During an annual ceremony in the Sistine Chapel celebrating the baptism of Jesus Christ, the pontiff baptized 28 children. He encouraged the mothers present to nurse their children if they needed.
"The ceremony is a little long, someone’s crying because he’s hungry. That’s the way it is,” he said, reported Agence France-Presse. “You mothers, go ahead and breastfeed, without fear. Just like the Virgin Mary nursed Jesus.”
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This isn't the first time Pope Francis has shown some La Leche love. At the same ceremony in 2015, he specifically used the Italian words for "breastfeed" to urge mothers to feed hungry children during the services, noting that there are poor mothers in the world who are unable to feed their babies at all.
And in a 2013 interview with Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, Pope Francis voiced a similar message focusing on breastfeeding simply as a means of feeding hungry children and nothing more. In the interview, he told the story of a crying baby just behind the barriers at one of his public appearances. When he said something to the baby's young mother, she acknowledged the baby was hungry, but hesitated to feed him in public.
"She was shy and didn’t want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing," he told La Stampa. "I wish to say the same to humanity: give people something to eat! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone.
"If we work with humanitarian organizations and are able to agree all together not to waste food, sending it instead to those who need it, we could do so much to help solve the problem of hunger in the world. I would like to repeat to humanity what I said to that mother: give food to those who are hungry!"
The Reverend Molly Bosscher, associate rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, agrees with Pope Francis's statements. "Being a mother and breastfeeding my children is one of the greatest gifts of my life," she told TODAY Parents. "The pope is right: women, babies, and children belong in church, icons of the love between Mary and Jesus."