Q: Watched the YouTube video of Pope Francis baptizing 16 babies in the Sistine Chapel on the Baptism of the Lord and couldn’t help but notice a few things:
1) Pope only poured water once for each kid, not three times. What gives?
2) Each kid got a ‘white garment’ even though all the kids were wearing white anyway. Should we be dropping one symbol on top of another? (Granted, the garments were attractive but why do it if it seems superfluous?) I refer to these items as lobster bibs and I don’t use them if the baby is already wearing white. Or, am I wrong about this?
3) Pope did no anointings at all. Other bishops did them. Is that liturgically appropriate? Can I have another deacon do the anointings if I pour the water?
A: Thanks for these astute questions.
1. Pope Francis is not the first pope to baptize with one pour while reciting the words. There’s video footage of Pope Benedict XVI doing the same thing. I’ve been told anecdotally that Pope St. John Paul II did it as well. I simply cannot understand this. The order of baptism clearly calls for three pours. I wrote about this in my article, “On Paper and on Air” for Liturgy magazine. You can find it here: https://paulturner.org/articles/.
2. The Order of Baptism of Children seems unaware that parents are bringing infants to church dressed in white. I generally do what you do. If the child is dressed in white, then I refer to the white garment they’re wearing as the white garment for the ritual. But the rite does presume we’re adding a garment at this point. Better yet would be to inform the parents to bring the child to church dressed in something else. That would let the priest or deacon indicate the white garment that the family has provided for that part of the ritual. The child LEAVES the church dressed in white after baptism.
3. The Ceremonial of Bishops says that when a bishop baptizes, it is best for a priest to do the anointings. I’ve done this at our cathedral. What the pope did is correct. But you are not permitted to have a deacon anoint when you baptize. I’m sure that the concern is to keep the infant’s anointing with chrism as far distant from confirmation as possible.