Change in baptismal rite emphasizes Church’s identity

Vatican City, Aug 23, 2013 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- In one of his last acts as Pope, Benedict XVI approved changed wording in the rite of baptism which emphasizes “the Church of God” as the community into which the baptized individual has been incorporated.

After having baptized a child, the minister will now receive him, saying, “The Church of God welcomes you with great joy,” according to a Feb. 22 decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship signed by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary.

The previous text read, “The Christian community welcomes you with great joy.”

The change took effect March 31 in the Latin typical edition of the baptismal texts, and is to be implemented in future vernacular editions.

According to the decree, Benedict XVI established the change during an audience with Cardinal Canizares held Jan. 28.

The decree was recently published in “Notitiae,” the newsletter of the Congregation.

The opening text of the decree states: “The gate of life and of the kingdom, Baptism is the sacrament of faith, by which men are incorporated into the one Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.”

“Wherefore it seemed good to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments of Baptism to introduce some changes … so that in (baptism) more light may be shed on the doctrinal teaching of the task and office of Mother Church.”

Vatican analyst Sandro Magister's commented in his Aug. 22 article in L'Espresso that the change emphasizes that “it is the Church of God … that receives those who are being baptized, and not generically the 'Christian community,'” which is ambiguous, and could refer merely to the local parish community or even other ecclesial communities.

Magister noted that Benedict XVI had in fact implemented the change in his own administration of baptism on Jan. 13, two weeks prior to his audience with Cardinal Canizares. According to Magister, when the emeritus Pope celebrated baptism that day in the Sistine Chapel, his annual custom, he said in Italian, “Dear children, with great joy the Church of God welcomes you.”

The present Italian text reads, “With great joy our Christian community welcomes you,” even though “our” is not included in the Latin text.

Prior to this year, when Benedict XVI celebrated baptism in Italian as Pope, he had omitted this “our,” conforming the Italian he pronounced to the Latin typical edition.

“Perhaps,” Magister concluded, “it is precisely that excessively self-referential 'our' that induced the pope theologian to decide on the change.”

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