There are growing calls for Romania’s Orthodox Church to overhaul its baptism ritual after a six-week-old baby tragically died.
The baby went into cardio-respiratory arrest on Sunday, after was immersed three times during his baptism at a church in Suceava, north-eastern Romania.
“The boy was crying, but the priest immersed him three times in water and he inhaled water,” the child’s distraught father told local media.
Over 61,000 people have signed a petition demanding an overhaul of what they believe is an “absurd” tradition.
“Given the tragic situations in which infants died after immersion in the water in the baptismal font, the CHURCH must urgently regulate this practice,” the petition reads.
“We do NOT demand the cancellation of the practice of Baptism but its modification, so that these are prevented from unnecessary and even absurd risks!
Vasile Bănescu, a spokesman for the Romanian Patriachate emphasised that priests are trained to use a specific technique during the baptism.
“It is, without a doubt, a tragic case, a case that will have to be investigated. Let’s not imagine that a child can be put in water without covering his nose, mouth and ears,” told Antena 3 Monday.
“There is a technique that an experienced priest always uses. This is how a baptism is celebrated with the utmost care “, Bănescu added.
Vladimir Dumitru, who started the online petition, told CNN that he did not want to abolish the ritual of Orthodox baptism “but to change that sometimes brutal practice that involves the risk of drowning, especially in the case of children with health problems.”
“The petition is not directed against the institution of the Church or against the priests but has a constructive intention,” he told CNN.
“Through this petition we want the practice of baptism to be symbolic by sprinkling the baby on the top of the head and not its complete immersion three times, and this non-invasive practice to become mandatory in all Orthodox Churches in Romania and in the Diaspora,” he said in an email.
This article originally appeared on Over60.