Bookmark and Share

The Sacrament of Baptism

Papa Benedetto's @Pontifex tweet on 13 January 2013, Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord: 'What happens in Baptism? We become united forever with Jesus, to be born again to a new life.'

Catechesis on Baptism by Pope Francis (1 of 2)
General Audience, Wednesday 8 January 2014, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we begin a series of Catecheses on the Sacraments, starting with Baptism. By happy coincidence this coming Sunday is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

1. Baptism is the Sacrament on which our very faith is founded and which grafts us as a living member onto Christ and his Church. Together with the Eucharist and Confirmation it forms what is known as “Christian initiation”, like one great sacramental event that configures us to the Lord and turns us into a living sign of his presence and of his love.

Yet a question may stir within us: is Baptism really necessary to live as Christians and follow Jesus? After all, isn’t it merely a ritual, a formal act of the Church in order to give a name to the little boy or girl? This question can arise. And on this point what the Apostle Paul writes is illuminating: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). Therefore, it is not a formality! It is an act that touches the depths of our existence. A baptized child and an unbaptized child are not the same. A person who is baptized and a person who is not baptized are not the same. We, by Baptism, are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life which is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and of death, but in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.

2. Many of us have no memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, and it is obvious why, if we were baptized soon after birth. I have asked this question two or three times already, here, in this square: who among you knows the date of your Baptism, raise your hands. It is important to know the day on which I was immersed in that current of Jesus' salvation. And I will allow myself to give you some advice... but, more than advice, a task for today. Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism. To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past – and not by our own will but by that of our parents – and that it has no impact on the present. We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live out our Baptism every day as the present reality of our lives. If we manage to follow Jesus and to remain in the Church, despite our limitations and with our weaknesses and our sins, it is precisely in the Sacrament whereby we have become new creatures and have been clothed in Christ. It is by the power of Baptism, in fact, that, freed of original sin, we are inserted into Jesus' relation to God the Father; that we are bearers of a new hope, for Baptism gives us this new hope: the hope of going on the path of salvation our whole life long. And this hope nothing and no one can extinguish, for it is a hope that does not disappoint. Remember, hope in the Lord never disappoints. Thanks to Baptism, we are capable of forgiving and of loving even those who offend us and do evil to us. By our Baptism, we recognize in the least and in the poor the face of the Lord who visits us and makes himself close. Baptism helps us to recognize in the face of the needy, the suffering, and also of our neighbour, the face of Jesus. All this is possible thanks to the power of Baptism!

3. A last point, which is important. I ask you a question: can a person baptize him or herself? No one can be self-baptized! No one. We can ask for it, desire it, but we always need someone else to confer this Sacrament in the name of the Lord. For Baptism is a gift which is bestowed in a context of care and fraternal sharing. Throughout history, one baptizes another, another and another... it is a chain. A chain of Grace. I cannot baptize myself: I must ask another for Baptism. It is an act of brotherhood, an act of filiation to the Church. In the celebration of Baptism we can see the most genuine features of the Church, who like a mother continues to give birth to new children in Christ, in the fecundity of the Holy Spirit.

Let us, then, ask the Lord from our hearts that we may be able to experience ever more, in everyday life, this grace that we have received at Baptism. That in encountering us, our brothers and sisters may encounter true children of God, true brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, true members of the Church. And do not forget your homework today: find out, ask for the date of your Baptism. As I know my birthday, I should know my Baptism day, because it is a feast day."


Je salue avec joie les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier les jeunes prêtres du diocèse de Poitiers. Chers amis, je vous invite à accueillir chaque jour la grâce de votre Baptême et à la faire fructifier en étant des signes de l’amour du Seigneur pour tous. Bonne année et bon pèlerinage!

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from Ausralia, Haiti and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

Sehr herzlich grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache. In der Taufe haben wir das neue Leben in Christus empfangen. Danken wir Gott für dieses wunderbare Geschenk und bitten wir ihn, dass wir jeden Tag als seine Kinder, als wahre Brüder und Schwestern Christi und Glieder seiner Kirche leben. Der Herr begleite euch und eure Lieben mit seinem Segen in diesem neuen Jahr.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España - veo la Diócesis de Cuenca, allí - de Argentina, de Bolivia, Venezuela, México y los demás países latinoamericanos. Invito a todos a experimentar en la vida de cada día la gracia que recibimos en el Bautismo, siendo verdaderos hermanos, verdaderos miembros de la Iglesia. Feliz año a todos.

Dirijo uma cordial saudação aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, encorajando-vos a todos a viver o vosso Baptismo como realidade actual da vossa existência. Não deixeis que vos roubem a vossa identidade cristã! Com estes votos, invoco sobre vós e vossas famílias a abundância das bênçãos do Céu.

لأخوات والإخوة الأحباء الناطقون باللغة العربية، والقادمون من الشرق الأوسط، وخاصة من سوريا ومن العراق: تحتفل الكنيسة بالأسرار، ولكن الأسرار هي التي تقيم الكنيسة وتغذيها. ادعوكم لتذكر يوم معموديتكم والاحتفال به، لأنه اليوم الذي فيه ولدنا كخليقة جديدة في المسيح، وكهيكل للروح القدس، وكأبناء بالتبني للآب؛ وكأعضاء في الكنيسة المقدسة؛ وكأخوة في الإيمان ومبشرين بالخبر السار؛ قادرين على تقديم الغفران والمحبة للجميع، وحتى للأعداء. ليحفظ الرب حياتكم ويبارككم!

Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do Polaków. Dziękując wam za wszystkie życzenia bożonarodzeniowe, jakie wraz z modlitwą nadesłaliście mi z Polski i ze wszystkich stron świata, z serca je odwzajemniam i proszę nowo narodzonego Pana o Jego błogosławieństwo dla was i dla waszych rodzin. Niech Jego łaska stale wam towarzyszy!

* * *

A tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana presenti a questa prima Udienza Generale del 2014 porgo un cordiale augurio di serenità e di pace per il nuovo anno. Saluto i sacerdoti di Milano e di Genova; le Apostole del Sacro Cuore di Gesù; i gruppi parrocchiali e le Associazioni, in particolare quelle di volontariato ed assistenza ai bambini dell’Est, di Enna e di Modugno. Do il benvenuto ai componenti del Golden Circus di Liana Orfei – sono stati bravi, complimenti! – che privilegia quest’anno il mondo latinoamericano, e li invito, nel loro viaggiare di città in città, a sentirsi messaggeri di gioia, messaggeri di fratellanza, in una società che ne ha tanto bisogno. Saluto con affetto i piccoli degenti dell’Istituto nazionale per la ricerca e la cura dei tumori di Milano ed assicuro la mia preghiera affinché il Signore sostenga ognuno con la sua grazia.

Lastly, my thoughts turn to young people, the sick and to newlyweds. Dear friends, in these days following the Feast of the Epiphany let us continue to meditate on the manifestation of Jesus to all the nations. The Church invites you, dear young people, especially students at the Istituto Vescovile di Nola, to be enthusiastic witnesses to Christ among your peers; she exhorts you, dear sick people, to spread her light every day with serene patience; and she encourages you, dear newlyweds, to be a sign of her renewing presence by your faithful love."

Catechesis on Baptism by Pope Francis (2 of 2)
General Audience, Wednesday 15 January 2014, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Last Wednesday we started a brief cycle of catecheses on the Sacraments, beginning with Baptism. And I would like pause again on Baptism today, in order to stress an important fruit of this Sacrament: it makes us members of the Body of Christ and of the People of God. St Thomas Aquinas states that whoever receives Baptism is incorporated in Christ, almost as one of his own limbs, and becomes aggregated to the community of the faithful (cf. Summa Theologiae, III, q. 69, art. 5; q. 70, art. 1), that is, the People of God. In the school of the Second Vatican Council, we say today that Baptism allows us to enter the People of God, to become members of a People on a journey, a people on pilgrimage through history.

In effect, as from generation to generation life is transmitted, so too from generation to generation, through rebirth at the baptismal font, grace is transmitted, and by this grace the Christian People journeys through time, like a river that irrigates the land and spreads God’s blessing throughout the world. From the moment that Jesus said what we heard in the Gospel Reading, the disciples went out to baptize; and from that time until today there is a chain in the transmission of the faith through Baptism. And each one of us is a link in that chain: a step forward, always; like a river that irrigates. Such is the grace of God and such is our faith, which we must transmit to our sons and daughters, transmit to children, so that once adults, they can do the same for their children. This is what Baptism is. Why? Because Baptism lets us enter this People of God that transmits the faith. This is very important. A People of God that journeys and hands down the faith.

In virtue of Baptism we become missionary disciples, called to bring the Gospel to the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 120). “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.... The new evangelization calls for personal involvement” (ibid.) from everyone, the whole of the People of God, a new kind of personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. The People of God is a disciple People — because it receives the faith — and a missionary People — because it transmits the faith. And this is what Baptism works in us: it gives us Grace and hands on the faith to us. All of us in the Church are disciples, and this we are forever, our whole lifelong; and we are all missionaries, each in the place the Lord has assigned to him or her. Everyone: the littlest one is also a missionary; and the one who seems to be the greatest is a disciple. But one of you might say: “Bishops are not disciples, Bishops know everything; the Pope knows everything, he is not a disciple”. No, the Bishops and the Pope must also be disciples, because if they are not disciples, they do no good. They cannot be missionaries, they cannot transmit the faith. We must all be disciples and missionaries.

There exists an indissoluble bond between the mystical and the missionary dimension of the Christian vocation, both rooted in Baptism. “Upon receiving faith and Baptism, we Christians accept the action of the Holy Spirit who leads to confessing Jesus as Son of God and calling God ‘Abba’, Father.... All of us who are baptized ... are called to live and transmit communion with the Trinity, for evangelization is a calling to participate in the communion of the Trinity” (Final Document of Aparecida, n. 157).

No one is saved by himself. We are the community of believers, we are the People of God and in this community we share the beauty of the experience of a love that precedes us all, but that at the same time calls us to be “channels” of grace for one another, despite our limitations and our sins. The communitarian dimension is not just a “frame”, an “outline”, but an integral part of Christian life, of witness and of evangelization. The Christian faith is born and lives in the Church, and in Baptism families and parishes celebrate the incorporation of a new member in Christ and in his Body which is the Church (cf. ibid., n. 175b).

On the subject of the importance of Baptism for the People of God, the history of the Christian community in Japan is exemplary. It suffered severe persecution at the start of the 17th century. There were many martyrs, members of the clergy were expelled and thousands of faithful killed. No priest was left in Japan, they were all expelled. Then the community retreated into hiding, keeping the faith and prayer in seclusion. And when a child was born, the father or mother baptized him or her, because the faithful can baptize in certain circumstances. When, after roughly two and a half centuries, 250 years later, missionaries returned to Japan, thousands of Christians stepped out into the open and the Church was able to flourish again. They survived by the grace of Baptism! This is profound: the People of God transmits the faith, baptizes her children and goes forward. And they maintained, even in secret, a strong communal spirit, because their Baptism had made of them one single body in Christ: they were isolated and hidden, but they were always members of the People of God, members of the Church. Let us learn a great deal from this history!"


"Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones, particulièrement les élèves, les professeurs et le personnel de l’Institut Saint-Dominique de Rome, et les jeunes venus de France. Que le Seigneur vous donne de vivre pleinement de la grâce que vous avez reçue au Baptême, et d’être les instruments des bénédictions de Dieu pour les autres. Bon pèlerinage!

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

Herzlich begrüße ich die Brüder und Schwestern aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Liebe Freunde, durch die Taufe sind wir alle berufen, missionarische Jünger zu sein! Der Herr zählt auf uns. Gott segne euch.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los Padres Agustinos Recoletos y a las Religiosas de María Inmaculada, así como a los demás grupos venidos de España, Uruguay, Argentina, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Invito a todos a tomar en serio su bautismo, siendo discípulos y misioneros del Evangelio, con la palabra y con el propio ejemplo. Que Jesús os bendiga y la Virgen Santa os cuide. Muchas gracias.

Dirijo uma cordial saudação aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, presentes nesta Audiência, especialmente aos grupos vindos do Brasil. Queridos amigos, todos os batizados estão chamados a ser discípulos missionários, vivendo e transmitindo a comunhão com Deus, transmitindo a fé. Em todas as circunstâncias, procurai oferecer um testemunho alegre da vossa fé. Que Deus vos abençoe!

الأخوات والإخوة الأحباء الناطقون باللغة العربية، القادمون من الأردن ومن الأراضي المقدسة: تعلموا من الكنيسة في اليابان، التي عاشت في الخفاء لأكثر من قرنين ونصف، بسبب اضطهادات القرن السابع عشر، ناقلة من جيل إلى جيل شعلة الإيمان متوهجة دائما. إن الصعاب والاضطهادات، عندما تعاش باستسلام وبثقة وبرجاء، فهي تنقي الإيمان وتقويه. فكونوا شهودا حقيقيين للمسيح ولإنجيله، وأبناء صالحين للكنيسة، مستعدين دائما لتقديم شهادة للرجاء الذي فيكم، بمحبة وباحترام. ليحفظ الرب حياتكم ويبارككم!

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich Polaków. Bracia i siostry, chrzest św. jest fundamentem naszego życia, najpiękniejszym darem Boga, początkiem nowego życia jako dzieci Bożych. Dziękujmy za nasz chrzest i pamiętajmy, do czego ten sakrament nas zobowiązuje. Niech nasze codzienne życie i relacje z ludźmi będą świadectwem przynależności do Boga, który jest naszym Ojcem. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

* * *

Porgo un cordiale benvenuto ai fedeli di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i fedeli della Diocesi di Civitavecchia-Tarquinia accompagnati dal Vescovo Mons. Luigi Marrucci; gli studenti della Diocesi di Caserta,  - sono rumorosi i casertani! - con l’Amministratore Apostolico Mons. Angelo Spinillo e quelli dell’Istituto delle Suore Immacolatine di Roma; le Suore Domenicane Missionarie di San Sisto, che ricordano il centenario della morte della Fondatrice, Madre Antonia Lalìa.

I greet the priests of the Istituto Secolare della Regalità, the Lions Club with Bishop Luigi Renzo and the Lancieri di Aosta, who have provided aid to immigrants in Lampedusa. I exhort everyone to live out their ecclesial roles with generosity, that the Lord may fill our hearts with the joy that he alone can give.

I address a special greeting to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, a good occasion to rethink our belonging to Christ in the faith of the Church. Dear young people, rediscover daily the grace that comes from Baptism. You, dear sick people, draw strength from Baptism to confront moments of pain and discouragement. And you, dear newlyweds, understand how to translate the commitment of Baptism on your path of family life."

Pope Benedict XVI's speech on the Sacrament of Baptism
"Lectio Divina" at the Ecclesial Convention of the dioceses of Rome
Basilica of St John Lateran, Monday 11 June 2012 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Your Eminence, Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It gives me great joy to be here in the Cathedral of Rome with the representatives of my diocese and I warmly thank the Cardinal Vicar for his kind words.

We have already heard that the Lord’s last words to his disciples on this earth were: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (cf. Mt 28:19). Make disciples and baptize them. Why is it not enough for disciples to know Jesus’ teaching, to know the Christian values? Why is it necessary to be baptized? This is the topic of our reflection, in order to understand the reality and depth of the Sacrament of Baptism.

A first door opens if we read these words of the Lord carefully. The choice of the word “in the name of the Father” in the Greek text is very important: the Lord says “eis” and not “en”, that is, not “in the name” of the Trinity — as when we say that a vice-prefect speaks “on behalf” of the prefect, an ambassador speaks “on behalf” of the government: no. It says: “eis to onoma”, that is, an immersion in the name of the Trinity, a being inserted in the name of the Trinity, an interpenetration of being in God and of our being, a being immersed in God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; just as it is in marriage, for example. Two people become one flesh, they become a new and unique reality with a new and unique name.

The Lord helped us to understand this reality ever better in his conversation on the Resurrection with the Sadducees. The five Books of Moses were the only ones that the Sadducees recognized in the canon of the Old Testament and there is no mention in them of the Resurrection; so they denied it. The Lord shows the reality of the Resurrection precisely by these five Books and says: “Have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?’” (cf. Mt 22:31-32). God therefore takes these three and in his very name they become the name of God. To understand who this God is it is necessary to see these figures who became the name of God, a name of God, who are immersed in God. In this way we see that anyone who is in the name of God, who is immersed in God, is alive, because God — the Lord says — is not a God of the dead but of the living, and if he is the God of the latter, he is a God of the living. The living are alive because they are in our memory, in God’s life. And this happens to us in being baptized: we come to be inserted in the name of God, so that we belong to this name and his name becomes our name and we too, with our witness — like the three in the Old Testament — can be witnesses of God, a sign of who this God is, a name of this God.

Consequently, being baptized means being united to God; in a unique, new existence we belong to God, we are immersed in God himself. Thinking of this, we can immediately see several consequences.

The first is that God is no longer very distant from us, he is not a reality to dispute — whether he exists or not — but we are in God and God is in us. The priority, the centrality of God in our life is a first consequence of Baptism. The answer to the question “Does God exist?” is: “He exists and is with us; he centres in our life this closeness to God, this being in God himself, who is not a distant star but the environment of my life”. This would be the first consequence and we must therefore tell ourselves that we should take this presence of God into account and truly live in his presence.

A second consequence of what I have said is that we do not make ourselves Christian. Becoming Christian is not something that follows a decision of mine: “herewith I make myself a Christian”. Of course, my decision is also necessary, but first of all it is an action of God with me: it is not I who make myself Christian. I am taken on by God, taken in hand by God and thus, by saying “yes” to God’s action I become Christian. Becoming Christians, in a certain sense is passive; I do not make myself Christian but God makes me his man, God takes me in hand and puts my life in a new dimension. Likewise I do not make myself live but life is given to me; I am not born because I have made myself a human being, but I am born because I have been granted to be human. Therefore my Christian being has also been granted to me, it is in the passive for me, which becomes active in our, in my life. And this fact of being in the passive, of not making ourselves Christian but of being made Christian by God, already to some extent involves the mystery of the Cross: only by dying to my selfishness, by coming out of myself, can I be Christian.

A third element which opens up immediately in this vision is that naturally, being immersed in God I am of course united to my brothers and sisters, because all the others are in God and if I am taken out of my isolation, if I am immersed in God, I am immersed in communion with the others. To be baptized is never a solitary act by “me”; it is always, necessarily, being united with all the others, being in unity and solidarity with the whole Body of Christ, with the whole community of his brothers and sisters. This event which is Baptism inserts me in community, breaks my isolation. We must bear this in mind in our being Christian.

And finally, let us return to Christ’s words to the Sadducees: God is “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (cf. Mt 22:32). Hence the latter are not dead; if they are of God they are alive. This means that with Baptism, with immersion in the name of God, we too are already immersed in immortal life, we are alive for ever. In other words Baptism is a first stage in resurrection: immersed in God, we are already immersed in the indestructible life, our resurrection begins. Just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being the “name of God” are alive, so we, inserted in the name of God, are alive in immortal life. Baptism is the first step of resurrection, entry into the indestructible life of God.

Thus, in a first moment, with the baptismal formula of St Matthew, with Christ’s last word, we have already had a glimpse of the essential of Baptism. Let us now take a look at the sacramental rite, so that we may understand even more precisely what Baptism is.

This rite, like the rite of almost all the sacraments, is made up of two elements: matter — water — and the word. This is very important. Christianity is not something purely spiritual, something only subjective, emotional, of the will, of ideas; it is a cosmic reality. God is the Creator of all matter, matter enters Christianity, and it is only in this great context of matter and spirit together that we are Christians. It is therefore very important that matter be part of our faith, that the body be part of our faith; faith is not purely spiritual, but this is how God inserts us into the whole reality of the cosmos and transforms the cosmos, draws it to himself. Moreover with this material element — water — not only does a basic element of the cosmos enter, a fundamental matter created by God, but also the entire symbolism of religions, because in all religions water has something to say. The journey of religions, this quest for God in different ways — even if they are mistaken, but always seeking God — is assumed in the sacrament. The other religions, with their journey to God, are present and are assumed, and thus the world is summed up; the whole search for God that is expressed in the symbols of religions, and especially — of course — in the symbolism of the Old Testament which in this way becomes present, with all its experiences of salvation and of God’s goodness. We shall come back to this point.

The other element is the word. This word is presented in three elements: renunciations, promises and invocations. It is consequently important that these words not be only words but also a path of life. In them a decision is made, in these words the whole process of our Baptism is present — both pre-baptismal and post-baptismal; hence, with these words and also with symbols, Baptism extends to the whole of our life. This reality of the promises, of the renunciations, of the invocations is a reality that endures throughout our life since we are constantly on a baptismal journey, on a catechumenal journey, through these words and through the realization of these words. The Sacrament of Baptism is not an act that lasts an hour. Rather it is a reality of our whole life, a journey of our whole life. In fact, behind it is also the doctrine of the two ways that was fundamental in early Christianity: a way to which we say “no” and a way to which we say “yes”.

Let us begin with the first part: the renunciations. There are three and I shall take the second one first: “Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?”. What is this glamour of evil? In the early Church, and for centuries to come the words here were: “Dost thou ... renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world?”, and we know today what was intended with these words: “the pomp of the devil”. Above all, the pomp of the devil meant the great bloody spectacles in which cruelty became amusement, in which killing men became something to be watched: a show, the life and death of a man. These bloody spectacles, this amusement of evil is the “pomp of the devil”, in which he appears with seeming beauty but in fact, with all his cruelty. However, beyond this immediate meaning of the phrase “pomp of the devil”, there was a wish to speak of a type of culture, a way of life, in which it is not truth but appearances that count; truth is not sought but effect, sensation. And, under the pretext of truth, men were actually destroyed, there was a desire to destroy and people wished to create themselves alone as victorious. This renunciation was therefore very real: it was the rejection of a type of culture that is an anti-culture, against Christ and against God. The option was against a culture that, in St John’s Gospel is called “kosmos houtos”, “this world”. With “this world”, John and Jesus are not of course referring to God's creation or to man as such, but to a certain creature that is dominant and imposes itself as if this were the world, and as if this were the way of life imposed. I now leave each one of you to reflect on this “pomp of the devil” on this culture to which we say “no”. In fact, being baptized means, essentially, being emancipated, being freed from this culture. Today too we know a type of culture in which truth does not count; even if apparently people wish to have the whole truth appear, only the sensation counts, and the spirit of calumny and destruction. It is a culture that does not seek goodness, whose moralism is in reality a mask to confuse people, to create confusion and destruction. We say “no” to this culture, in which falsehood is presented in the guise of truth and information, against this culture that seeks only well-being and denies God. Moreover, from so many Psalms we are familiar with this opposition of a culture which seems untouchable by all the evils of the world, puts self above everyone, above God, whereas it is in fact a culture of evil, a dominion of evil. Thus the decision of Baptism, of this part of the catechumenal journey which lasts throughout our life, is precisely this “no”, said and acted upon again and again every day, even with sacrifices that are the price of opposing the culture prevalent in many places, even though it is imposed as if it were the world, this world. It is not true. And there are also many people who really desire the truth.

Consequently we switch to the first renunciation: “Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?”. Today freedom and Christian life, the observance of God's commandments, go in opposite directions; being Christian is like a form of slavery; freedom is being emancipated from the Christian faith, emancipated — all things considered — from God. To many people the word “sin” seems almost ridiculous, because they say: “How can that be! We cannot offend God! God is so great, what does it matter to God if I make a small mistake? We cannot offend God, his concern for us is too great for us to offend him”. This seems true but it is not true. God made himself vulnerable. In the crucified Christ we see that God is vulnerability, God’s love is his caring for man, God’s love means that our first concern must not be to hurt or destroy his love, not to do anything against his love for otherwise we also live against ourselves and against our freedom. And, in reality, this seeming liberty in emancipation from God immediately becomes a slavery of the many dictatorships of the time, that require guidance if they are to be deemed worthy of the time.

And lastly: “Do you reject Satan?”. This tells us that there is a “yes” to God and a “no” to the power of the Evil One who coordinates all these activities and wishes to set himself up as a god of this world, as St John says further. However, he is not God, he is only the adversary and we do not submit to his power; we say “no”, because we say “yes”, a fundamental “yes”, the “yes” of love and of truth. These three renunciations were accompanied in the ancient Baptismal rite by three immersions: immersion in water as symbol of death, of a “no” which is really the death of one type of life and resurrection to another life. We shall return to this. Then the confession in three questions: “Do you believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? In Christ...?” and, lastly, “in the Holy Spirit and the Church?” This formula, these three parts, were developed from the Lord’s words “baptize in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”; these words are put into practice and deepened: what it means to say Father, what it means to say Son and what it means to believe in being baptized in the Holy Spirit, in other words the whole of God’s action in history, in the Church, in the Communion of Saints. Thus the positive formula of Baptism is also a dialogue: it is not merely a formula. The profession of faith above all is not something to be understood, something intellectual, something to be memorized — this too of course — it also touches our mind, it especially touches our life. And to me this seems very important. It is not an intellectual thing, a pure formula. It is a dialogue of God with us, an action of God with us, it is a response of ours, it is a journey. The truth of Christ may be understood only if his journey is understood. Only if we accept Christ as the way do we really set out on the way of Christ and can understand the truth of Christ. Truth that is not lived does not open; only truth lived, truth accepted as a way of life, as a path, also opens as truth in its full riches and depth. This formula is thus a way, it is an expression of our conversion, of an action of God. And we really want to keep in mind throughout our life that we are in communion on our journey with God, with Christ. And so we are in communion with truth: in living the truth, the truth becomes life and in living this life we also find the truth.

Let us now move on to the material element: water. It is very important to see the two meanings of water. Water calls to mind the sea, especially the Red Sea, death in the Red Sea. The sea represents the power of death, the need to die in order to arrive at a new life. To me this seems very important. Baptism is not merely a ceremony, a ritual introduced long ago, nor is it solely a cleansing, a cosmetic operation. It is far more than a cleansing: it is death and life, it is death of a sort of existence and rebirth, resurrection to new life. This is the depth of being Christian: not only is it something that is added, but it is a new birth. After crossing the Red Sea we are renewed. In this way, in all the Old Testament experiences, for Christians the sea becomes a symbol of the Cross. For it is only through death, a radical renunciation in which one dies to a certain type of life, that there can be a rebirth and there can truly be new life. This is a part of the symbolism of water: it symbolizes — especially in the immersions of antiquity — the Red Sea, death, the Cross. It is only from the Cross that new life is attained and this occurs every day. Without this ceaselessly renewed death, we cannot renew the true vitality of the new life of Christ

The other symbol is that of the source. Water is the origin of all life; in addition to the symbolism of death, it also has the symbolism of the new life. Every life also comes from water, from the water that flows from Christ as the true new life that accompanies us to eternity.

In the end the question — only a small word — concerning Baptism for children remains. Is it right to have it administered to children or would it be more necessary to make the catechumenal way first in order to arrive at a truly fulfilled Baptism? And the other question that is always asked is: “But can we impose on an infant the religion he should or not live? Shouldn’t we leave this decision to the child?” These questions show that we no longer see the new life, the true life in the Christian faith but we see a choice among others, even a burden that should not be imposed on an individual without his or her consent. The reality is different. Life itself is given to us without our being able to choose whether or not we wish to live; no one is asked “do you want to be born or not?”. Life itself necessarily comes to us without our previous consent, it is thus given to us and we cannot decide in advance “‘yes’ or ‘no’, I want or I do not want to live”. And, in reality, the real question is: “Is it right to give life in this world without having received an assent — do you want to live or not? Can one really anticipate life, give life without the individual having had the possibility to decide?”. I would say: it is possible and right only if, with life, we can also guarantee that life, with all the problems of the world, is good, that it is good to live, that there is a guarantee that this life be good, be protected by God and be a real gift. Only the anticipation of its meaning justifies the anticipation of life. And because of this Baptism as a guarantee of God's goodness, as an anticipation of the meaning, of the “yes” of God who protects this life, also justifies the anticipation of life. Hence, the Baptism of children is not against freedom; it is truly necessary to give it in order to justify the gift of life — that would otherwise be questionable. Only the life that is in God’s hands, in Christ’s hands, immersed in the name of the Trinitarian God, is certainly a good that can be given without scruples. Thus we are grateful to God who has given us this gift, who has given us himself. And our challenge is to live this gift, to really live, in a post-baptismal journey, the renunciations of the “yes”, to live always in the great “yes” of God, and so to live well. Thank you."