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Telling parents and godparents to teach their little ones to pray from the time they are small, Pope Francis baptized 13 babies in the Sistine Chapel as their older brothers and sisters looked on — or got away and ran around.

With his knee apparently improving, Francis walked with a cane from his seat to a lectern to give his homily standing — something he has not done at a public Mass for months — and rolled up his sleeves and stood at the font as he poured water over the heads of the infants, children of Vatican employees.

The annual baptism Mass in the Sistine Chapel is celebrated on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which the Vatican and Italy celebrated Jan. 8 this year.

Francis began his homily by thanking the parents for deciding to have their children baptized and asking them to remind the children throughout their lives of the date of their baptism since “it is like a birthday because baptism is a rebirth to the Christian life.”

“May they remember and thank God for this grace of having become Christians,” he said.

Baptism is the beginning of a journey, he said, and it is up to parents and godparents to support the children as they take their steps along the way.

The first task, he said, is to teach the children to pray from the time they are very small, starting with showing them how to make the sign of the cross and how to hold their hands in prayer.

“Prayer will be what gives them strength throughout their lives — in good times to thank God and in the difficult times to find strength,” the pope said. “It’s the first thing you must teach: how to pray.”

They also should teach children to pray to Mary, who “is the mother, our mother,” the pope said. “They say that when someone is mad at the Lord or has distanced himself from him, Mary is always nearby to show the path to return.”

Later, reciting the Angelus at midday with visitors in St. Peter’s Square, Francis focused on the meaning of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and he quoted the late Pope Benedict XVI in doing so.

This content was originally published here.

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Michael Bourdon

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