Patriarch Kirill Baptizes by Sprinkling

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October 07, 2014  (Source:

It has been known for sometime that Baptisms performed in the Moscow Patriarchate (and Serbian Patriarchate, where it is common also, 1, 2, 3, for example) have been performed by sprinkling and/or pouring water over the top of a child’s head. This is, of course, contrary to the practice of the Orthodox Church for 2000 years.

Yet, it has become more and more a common problem in the World Patriarchates to perform the form of Baptism in a manner that is contrary to the Tradition of the Canons and Fathers.   I believe some Orthodox writers are more than accurate when they say that this new phenomena of omitting immersion is part of the ecumenical movement. So, it should come as no surprise that Patriarch Kirill baptizes by sprinkling and/or pouring. Indeed, this seems to be a common occurrence in the MP.

Now, it is true that in the Didache and in the Epistles of St. Cyprian, as well as in Cn. 12 of NeoCaesarea, there is envisioned a practice known commonly as ‘clinical baptism’. This form of baptism was to be performed in extreme circumstance, such as being near death, extreme sickness. The word “Clinic” derives from the ancient Greek word “κλινικός” which means “pertaining to the bed”.  This was done by pouring water on the head thrice, in imitation of the triple immersion.  St. Cyrpian does not say this form should be repeated (within the context of it being done under extreme necessity within the bounds of the Orthodox Church; as opposed to outside the Church), but, it should be noted that Cn. 12 of Neo-Caesarea states such should not be ordained. This is not because they are ‘half-valid’ but because such people are not worthy of holy Orders since they represent a bad example since they waited till their death bed to receive the Mystery. However, the Council of Neo-Caesarea does state that, if the bishop so decides, he may dispense with this impediment and advance them to Holy Orders. Yet, it is impossible to say that the case above is one of ‘extreme necessity’.  In fact, the conditions of the MP, with their wealth and opulence are the furthest from it.

Abp. Lazar (Zhurbenko), the former first Hierarch of the RTOC (Tikhonites), which is now led by Abp. Tikhon of Omsk, did admit in an interview that there were cases, due to many circusmtances (such as moving around Russia and having little to nothing with him), where he had to perform some Baptisms by non-immersive means. I know this is controversial with some; but, note that Abp. Lazar at least knew it was an extreme thing to do in extreme circumstances. He says: ” True, they do not immerse, but after all, there were Periods in the Church’s history-in the time of Hieromartyr Cyprian, for example—-when the Church recognized baptism by sprinkling by virtue of necessity. Not because this was the only way: it should be performed by immersion, and we immerse. But this is not always possible. When I was moving about the country, sometimes there was no water, sometimes there was no suitable vessel, and yet I had to perform the baptism; it couldn’t be postponed. And so we would simply pour water over the head, in the name of the Holy Trinity. And we accept the Mystery of Chrismation as a lawful baptism.”

Even this proved a little controversial, though, one can say that Abp. Lazar going to the wilderness of Russia and performing baptism in extreme circumstances, is a far cry from the resources the MP holds. Thus, it is not ‘blind fanaticism’ which is leading many True Orthodox to increasingly be forced to receive people form the Ecumenists by Baptism, but, the real danger that the form is being radically distorted.  The longer groups like the MP, and others stay outside the Church, the further many of their practices become from the ancient Tradition of Orthodoxy.





  • HmkEnoch

    “Let presbyters also know that when they administer Baptism they ought not to pour the consecrated water upon the infants’ heads, but let them always be immersed in the font; as the Son of God Himself afforded an example unto all believers when he was three times immersed in the river Jordan.” 11th Canon of the Second Council of Calcuith (Chelsea), England, AD 816

  • HmkEnoch

    “There are many who say that they Baptize in the Name of Christ alone, and by a single immersion. But the Gospel command, which was given by God Himself, and Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, reminds us that we should administer Holy Baptism to everyone, in the Name of the Trinity and by trine immersion, for Our Lord said to His Disciple, ‘Go, Baptize all nations in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ ”
    Pope Pelagius (561 AD), Epist. ad. Gaudent. ap. Gratianum, distinct. 4, c. 82.