January 13th, 2014
12:00 PM ET

Breastfeeding in church? Pope says yes

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
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(CNN) - Amid the iconic art in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, Pope Francis told mothers that it's acceptable to breastfeed their children in public, even in holy sites like churches.

Children's voices, even when crying, make "the most beautiful choir of all," Francis said during a service in which he baptized 32 children.

"Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry," the Pope said. "If they are hungry, mothers, let them eat, no worries, because here, they are the main focus."

The Sistine Chapel, with its famous frescoes by Michelangelo, is the official chapel of the Apostolic Palace, traditionally the papal residence. Francis, though, lives in the Vatican guesthouse, Casa Santa Marta, saying it better suits his low-key style.

The Pope's remarks echo statements he made to an Italian newspaper in December in which he tied breastfeeding to the problem of global hunger.

At a recent General Audience - or public appearance by the Pope - a young mother sat behind a screen with her crying infant, Francis told La Stampa.

"I said to her: 'Madam, I think the child’s hungry. ... Please give it something to eat!' " the Pope said.

"She was shy and didn’t want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing," he continued. "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."

Emer McCarthy, a journalist at Vatican Radio, told Catholic News Service that she breastfed her daughter discreetly during Sunday's baptism ceremony. "Who would have thought the Pope would be this great proponent?" she said.

Breastfeeding in public, particularly in sacred sites such as churches, remains a sensitive issue for families, as noted by a recent Religion News Service article.

A blog post on "Five Places Moms Need to Breastfeed Discreetly" listed churches as No. 5, following public pools, restaurants, airplanes and sporting events.

"It's wonderful when moms want to bring the kids to church and nurture their faith early on," wrote blogger Mary Fischer. "But a coverup is a necessity with a baby in tow. Do I really have to elaborate here?"

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Church • Ethics • Faith & Health • Food • gender issues • Health • Houses of worship • Mass • Pope Francis • Sacred Spaces • Women

soundoff (1,126 Responses)
  1. Doc Vestibule

    The puritan ethic's subconscious edge on the American psyche rears its ugly head again.
    There are few places in the world where nudity is so villified as the US – and few places where it has been so successfully commoditized.
    There is nothing indecent, unholy or distasteful about breast-feeding.
    Even the Bible says so.

    "Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet."
    – Joel 2:16

    January 13, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • HLN

      Why? Do you allow breast feeding in your corporate meetings? Not sure who had a baby recently at CNN, do they allow their news anchors to breast feed when their show is on air?

      January 13, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Mothers with infants that require suck don't generally bring them to work.
        CNN is unwililng to show such things for the aforementioned reason (if you have an infant that requires your constant care and attention, you shouldn't be at work) and also becuase their viewership also has that puritan edge to their psyche – it would generate complaints.
        The apropos question is whether or not it is something that should be hidden in Church – the topic of this article.
        While I am not a religionist, the above Bible quote seems to indicate that ALL are encouraged to attend services, including newlyweds, infants and their breast-feeding mothers.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
      • midwest rail

        Going to Mass is not equal to being at work. And most churches these days have family areas specifically for those with young ones.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
      • Dash

        You are seriously conflating a corporate boardroom and television with a Mass? Really?

        January 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
      • HLN

        No difference, for the same reasons you would not allow your little one to breast feed on you in a work meeting are the very same reasons a mother does not breast feed in other public places. It's called decorum, whether it's in a board room or be it on air or a church.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:40 pm |
        • JessMa

          Are you insane? Whether you are on air or in a boardroom you can't have your baby with you. You either stay home, get a nanny, or daycare. Unless you own the company or work at a daycare you can't bring your baby with you. If you are not working, then the law in every state allows you to nurse in public.

          January 13, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
      • midwest rail

        The norms of "decorum" are decidedly different in a corporate boardroom or on the air. Breastfeeding is a natural, beautiful thing. When done properly, it is virtually unnoticeable.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
  2. jsdrt0616

    Hey Pathetic Pope:

    Explain how it is possible that the Bible is the word of God in spite that there are a lot of different versions, and the Jewish Bible is very, very different then any Christian Bible at the present time !

    January 13, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • Dash

      Explain how the OT and the NT are alike and different. Go!

      January 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm |
  3. jsdrt0616

    Hey Circus Pope:

    Be brave and tell the world that you think that you are God, sometimes !

    January 13, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
    • Dash

      We get it. You don't like the Pope.
      Admit that no matter what he does, you will still hate him.
      Man up, or shut up.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
  4. Chris

    Is there an age limit to this?

    January 13, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
    • Wu

      For how long were you breast fed?

      January 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
    • guitartrooper

      I stopped at 16

      January 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
      • Wu

        Why did you stop?

        January 13, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
  5. Dyslexic doG

    so ... Christians ...

    if god made adam first, why did he give him ni.pples?

    and if he made him without a female, why did he give him a pen1s?

    January 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
    • tc

      To confuse atheists, what else?

      January 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        well he has certainly done that! 🙂

        January 13, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
    • jsdrt0616

      Jhe he.... and not only that, if God made Eve of the DNA material of Adam, then Eve was maybe like a sister to Adam.... and they both, then, commited incest. Ugly, Uff !

      The Bibles are just childish frauds.....

      January 13, 2014 at 4:19 pm |
  6. Chris

    That's one way to get church attendance up. Women may be taking off their tops. Whoo hoo!

    January 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      clever marketing!

      January 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
    • Mopery

      So now you can pleasure yourself in church while watching mothers feed their babies?

      January 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
      • G to the T

        Pervert! You wait until you get home and then re-watch the picture you took. Duh!

        January 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
      • James

        That's actually the problem: not the women feeding their babies but the pervs watching them.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          It's not perverted.

          January 13, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
  7. jsdrt0616

    Circus Pope:

    I challenge you to do IMPORTANT things, as demonstrate that God exists, instead of keep doing practically nothing every day, except for some circus.

    google: Clear proof that God doesn't exist

    January 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
    • Dash

      That isn't up to him. That's up to you. Grow up.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
      • jsdrt0616

        Are yoy mentally challenged?

        It is not the Pope the indicated to answer important quiestions related to God?

        Are you deceiving people?

        January 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
        • Dash

          No, I'm not mentally challenged. Are you? Or do you not like people to challenge your asinine and absurd statements?

          Grow up.

          January 13, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
    • usmc63

      Seems like a nice guy. has he changed anything. How about selling the junk in Vatican Museum!!

      January 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
      • tc

        Well if you don;t follow him Marine, then don't worry about it jarhead. By the way, the Vatican treasures are a priceless museum, so we should also sell all the crap in the Smithsonian and Pentagon and al lthat stupid Marine junk from years ago! Straighten up and fly right boy – Airman

        January 13, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
    • tc

      Lots of anger and arrogance from you. Let people live as thye choose and it's OK, you don't have to understadn everything – that's why we call them mysteries.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
  8. james Pfeiffer

    It just might be that Francis is the most enlightened pope in the history of the church. I'm positive, that with his wonderful wisdom, he'll embrace even all those who, unbelievably, are not intellectually and emotionally ready to acknowledge the words of this great humanitarian and "true" religious leader. What a breath of fresh air in this corrupt and greedy world!

    January 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
    • Mopery

      Religious leader, career politician, unrepentant psychopath, there is little difference between any of them.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
      • james Pfeiffer

        You forgot the most important one...the cynic.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
    • Doug

      Wow. I really understand the psychology of mass delusion but it saddens me when I see it.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
    • pattysboi

      That's so true. After the pope benny debacle, the world NEEDED a new Pope.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
    • sly

      Jeez ... what a load. "greedy world"? We call it human nature, hasn't changed in over 50,000 years. Greed is an extension of evolution of the fittest.

      "this pope is different"? Pope's are all very very very conservative white men, and 99% the same. So at least this guy knows there are things like automobiles and electricity and gay rights, but aside from that he's still pushing a 1500 year old philosophy about unknown people and special beings in the clouds.

      Oh well .. if y'all want to spend your lives worshipping some other man, good for you. Hope it makes you happy, cause that's all life is about. Pleasure.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm |
  9. jsdrt0616

    Circus Francis Pope , I challenge you to explain, How you keep talking about humility and the Roman catholic Church in New York is raising $ 180 million dollars to restore a Cathedral ?

    $180-million fund-raising effort to renovate St. Patrick’s Cathedral. :


    January 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
    • Dash

      That's being done with donations, and it is a historic building. You would complain if the WH needed repairs? Probably.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
      • jsdrt0616

        You are trying to deceive the readers.

        I know that is being done with donations by the rich, because the existence of the Jesus Christ Myth is very convenient for them.

        I am demonstrating that the Pope is pure hypocritical at not ordering to GIVE the money to the pooer instead of giving it to the bishops , who are going to take some part and use the resto to the restoration.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
    • oldguy68

      I doubt that you gave, so don't sweat it.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:22 pm |
  10. Nogods

    I know it is okay to eat the flesh of Jesus in church. I am glad to see it is now okay to wash it down with a little milk.

    January 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG


      January 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
    • Simpsons

      They eat flesh inside the church? What kind of meat do they serve?

      January 13, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
  11. Pedo

    I need to start going to church

    January 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
    • Mopery

      Why? You have the internet, you can see all the t i t s you want there.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
      • Chris

        But the ones in church are three dimensional.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
        • Mopery

          So are the babies suckling them, your point?

          January 13, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
  12. Life

    Wow, the tangents. How did all of this come from breastfeeding in church? Y'all are funny.

    January 13, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
  13. Carole

    The average person doesn't want to watch babies breastfeeding, even if mom doesn't care what anyone else thinks.

    January 13, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
    • visitor

      You are not forced to watch.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
    • whatever

      It's never bothered me. What bothers me is that some people have a problem with a woman feeding her child, a natural process of life.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
    • sam

      Maybe the average person 100 years ago. It's the 21st century. If seeing a mother breastfeed her child makes you uncomfortable then you have a childish mind.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
  14. nastywhiteboi

    heck, the pope just wanna sneak a peek just like the rest of us 😉

    January 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • Mopery

      There's nothing s e x u a l about breastfeeding, and if you think that there is, then wouldn't you have to consider it as i n c e s t?

      January 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
  15. palintwit

    Teabaggers will gladly crawl a mile over broken glass just to sniff the tire tracks of the truck that took Sarah Palin's underwear to the laundry.

    January 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
    • Mopery

      Sounds fishy to me...

      January 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
  16. RA

    Breastfeeding should be done discretely and not made into a show. Most churches have some means for women to take care of this without flopping it out for all to see.

    But I'm curious where the Pope finds infant baptism in the Bible. Pffft...Catholics...they're always changing Scripture.

    January 13, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • visitor

      I have never ever seen anyone just "flop it out" for all to see. I am not sure what sort of people you hang out with.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
    • Dash

      If you believe in Scripture, why are you having such a problem with women using their breasts in the way God designed and intended?

      January 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
  17. wkb2texans

    What next? The Pope says it's okay to tie your shoe laces in church. Or the Pope says sneezing is fine!! The Media can be FAR too much.

    January 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
  18. weezer

    I like this pope and his proclamations, but I suspect this one is him just trying to get a peek at a few headlights. But hey - it's better than looking at alter boys.

    January 13, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.