(15 Jan 2020) LEAD IN:
More than 500 babies have been baptized in a mass ceremony in Georgia.
The infants were also given the honour of becoming godchildren to the country’s Patriarch Ilia II.
A few dips into the water and a few tears, and this baby begins his journey in the Orthodox Christian faith.
The child is one of more than 500 who are being baptized at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi.
The church is filled with tears, laughter, buckets of water, priests, babies and their godparents for the mass ceremony.
And as an extra incentive to embrace the religion, these children will get a special godparent – Georgia’s Patriarch Ilia II.
He has taken on this role for thousands of babies since 2007 in an effort to boost birth rates.
“In Georgia, there was a big problem regarding the childbirth rate and in 2007 the Patriarch made the decision to become the godfather of every third and following child,” explains priest Shalva Kekelia,.
“Eleven years have elapsed since this and today we have so many baptized children. All this shows how much people love the Patriarch and what a huge thing his prayers have done.”
According to the country’s statistics department, in 2008 Georgia had the highest birth rate in nine years – 56,565 children were born in comparison to 49,287 children in 2007.
And the birth rate has not dipped since then, boosting Georgia’s population of 3.7 million.
More than 40,000 babies have been baptized under this initiative with mass ceremonies like this one taking place at least four times a year.
“It is a very emotional thing because the Patriarch will pray for him (baptized child) every day and this is a huge blessing,” says Bachuki Qiria, one of the godfathers.
“It is the first time I am a godfather along with the Patriarch and it is a very emotional day for me.”
Parents from across Georgia travelled here to have their babies baptized.
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