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 CNS Story:

POPE-BAPTISMS Jan-10-2011 (320 words) xxxi

Pope baptizes 21 infants, says faith formation is crucial task

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI baptized 21 infants and told their parents and godparents that educating them in the faith will not be easy in today's society.

The liturgy Jan. 9 in the Sistine Chapel, enlivened by the cries of the newly baptized and their siblings, marked the feast of the Baptism of the Lord -- an event depicted in one of the splendid Renaissance frescoes that adorn the walls of the chapel.

In his homily, the pope said the church encourages the baptism of newborns as the "beginning of a path of holiness and conformity to Christ." He compared it to the planting of a seed that will one day turn into a magnificent tree.

Naturally, he added, at a later age each of the baptized will need to give their free and conscious assent to the faith. That presupposes that, as children, they will receive formation in Scripture and in church teachings, he said.

This educational path is something the church, the parents and the godparents need to work together to provide, he said.

"Cooperation between the Christian community and the family is more necessary than ever in the current social context, in which the institution of the family is threatened on many sides, and must face many problems in its mission of educating in the faith," he said.

He said rapid social changes and the weakening of cultural stability make religious education a real challenge today. For that reason, he said, the parish should make every effort to aid families in this task of transmitting the faith to younger generations.

The infants baptized by the pope, 13 boys and eight girls, are children of Vatican employees.

Speaking at his noon blessing the same day, the pope underlined the importance of baptism in the lives of all Christians, as well as the "great responsibility" assumed by parents and godparents in the sacrament.


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