By Aiyeku Timothy
The Orthodox Church in Romania is under manslaughter investigation after a baby died following a ceremony which involves immersing infants three times in holy water.
The six-week-old is reported to have suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of the immersion in water and was rushed to the hospital where he later died.
The autopsy revealed liquid in his lungs which mounts growing pressure on the Orthodox Church in Romanian to change baptism rituals while Prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation against the priest in the north-eastern city of Suceava.
An online petition calling for changes to the ritual had gathered more than 56,000 signatures by Thursday evening.
“The death of a newborn baby because of this practice is a huge tragedy,” said a message with the petition. “This risk must be ruled out for the joy of baptism to triumph.”
One internet user denounced the “brutality” of the ritual and another criticised the “stubbornness of those who think that it is the will of God” to maintain it.
Local media hint that several similar incidents have happened in recent years.
In his reaction, the Church spokesman Vasile Banescu said priests could pour a little water on the baby’s forehead instead of full immersion. But Archbishop Teodosie, leader of the Church’s traditionalist wing, said the ritual would not change.
More than 80% of Romanians are Orthodox and the Church is one of the most trusted institutions, according to recent opinion polls.