The Romanian Orthodox Church is facing calls to change its baptism style after a six-week-old infant died shortly after being immersed in the holy water. The baby suffered cardiac arrest following the ceremony and was immediately rushed to hospital. Sadly, the child died a short time later, with the autopsy revealing the presence of liquid in his lungs.
A spokesperson for the hospital said: "A one-month-and-a-half baby was found in cardiac arrest in the church after the baptism service. The baby was respited by the SMURD unit that arrives on the spot.
"He was hospitalised in serious condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit, was intubated and mechanically ventilated.”
The child later died.
"The boy was crying but the priest submerged him three times in water and he inhaled water," the baby's father said, according to local press. "[I] removed him, wiped him, from the doctors I found out he inhaled 110ml of water… If you see a child with a gaping mouth and crying you wouldn’t immerse him completely in water, would you?”
The church has been receiving severe backlash following the incident, with a petition being launched urging the denomination to alter the way it conducts baptisms.
“The death of a newborn baby because of this practice is a huge tragedy,” the petition reads. “This risk must be ruled out for the joy of baptism to triumph.” The petition had garnered more than 56,000 signatures by Thursday evening.
The Archdiocese of Suceava said in a statement: “There is no word or deed to wipe away the tears and now soothe the broken heard of parents and relatives, but we are with them at this particularly difficult time."
Romanian Patriarchate, Vasile Banescu, said the church felt “deep compassion towards the family of the deceased child".
A manslaughter case has also been opened against the Romanian priest in question, who is from the north-eastern city of Suceava.
Orthodox baptisms often involve the infant being completed submerged three times in quick succession. This is not the first time these ceremonies have caused controversy. In 2019, footage emerged of a Russian Orthodox priest violently baptising an infant child after the youngster began screaming uncontrollably. The video shows the priest fending off the mother as she attempts to retrieve her child. The priest was subsequently banned from performing baptisms for a year.