VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In a gesture of closeness to those who lost loved ones and homes following several devastating earthquakes, Pope Francis baptized 13 babies from central Italy. The pope celebrated the sacrament of baptism Jan. 14 in a private ceremony in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.
The Vatican said that all of the babies baptized by the pope were born after last year’s earthquakes and that “the youngest of the babies was five days old.”
The central Italian region – particularly the towns of Amatrice, Rieti, Accumoli, and Pescara del Tronto – were rocked by a 6.2 magnitude quake Aug. 24, 2016.
Amatrice was the hardest-hit town, accounting for 234 of the estimated 290 deaths, according to the Italian Civil Protection office. Pope Francis visited the hardest-hit areas Oct. 4 and then a powerful 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Norcia in the early morning Oct. 30, reducing the Basilica of St. Benedict to rubble.