Coronavirus forces cancellation of papal baptisms in Sistine Chapel

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A traditional ceremony in which Pope Francis baptises newborn babies in the Sistine Chapel has been cancelled this year because of coronavirus restrictions, the Vatican announced.

The ceremony, which involves several dozen babies, their parents, godparents and family members, was to have taken place this Sunday, the day the Roman Catholic Church marks the feast of the baptism of Jesus.

The cancellation was announced after Italy decided to keep some nationwide holiday restrictions that were to expire on Thursday in place this weekend to slow infections.

The Vatican has severely limited or excluded public participation in papal events because of the coronavirus.

Italy has registered 75,680 COVID-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light on Feb. 21, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world. The country has also reported 2.166 million cases to date, according to the health ministry.

The pope is due to preside at an Epiphany Mass on Wednesday.

Main Photo: Visitors admire the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City. EPA-EFE/MAURIZIO BRAMBATTI

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