An infant died shortly after inhaling water during his Romanian Orthodox baptism in the northwestern town of Suceava, regional news portal monitorulsv.ro reports.
After the tragedy, the father of the month-and-a-half-old child told the portal that the priest performed the ceremony even though the child was screaming.
“We took the baby to the church for baptism, and all I can tell you is that the boy was crying, but despite that, the priest immersed him three times in water, during which he inhaled some water,” the father said. “The priest took him out [of the water] and dried him, and doctors told us afterward that he inhaled 110 milliliters of water… I mean if you see the child is screaming with his mouth open, you should not submerge him?”
Dr. Dan Teodorivici, spokesman for the Suceava county hospital, said that when the child arrived there, he had no heartbeat or pulse. Doctors managed to resuscitate him, but the child died the next morning, probably as a consequence of protracted lack of oxygen.
The priest who performed the baptism, Alexandur Mazarache, did not wish to speak to the press, but his superior, Suceava dean Doru Budeanu, said the baptism was performed according to church regulations, with three successive full immersions in water. He added that the priest was well versed in the ritual and the only issue he was aware of was that the boy was born prematurely.
Someone was filming the entire ceremony on behalf of the family. The recording was seized as evidence and is now being examined by police. While police initially launched an investigation into involuntary bodily harm, they have since changed it to involuntary manslaughter.
Budeanu also said that despite the accident, the Romanian Orthodox Church will not alter the ritual, but “care will have to be taken that the child’s mouth and nose remain above water.”