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Romanian Orthodox Church rejects calls to change baptism ritual

·1-min read

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's Orthodox Church will continue immersing infants in water during baptism ceremonies, it said on Thursday, rejecting calls across the country to change the ritual after a six-week-old baby died after being baptised earlier this month.

The baby died of cardiac arrest in the northern Romanian city of Suceava after the traditional ritual, which involves immersing children in holy water three times.

Prosecutors are investigating the case, which has divided Church officials and believers, with tens of thousands of Romanians petitioning the Church to sprinkle water on the babies' heads instead. The majority of Romania's 20 million people are Orthodox Christians and the Church has considerable influence.

"Romania's Orthodox Church has a statutory obligation to maintain dogmatic, sacramental and disciplinary communion and unity with the universal Orthodox Church," the Holy Synod, its ruling body, said in a statement, adding that it is urging its priests to be more responsible.

The Synod also said priests have an obligation to meet with parents before the baptism and discuss their children's health conditions while theology schools will give "heightened attention" when teaching the immersion practice.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Karishma Singh)