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Pope baptises child of civilly married couple
15 January 2014 12:55 by Robert Mickens

Pope Francis has baptised the infant of an Italian couple married outside the Church at a high-profile Mass in the Sistine Chapel, highlighting his often-stated conviction that children should never be denied the sacrament due to their parents’ irregular marital situation.

The papal liturgy, which took place on Sunday, has been an annual celebration since 1983 for the baptism mainly of children of Vatican employees.

This year Pope Francis baptised 32 infants. He personally intervened to include “Giulia”, the second child of Ivan Scardia and Nicoletta Franco, a civilly married couple that have never had their union blessed sacramentally.

The couple, employees of the Italian paramilitary police, met the Pope last September at a general audience and asked him to baptise their child.

During a brief, impromptu homily at the Mass the Pope told parents and godparents they had “the duty to hand down the faith” to the newly baptised. Later at his Angelus he prayed that the baptisms might help “parents rediscover the beauty of faith and to return, in a new way, to the sacraments and the community” of the Church.