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Pope baptizes 13 babies in Sistine Chapel

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI baptized 13 babies in the Sistine Chapel during Sunday Mass, which he celebrated at the altar at the foot of Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" wall fresco.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI baptized 13 babies in the Sistine Chapel during Sunday Mass, which he celebrated at the altar at the foot of Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" wall fresco.

In a departure from a tradition of his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict did not celebrate the Mass at a small altar set up to face the congregation. Instead, he celebrated it with his back to the congregation, which included the children's parents, godparents, grandparents and siblings.

Decades ago, priests routinely celebrated Mass at altars with their backs to parishioners, but after the modernizing changes of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, it became common practice for the celebrant to face the congregation.

The 80-year-old pontiff said it was a special joy for him to baptize the babies, who are children of Vatican employees. The parents will help their children develop "faith, hope and charity," he said.

 
 
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