Authorities in Romania are probing a Christian priest in connection with the death of a baby during the baptism ceremony of the child. The baby had died of a heart attack after the bishop had plunged the child’s head underwater three times during a baptism.
According to reports, the six-week-old child’s lungs were filled up with water which led to a cardiac arrest. The incident occurred on Monday in Suceava, northeast Romania. The baby was rushed to the hospital but died a few hours later following the incident.
A spokesperson of the hospital confirmed the death due to baptism saying, “A one-month-and-a-half baby was found in cardiac arrest in the church after the baptism service. The baby was respited by the SMURD unit that arrives on the spot.”
“He was hospitalised in serious condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit, was intubated and mechanically ventilated,” the spokesperson added.
Reacting to the child’s death, the father of the child said, “The boy was crying but the priest submerged him three times in water and he inhaled water. [I] removed him, wiped him, from the doctors I found out he inhaled 110ml of water… If you see a child with a gaping mouth and crying you wouldn’t immerse him completely in water, would you?”
Following the death of the child, the prosecutors have launched a manslaughter probe. The Orthodox Church is facing pressure to change its baptism rituals after the shocking death of the six-week old infant.
In the Romanian Orthodox church, babies are submerged in water three times during baptism. The priests are expected to hold their nose to stop them from breathing in water.
Online petition launched asking a change in Baptism rituals
The death of the child has now angered many citizens in the country, who have now launched an online petition calling for church bosses to scrap the ritual. More than 60,000 signatures have been collected so far.
The petition read, “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.”
Meanwhile, Vasile Banescu, a spokesman for the church, has suggested that water be poured or sprinkled over the child’s head in the future rather than full immersion. However, Archbishop Teodosie, leader of the Church’s conservative wing, has asserted the baptism ritual will not change.
More than 80 per cent of people in Romania are Orthodox and the church’s baptisms are big events comparable to weddings.