A six-week-old baby boy died after his baptism, when his head was put underwater three times.
Following the tragedy, the Orthodox Church is facing calls to change baptism rituals in Romania. Online petitions are gaining traction, and reactions of horror from around the world following the news.
The traditional ceremony involves immersing infants three times in holy water.
The six-week-old baby boy went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to hospital on Monday. Sadly he couldn’t be saved and died a few hours later. An autopsy revealed the liquid in his lungs.
A manslaughter investigation has now been opened against the priest. The incident happened in the northeastern city of Suceava.
An online petition has been set up, calling for changes to be made to the ritual. It has already gained more than 56,000 signatures by Thursday night.
The petition reads: ‘the death of a newborn baby because of this practice is a huge tragedy,
‘This risk must be ruled out for the joy of baptism to triumph.’
One person who signed the signature was angry about the ‘brutality’ of the ritual. Meanwhile, another criticised the ‘stubbornness of those who think that it is the will of God’ to keep the practice going despite the risks involved.
This isn’t the first death, with local media reporting several similar incidents have happened in recent years.
Vasile Banescu is a church spokesman. He suggested priests could pour or sprinkle a little water on the baby’s forehead instead of full immersion. His suggestion is supposed to be safer, but many are still unhappy that more is not being done.
Banescu’s suggestion appears to be falling on deaf ears. The leader of the Church’s traditionalist wing, Archbishop Teodosie, insists the traditional baptism ritual would not change, despite the tragedy.
A Romanian Orthodox church baptism involves the baby being completely submersed in water three times in a row. The priest carrying out the baptism is meant to hold the baby’s nose to make sure they do not breathe in any water. However, critics point out this would not stop the baby from inhaling through their mouth.
These traditional Baptisms are large events in Romania, on a similar level to weddings. After the ritual, there is often a big party with hundreds of guests.
The majority of Romanians are Orthodox.
Do you think the ritual should be banned or should such traditions be honoured?
Image via Alamy.