Romania’s ombudsman has made a series of recommendations to the dominant Romanian Orthodox Church following the death of a six-week old infant after he was submerged during baptized.
The ombudsman met church representatives last week to clarify aspects of the baptism service.
Among the recommendations were extra practical baptism lessons for theological students and refresher courses for working priests.
The ombudsman said on Wednesday they suggested that priests discuss the infant’s physical health with the parents or guardians of the child, including consulting with medics about how to perform a baptism, adapted to each case.
The death of the six-week-old baby boy who died a day after his baptism has caused outrage and calls to reform the ritual. The priest who performed the baptism has been named a suspect in a manslaughter case after an autopsy found liquid in the baby boy’s lungs.
The traditional Orthodox baptism service involves plunging the baby into a baptismal font three times. Sometimes the priest covers the child’s nose and mouth to stop them from inhaling water.
On Wednesday, a petition urging for the ritual to be reformed had notched up more than 65,000 signatures. The petition has been handed over to the Orthodox Church, universul.net was told on Wednesday.
Some church leaders bristle at what they see as interference from the state, but the ombudsman justified the move saying it was its role to get involved in “when the right to life of a child is violated, to identify some solutions to avoid similar situations” and to see how authorities carry out their jobs.
“The death of a child, regardless of how it came about is the reason why we got involved in this tragedy which happened in Suceava,”‘ the ombudsman said in a statement.
Another recommendation was to encourage parents to set the date for baptism when “the infant’s physical development permits the ritual without involving risks.”
The ombudsman said it was aware that the great majority of Romanians were Christian Orthodox and respect the faith and traditions.
It said it was not trying to encroach on the church’s autonomy, to which 87% of Romanians belong.
“We drew attention to some aspects that the Patriarchy of the Romanian Orthodox Church could consider at the Holy Synod,” scheduled for later this month.