VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI baptized 21 newborns in an intimate ceremony in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday that marked the end of the Christmas season.
Standing under Michelangelo's magnificent "Last Judgment" fresco, the pope poured water on the foreheads of 13 baby boys and eight baby girls. Some babies screamed, other squirmed, some slept through it.
Benedict prayed for their "life and health so they can grow and mature in the faith."
He said that, in an ever-changing society without firm cultural references, it has become more difficult to educate children in the faith, and urged parishes and parents to cooperate.
The babies — aged between four weeks and four months — are all children of Vatican employees.
The annual ceremony is held the first Sunday after the Jan. 6 Epiphany.