Pope Francis today baptized the child of an unmarried couple during a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel, in Rome. The unnamed parents and their child took part in the traditional Baptism of the Lord mass with 31 others, commemorating the day St John baptized Jesus. The Pope has previously spoken out to encourage priests to baptize the children of unmarried women in order to pass on the Christian faith, calling those who refuse 'hypocrites'.
According to the Vatican Network, he said: 'You parents have the baby boy or girl to be baptized, but in a few years it will be they who will have a baby to be baptized or a grandchild... And so goes the chain of faith. 'What does this mean? I would just tell you this: you are the ones that transmit the faith, the transmitters; you have a duty to pass on the faith to these children. It’s the most beautiful legacy that you leave to them: the faith.'
Speaking in the relaxed manner that has become his trademark, Francis broke with the tradition of delivering a long and formal speech, instead reading a short script he had written himself.
The mass took place under the famous fresco painted by Michelangelo, the same room in which Francis was elected on March 13 as the first non-European pope in 1,600 years. In September the pontiff telephoned an Italian woman to tell her he would personally baptize her child after she became pregnant by a man who was already married. Shop worker Anna Romano, 35, was on holiday when she received the call from the Argentinian Pope. At the time she said: 'I addressed the letter simply to Pope Francis, the Vatican and put it in the post. I didn't even send it recorded delivery. I didn't really expect to get a reply but then out of the blue when I was on holiday I had a phone call from him. 'The number was from Rome, with a 06 dial code, and as soon as he started speaking I recognized the voice as his. 'I was just so surprised that he had telephoned me. He said that he had read my letter and he wanted to speak to me personally about it and reassure me that someone was worried about me.