VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI administered the sacrament of baptism for the first time in his pontificate to 10 newborns, and urged a "no" to the "prevailing" culture of death.
Today, on the day the Church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus, the Pope resumed Pope John Paul II's practice of baptizing infants on the liturgical feast that closes out the Christmas season. John Paul II had been unable to carry out the baptisms the last two years because of his declining health.
The sacrament was administered before Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" in the Sistine Chapel, the same place where Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome on April 19. The Holy Father addressed a spontaneous homily to the parents, godparents and families of the 10 Italian newborns, five boys and five girls. One of them received the second name Karol, in Polish, in memory of the late Pope.
"With baptism, this child is introduced in the company of friends who will never abandon him in life and in death, and this company of friends is the family of God, which bears in itself the promise of eternity," said the Pope.
Benedict XVI noted: "None of us know what will happen on our planet, in our Europe, in the next 50, 60 or 70 years, but there is something of which we are certain: that the family of God will always be present and that those who belong to this family are never alone, but have the sure friendship of him who is life."
Because of this, coherence with baptism calls for saying "yes" to Christ and to life, and "no" to evil and death, the Pope said. "We can say that also in our time a 'no' is necessary to the prevailing culture of death, an anti-culture that manifests itself, for example, in the escape in drugs," he said.
"Escape from reality in the illusory, in a false happiness that manifests itself in lies, in fraud, in injustice, in contempt for others, for solidarity, for responsibility vis-à-vis the poor and the suffering," he stated.
The culture of death, the Holy Father continued, "manifests itself in a sexuality that becomes pure gratification without responsibility, that makes of man a thing, so to speak, as it no longer considers him as person, with a personal love, with fidelity, but turns him into merchandise."
"To this apparent promise of fidelity, to this pomp of an apparent life which in reality is no more than an instrument of death, to this 'anti-culture,' we say 'no' to cultivate a culture of life," he continued. Benedict XVI added that the "yes" of the culture of life is pronounced with fidelity to the Ten Commandments, "which are not prohibitions, but a vision of life."
He explained: "They are a 'yes' to a God who gives meaning, in the first Commandments; 'yes' to the family, Fourth Commandment; 'yes' to life, Fifth Commandment; 'yes' to responsible love, Sixth Commandment; 'yes' to solidarity, social responsibility and justice, Seventh Commandment; 'yes' to truth. This is the philosophy and culture of life that becomes concrete, possible and beautiful in communion with Christ."
Therefore, "baptism is a gift of life and a challenge to live life," saying "no" to the "attack of death, which presents itself in the disguise of life," the Pope said. In the prayer of the faithful during the Mass, amid the cries of newborns, prayers were raised for families, that the "prodigy of love" be renewed in them daily, and for the 10 newly baptized infants, that they be "witnesses of the Gospel."