Archive image of Pope Francis celebrating Mass in the Sistine Chapel to baptize 32 babies on 12 January 2020. 

By Vatican News staff writer

Jan 6 2021

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Pope Francis will not celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism for babies in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel this year.

Pope Francis will not hold this year’s traditional Baptism of infants in the Vatican’s famed Sistine Chapel on Sunday, 10 January, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Holy See’s Press Office announced on Tuesday. 

“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 Holy See’s Press Office said in a brief note on Tuesday.

Instead, the baptisms will take place in the parishes to which they belong. 

Long-running tradition

The tradition of baptizing children amidst the splendour of Michelangelo frescos in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, where Popes are elected, was started by Pope St. John Paul II. 

The Vatican’s website says that on 11 January 1981, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Polish Pope administered Baptism to 9 infants in the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel, which is separated from the Sistine Chapel by the Sala Regia. The following year he baptised 13 new-born babies and, in 1983, 20 infants.  

Last year, Pope Francis baptized 32 infants (17 boys and 15 girls), all children of Vatican employees.

In the Church’s liturgical calendar, the feast of the Baptism of Jesus marks the conclusion of the Christmas Season, which begins with the Christmas Eve Mass.   

Pandemic’s second wave

Numerous countries around the globe, including in Europe, are grappling with a second wave of the coronavirus infection, with governments trying to check its spread by severely restricting movements and gathering of people, especially during the current holiday season.

Over 75,000 people have died in Italy, the highest among European countries. With over 2.1 million total infections since the start of the pandemic, Italy ranks 4th after Russia, the UK and France. – Vatican News