A six-week-old baby drowned after he was immersed during baptism, according to an autopsy, and the priest who christened the infant is being investigated on suspicion of manslaughter.
Prosecutors said they had named the Orthodox priest Alexandru Mazarache, a suspect following an autopsy on the infant which revealed there was water on his lungs.
The death of the baby boy following his baptism on Sunday has provoked outrage in Romania. More than 56,000 have signed a petition demanding the Orthodox church changes the baptism ritual “so useless and absurd risks can be avoided.”
Medics said that 110 milliliters of water had been found in the baby’s lungs, the autopsy showed.
However, amid calls to change the baptism ritual, one senior cleric pushed back and said the church would not alter an ancient ritual.
Teodosie, who us the Archbishop of Tomis, known for his hardline views which are at odds with the Romanian Orthodox Church, said that baptism was a sacrament inscribed in church canons and shouldn’t change.
“These canons related to faith have been valid for 1,000 years. So we won’t change. We won’t be intimidated,” he told Antena 3 on Tuesday.
The Orthodox ritual involves the priest plunging the baby into a water-filled font three times, covering its mouth and nose to prevent the infant inhaling water.
In their petition, signatories called for a priest to „symbolically wet” a child’s head with water from the font, suggesting a ritual which is similar to Catholic and Protestant traditions.
Romania’s patriarchy said Monday that church rules do allow for a priest to sprinkle water on an infant’s head rather than the customary immersion.
The autopsy will form the basis for the manslaughter case , the spokeswoman for the Suceava prosecutors office Anca Paniuc told Agerpres news agency.
The six-week-old infant, who was born prematurely, was baptized on Sunday in the northeast city of Suceava. The baby’s father said the infant went floppy after immersion and an ambulance was called. He went into a cardiac arrest, was resuscitated, but died the next day.
The patriarchy has called on the Suceava archbishopric to separately investigate what happened. “The Romanian patriarchy has deep compassion for the family of the dead child, whose suffering we can’t fully understand,” spokesman for the patriarchate of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Vasile Banescu said.
More than 85% of Romanians belong to the Orthodox Church.