The death of a six-week-old baby shortly after baptism has caused quite a stir in Romania. In accordance with the ritual of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the child was completely immersed three times in holy water. Moments later, it died of cardiac arrest. A petition calling for reform by Romanians has now been signed more than 60,000 times.

The baptism took place in a church in Suceava, a city in northeastern Romania. Ambulance personnel still resuscitated the child on the spot, but ultimately died in the hospital a day later. There was moisture in the lungs. The baby would have been born prematurely. It is not yet clear whether it was otherwise healthy

Never again, according to more than 60,000 signers of the petition . Its founder, Vladimir Dumitru, tells US news channel CNN that starting the petition is not intended to be an attack on the church. He does hope that in this way the ritual will be adjusted in such a way that there is no longer any chance of drowning during baptism. “The practice of baptism should be more symbolic, for example by sprinkling a few drops of water on the head.”

The Romanian Orthodox priest Ciprian-Constantin Pintilie, who leads a church in Best Brabant, is familiar with this method of baptism. “I do it in my church too, but only when I’m sure the child is healthy and the parents are comfortable with it. underwater. All together it takes no more than two seconds, “he says.

Pintilie emphasizes that communication with parents is very important. “As a priest I have to know in advance whether the child is medically okay. If there is any doubt about that, then I baptize the child in a different way: up to the neck completely in the water and then I pour some water over the head. “

Pintilie suspects that orthodox churches in Romania sometimes lack good communication. “There may be priests who do not sufficiently educate and prepare parents for baptism. In addition, a tradition is sometimes so strong that it is especially emphasized. All parents and great-grandparents are baptized in the same way, and then it is difficult as the baptism of a child from the same family falls outside the tradition. If there is a lack of proper information or insufficient consideration is given to the medical situation of the child, accidents can occur. “

Still, Pintilie also emphasizes that a fatal outcome, such as with the baby in Romania, is very rare. “Not only does the Romanian Orthodox Church baptize in this way, all Orthodox churches do. That means that maybe billions of people have been baptized in this way. I have only heard once before that a baby died during baptism. “

The Romanian Orthodox Church is quite respected in Romania. More than eighty percent of the population is Orthodox.

The church is occasionally discredited. Recently because of ignoring corona rules. Some prominent clergy held on to traditions that are not completely corona proof, such as drinking wine from the same spoon or organizing large masses where many people gather. 

Recently, the church compensated for that image: for example, the Romanian Orthodox Church actively encourages believers to take a corona vaccine. A prominent priest emphasized on TV that those who vaccinate are not against the faith.

The question is whether anything will change in the baptismal culture within the Romanian Orthodox Church. A leading Orthodox Archbishop said after the incident that “such rituals must be analyzed to prevent further tragedy.” The spokesman for the Romanian Orthodox Church, Vasile Bânescu, regrets the incident: “This is without a doubt a sad matter that needs to be investigated,” he told CNN. But he is not in favor of radically adapting the baptismal ritual. This also applies to many of his colleagues, who want to maintain this age-old tradition.