The Romanian Orthodox Church has reportedly rejected calls for modification on the Baptism practice amidst backlash over the death of a six-week old child last January.
According to the Christian Post, the Romanian Orthodox Church has decided in its recently-held Holy Synod to retain its ancient practice of full-immersion baptism of babies despite public clamor to change it. Part of the modifications suggested by the public was to sprinkle water on the baby's head instead of the full immersion as Roman Catholics and other Protestant denominations do.
Basilica News Agency, the official media of the Romanian Orthodox Church, said that the Holy Synod met for the first time this year last February 25 and urged that the celebration of Holy Mysteries be done responsibly. It lined-up several clarifications on the Baptism of children with poor health in response to public discussions, concerns, and misunderstandings about it.
The clarifications included requiring a priest to meet with the parents and godparents of the child to be baptized prior to the ritual to check on the child's health after the parents have consulted with a pediatrician and to check on the parent's desire for the child to be baptized.
It also provided directives for the Romanian Patriarchate's Faculties of Theology in its teaching of the three immersions done during Baptism for the final years of theology students' section for Pastoral Theology. An annual meeting on the correct celebration of the Holy Mystery will be held by each Romanian Patriarchate deanery will also be implemented, making sure that proper catechesis on the Holy Mysteries' spiritual significance be given to the faithful.
Meanwhile, DW alleged that the Romanian Orthodox Church washed its hands on the baby's death and even indirectly blamed baby Iustin's parents for his death citing a remark of Archbishop of Tomis Teodise Petrescu's comment that the baby could have possibly been "overfed" and suffocated on the mother's milk for it was impossible for the baby to swallow up any water during the brief three immersions. Teodosie is renowned for his outlandish views and have been subject to much controversy in Romania.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, on the other hand, narrated that Orthodox priest Alexandru Mazarache performed the Baptism on baby Iustin on January 30 in Suceava. Baby Iustin was crying when he was immersed in water before he fell silent as his lips turned blue, which prompted his parents to rush him to the hospital where he died the next day.
"The child was crying; he was put in the font with his face up, anyone would swallow water. This is a secondary drowning. When he came out, he wasn't crying. It was a sound, like a cry for help, that's all he could do...death came later," the family lawyer Ian Bulboaca told RFE/RL in an interview.
Doctors, RFE/RL said, found baby Iustin's lungs filled with a deciliter of water although official autopsy results are expected to come out after some weeks. The case's prosecutors have already questioned baby Iustin's family, baptism guests, emergency room doctor, and Mazarache on what happened. While the priest's lawyer Marcel Balatchi defend him for being "innocent" since he "performed the ritual according to church canons" in an interview with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.
RFE/RL added that baby Iustin's father, Alexandru Ungureanu, remarked that the Baptism rite of full immersion "should have been changed long ago" when a similar instance occured in 2017 in Iasi. The said case didn't receive much media attention as did baby Iustin's.
The media took attention on baby Iustin's case after the petition filed online at CampaniaMea initiated by Macin Biology Teacher Vladimir Dumitru reached, as of March 7, a total of 65,533 signatures for the Romanian Orthodox Church to change the ritual of immersing the baby in the baptismal font.
It has been a news headline in Romania for weeks and subject for public discussions that has reopened for changes in the Roman Orthodox Church beyond the Baptismal ritual, the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty said. Specifically, the Romanian Orthodox Church's influence in their society and government, along with its state funding, has been put on the spotlight.
Dumitru gave the Romanian Orthodox Church a copy of the petition last February 15 as demonstrators against him called him a "neo Marxist" and "satanist." He said the directives given by the Holy Synod was a mere "small step forward, but it's not the right step" and, as such, have prompted him to create another petition this time for the parliament authorities to carry out a medical assessment of the risks that Orthodox baptisms bring.