Thousands of Romanians have signed a petition demanding the Orthodox Church changes the way it performs baptisms after a six-week old baby died after immersion.
The case has created outrage in Romania with critics saying that priests shouldn’t fully dunk young babies in the baptismal font as per current church rules.
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.
The newborn, who was born prematurely, died after his christening on Sunday in the northeast city of Suceava.
A petition was created and by Tuesday afternoon, more than 35,000 had signed it calling for the practice to be changed “so useless and absurd risks can be avoided.”
Signatories said a priest should „symbolically wet” a child’s head with water from the font, suggesting a ritual which is similar to Catholic and Protestant traditions.
Traditionally, Orthodox Christians baptize babies soon after birth and before they are three months old.
The priest who performed the baptism has said the newborn cried after he had been baptized.
However, the father said the child was distressed and starting bleeding from the nose after the ritual, before going into cardiac arrest. He said doctors found 110 millilters of water in the baby’s lungs.
Emergency services resuscitated him and he was taken to hospital but died Monday morning.
Obiectiv de Suceava reported that current church rules say that newborns should just have water sprinkled on their foreheads and not be immersed in the font. Police have launched a manslaughter investigation, but haven’t charged anyone.
In 2010, another Orthodox priest was accused of accidentally drowning a six-week-old boy as he baptized him in in northeast Romania.
Witnesses claimed the baby died after the priest failed to cover his mouth and nose when he immersed him in water three times.
More than 85% of Romanian belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church.