Pope Urges Breastfeeding In Sistine Chapel

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Pope Urges Breastfeeding In Sistine Chapel
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Pope Francis has encouraged mothers to breastfeed in the Sistine chapel - before baptising the baby of a couple who married in a civil service.

The pope baptised 32 babies in the sacred Catholic chapel, telling mothers they should not be embarrassed to feed their hungry children there.

In another apparent first in the Vatican, he agreed to baptise seven-month-old Giulia Scardia, even though his parents married in a town hall.

Such a civil service is not technically recognised by the Catholic Church.

But the pope has said several times since his election that the Church must not make children of couples in "irregular situations" feel like "second-class faithful".

Also, unlike his predecessors, who usually delivered long homilies at the yearly baptism event, the pope offered a brief one of 300 words, centred on the children.

"Today the choir will sing but the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise.

"Some will cry because they are not comfortable or because they are hungry," he said in a familiar, relaxed tone to the parents.

"If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here," he said.

His words were delivered in the same room as the one in which he was elected on March 13 as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.

Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel are some of the world's most celebrated works of art.

The ceiling depicts the creation of man and the altar wall shows a severe God at the Last Judgement.

But the pope told the mothers not to feel intimidated by the surroundings.

Francis said in an interview last month that mothers should not feel uncomfortable breastfeeding during his ceremonies.

In a separate development, Francis also put his first stamp on the group at the top of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, naming 19 new cardinals from around the world.

Sixteen of them are "cardinal electors" under 80 and thus eligible to enter a conclave to elect a pope. They come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and

Among them is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.

Sunday's baptism service was the latest example of the more down-to-earth style Francis has introduced in the Vatican.

He has renounced the spacious papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors and lives is a small apartment in a Vatican guest house.

Francis uses the palace only to receive heads of state and to address crowds from one of its windows overlooking St. Peter's Square.

He has also given up the papal limousine and is driven around Rome in a Ford Focus, sometimes sitting in the front seat next to the driver.

Baptism is the sacrament at which infants or converts are initiated into the Christian faith. Francis poured water on the foreheads of the infants as part of the ritual.

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