Pope Francis encouraged women attending a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday to feel free to breastfeed their children in the church.

“The ceremony is a little long, someone’s crying because he’s hungry. That’s the way it is,” the pontiff said. “You mothers, go ahead and breastfeed, without fear. Just like the Virgin Mary nursed Jesus,” he told worshippers attending an annual ceremony commemorating the baptism of Jesus.

The Pope, who had previously voiced his support for breastfeeding, including in public, on Sunday baptised 28 children – 15 boys and 13 girls.
Surrounded by the sounds of baby noises, the Pope gave a short, off-the-cuff homily on the faith which is given to children in Baptism.

Faith, he said, does not just mean reciting the Creed on Sundays, but rather it means believing in the truth, trusting in God and teaching others with the example of our lives.

Faith, the Pope continued, is also the light which grows in our hearts – that’s why a lighted candle is given to every person being baptized. In the early years of the Church, he noted, baptism was called ‘illumination’ to show the way in which faith helps us see things in a different light. To the parents who had brought their children to be baptized, he said “you have the task of making that faith grow, of nurturing it, so that it may bear witness to others”. As the sounds of crying grew louder, the Pope joked that the concert had begun. The babies are crying, he said, because they are in an unfamiliar place, or because they had to get up early, or sometimes simply because they hear another child crying. Jesus did just the same, Pope Francis said, adding that he liked to think of Our Lord’s first sermon as his crying in the stable. And if your children are crying because they are hungry, the Pope told the mothers present, then go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus.

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