There are many spaces where women are discouraged from breastfeeding in public. Museums, airlines, and even hospitals have come under fire for not giving new moms enough support, or admonishing them for breastfeeding or pumping. But Pope Francis is a proponent of the practice, even in Catholicism’s holiest places.
In an annual baptism ceremony in the Sistine Chapel Sunday, the Pope encouraged mothers to feed their babies if they were hungry during the two-hour-long service.
Vatican News reports that the Pope “appeared to enjoy every minute” of the baptism ceremony, blessing 34 babies of Vatican employees and the diocese of Rome. This ceremony occurs every year on the day of a Catholic feast marking Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. The Pope gave a brief, “off the cuff” homily in Italian, telling parents to teach their children faith through “the language of love.”
“Babies have their own dialect,” he added. “If one starts to cry the others will follow, like in an orchestra.” He said that if the babies were “starting a concert” of crying because they were hungry, mothers should “go ahead and feed them,” for this too is a “language of love.”
This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has encouraged mothers to breastfeed in the Sistine Chapel. Last year at the same ceremony, the Pope made similarly supportive remarks, saying mothers should feed their children as “Mary breastfed Jesus.”
NPR’s Rebecca Hersher reported that even though Pope Francis has “repeatedly justified his position in the most traditional terms possible — harking back to the infancy of Christ himself,” not all Catholic churches have followed the same logic.