the presence of liquid in his lungs and the prosecution opened proceedings for “manslaughter” against the priest who celebrated the baptism.

Many Internet users denounced the “brutality” of this ritual and criticized the “stubbornness of those who think that it is the will of God” to maintain it.

Several such incidents have been recorded in recent years, according to media reports.

Amid the outcry, Orthodox Church spokesman Vasile Banescu said the priests might just pour a little water on the baby’s forehead to avoid such tragedies.

But Archbishop Teodosia, a hard-wing leader in the Church, said the ritual would not change.

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