A six-week-old child died Monday after suffering cardiac arrest during a baptismal ceremony at an Orthodox church in Romania, according to reports.
The incident took place in the northeastern town of Suceava, where the child was completely submerged three times in holy water for the ceremony.
The child suffered cardiac arrest during the ritual and was rushed to hospital, AFP reports. Paramedics resuscitated the child and put him on a ventilator, but he died early Monday morning.
The baby’s father says doctors found 110 milliliters of fluid in the baby’s lungs.
“The boy was crying, but the priest immersed him three times in the water and he inhaled water,” he told the local newspaper Monitorul de Suceava.
He added that he was outraged by the priest’s conduct, especially when he saw the child’s condition after the third immersion.
“The baby had blood on his nose. I put it face down to get the water out, ”said the father. “He hasn’t recovered.
Local television channel Antena 3 reports that the child was born prematurely and was “extremely fragile”.
More than 59,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Orthodox Church to update its baptismal practices following death. The petition points out that others have died in similar circumstances in the past.
“The Church urgently needs to regulate this practice,” the petition says. He demands that baptism be changed, not finished, to avoid “unnecessary and even absurd risks”.
The petition recommends adopting a common practice that some priests are already using, which is to symbolically pour a little water on the child’s head.
“The accidental death of babies due to these bad practices is a tragedy without limits that brings pain instead of joy,” the petition says.
A church spokesperson told AFP that priests are allowed to pour a little water on the child’s forehead instead of performing a full immersion. Archbishop Teodosia, a prominent conservative figure in the church, said there would be no change in the way he conducts baptisms.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the manslaughter of the priest, AFP reports.