VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI baptized children at the Vatican Sunday to mark the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, encouraging Christians to remember their own baptisms and the “beauty of being born again.”

“I would like to extend my prayer and my blessing to all newborns,” he said Jan. 13 after baptizing numerous babies aged 3- to 4 months in the Sistine Chapel.

“I especially invite everyone to remember your baptism, that spiritual rebirth that has opened the way to eternal life,” Pope Benedict said during his Angelus remarks in St. Peter’s Square. “May every Christian rediscover the beauty of being born again from above, from the love of God, and live as a child of God.”

The Pope said being a Christian means having a kind of life that involves a rebirth from God by grace. “This rebirth is baptism, which Christ has given to the Church to regenerate men to new life,” he said.

He reflected on Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, calling it Jesus’ “first public act.”

The Pope explained that, although Jesus had never sinned, he wanted to be baptized to make a gesture of penance and conversion, along with many others who wanted to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah.

“That gesture, which marks the beginning of Jesus’ public life, takes the same line of the Incarnation, of God’s descent from high heaven into the abyss of hell,” said the Pope. Jesus’ baptism is a “downward movement” that has love at its root.

“This Jesus is the new man who wants to live as a son of God and who, in the face of evil in the world, chooses the path of humility and responsibility,” said the Pope.


World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Sunday also marked the 99th observance of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, a celebration that Pope Pius X began in 1914.

Pope Benedict extended his greetings “with a special prayer and blessing, particularly to the Catholic communities of migrants in Rome.” He entrusted them to the protection of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini.

“In this year’s message, I compared migration to a pilgrimage of faith and hope,” said Pope Benedict, noting that “whoever leaves his land, it is because he hopes for a better future.

“But he does so because he trusts God, who guides his steps, and so migrants are bearers of faith and hope in the world.”