Catechism of the Catholic Church: Baptism
Article 1 - The Sacrament of Baptism
1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to
life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives
access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and
reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into
the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of
regeneration through water in the word."
- What is this Sacrament called?
- Baptism in the Economy of Salvation
- How is the Sacrament of Baptism celebrated?
- Who can receive Baptism?
- Who can Baptize?
- The necessity of Baptism
- The grace of Baptism
I. What is this sacrament called?
1214 This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it
is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to "plunge" or
"immerse"; the "plunge" into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial
into Christ's death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as
"a new creature."
1215 This sacrament is also called "the washing of regeneration and
renewal by the Holy Spirit," for it signifies and actually brings about
the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one "can enter the
kingdom of God."
1216 "This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this
[catechetical] instruction are enlightened in their understanding
. . . ." Having received in Baptism the Word, "the true light that enlightens
every man," the person baptized has been "enlightened," he becomes a "son
of light," indeed, he becomes "light" himself:
Baptism is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift....We call it gift,
grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth,
seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on
those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the
guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is
priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it
radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes;
and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God's Lordship.
II. How is the Sacrament of Baptism celebrated?
Prefigurations of Baptism in the Old Covenant
1217 In the liturgy of the Easter Vigil, during the blessing of the
baptismal water, the Church solemnly commemorates the great events in
salvation history that already prefigured the mystery of Baptism:
Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs which tell us of the
wonders of your unseen power.
In Baptism we use your gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of
the grace you give us in this sacrament.
1218 Since the beginning of the world, water, so humble and wonderful a
creature, has been the source of life and fruitfulness. Sacred Scripture
sees it as "oveshadowed" by the Spirit of God:
At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed on the waters, making
them the wellspring of all holiness.
1219 The Church has seen in Noah's ark a prefiguring of salvation by
Baptism, for by it "a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through
The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of Baptism,
that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness.
1220 If water springing up from the earth symbolizes life, the water of
the sea is a symbol of death and so can represent the mystery of the
cross. By this symbolism Baptism signifies communion with Christ's death.
1221 But above all, the crossing of the Red Sea, literally the liberation
of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, announces the liberation wrought by
You freed the children of Abraham from the slavery of Pharaoh, bringing
them dry-shod through the waters of the Red Sea, to be an image of the
people set free in Baptism.
1222 Finally, Baptism is prefigured in the crossing of the Jordan River by
which the People of God received the gift of the land promised to
Abraham's descendants, an image of eternal life. The promise of this
blessed inheritance is fulfilled in the New Covenant.
1223 All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ
Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St.
John the Baptist in the Jordan. After his resurrection Christ gives
this mission to his apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded
1224 Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John,
intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness." Jesus'
gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying. The Spirit who had
hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ
as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his
1225 In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He
had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in
Jerusalem, as a "Baptism" with which he had to be baptized. The blood
and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are
types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From
then on, it is possible "to be born of water and the Spirit" in order
to enter the Kingdom of God.
See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the
cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for
you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved.
Baptism in the Church
1226 From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and
administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd
astounded by his preaching: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in
the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." The apostles and their
collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the
God-fearing, pagans. Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith:
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your
household," St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. And the narrative
continues, the jailer "was baptized at once, with all his family."
1227 According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism
into communion with Christ's death, is buried with him, and rises with
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism
into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the
Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
The baptized have "put on Christ." Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is
a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies.
1228 Hence Baptism is a bath of water in which the "imperishable seed" of
the Word of God produces its life-giving effect. St. Augustine says of
Baptism: "The word is brought to the material element, and it becomes a
III. How is the Sacrament of Baptism celebrated?
1229 From the time of the apostles, becoming a Christian has been
accomplished by a journey and initiation in several stages. This journey
can be covered rapidly or slowly, but certain essential elements will
always have to be present: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the
Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion.
1230 This initiation has varied greatly through the centuries according to
circumstances. In the first centuries of the Church, Christian initiation
saw considerable development. A long period of catechumenate included a
series of preparatory rites, which were liturgical landmarks along the
path of catechumenal preparation and culminated in the celebration of the
sacraments of Christian initiation.
1231 Where infant Baptism has become the form in which this sacrament is
usually celebrated, it has become a single act encapsulating the
preparatory stages of Christian initiation in a very abridged way. By its
very nature infant Baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumenate. Not
only is there a need for instruction after Baptism, but also for the
necessary flowering of baptismal grace in personal growth. The catechism
has its proper place here.
1232 The second Vatican Council restored for the Latin Church "the
catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps." The
rites for these stages are to be found in the Rite of Christian Initiation
of Adults (RCIA). The Council also gives permission that: "In mission
countries, in addition to what is furnished by the Christian tradition,
those elements of initiation rites may be admitted which are already in
use among some peoples insofar as they can be adapted to the Christian
1233 Today in all the rites, Latin and Eastern, the Christian initiation
of adults begins with their entry into the catechumenate and reaches its
culmination in a single celebration of the three sacraments of initiation:
Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. In the Eastern rites the
Christian initiation of infants also begins with Baptism followed
immediately by Confirmation and the Eucharist, while in the Roman rite it
is followed by years of catechesis before being completed later by
Confirmation and the Eucharist, the summit of their Christian
The mystagogy of the celebration
1234 The meaning and grace of the sacrament of Baptism are clearly seen in
the rites of its celebration. By following the gestures and words of this
celebration with attentive participation, the faithful are initiated into
the riches this sacrament signifies and actually brings about in each
newly baptized person.
1235 The sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks
with the imprint of Christ the one who is going to belong to him and
signifies the grace of the redemption Christ won for us by his cross.
1236 The proclamation of the Word of God enlightens the candidates and the
assembly with the revealed truth and elicits the response of faith, which
is inseparable from Baptism. Indeed Baptism is "the sacrament of faith" in
a particular way, since it is the sacramental entry into the life of
1237 Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator
the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The
celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens, or lays his hands
on him, and he explicitly renounces Satan. Thus prepared, he is able to
confess the faith of the Church, to which he will be "entrusted" by
1238 The baptismal water is consecrated by a prayer of epiclesis (either
at this moment or at the Easter Vigil). The Church asks God that through
his Son the power of the Holy Spirit may be sent upon the water, so that
those who will be baptized in it may be "born of water and the
1239 The essential rite of the sacrament follows: Baptism properly
speaking. It signifies and actually brings about death to sin and entry
into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the
Paschal mystery of Christ. Baptism is performed in the most expressive way
by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it
has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over
the candidate's head.
1240 In the Latin Church this triple infusion is accompanied by the
minister's words: "N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit." In the Eastern liturgies the catechumen
turns toward the East and the priest says: "The servant of God, N., is
baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit." At the invocation of each person of the Most Holy Trinity, the
priest immerses the candidate in the water and raises him up again.
1241 The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the
bishop, signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who
has become a Christian, that is, one "anointed" by the Holy Spirit,
incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king.
1242 In the liturgy of the Eastern Churches, the post-baptismal anointing
is the sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation). In the Roman liturgy the
post- baptismal anointing announces a second anointing with sacred chrism
to be conferred later by the bishop Confirmation, which will as it were
"confirm" and complete the baptismal anointing.
1243 The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has "put on
Christ," has risen with Christ. The candle, lit from the Easter
candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the neophyte. In him the
baptized are "the light of the world."
The newly baptized is now, in the only Son, a child of God entitled to say
the prayer of the children of God: "Our Father."
1244 First Holy Communion. Having become a child of God clothed with the
wedding garment, the neophyte is admitted "to the marriage supper of the
Lamb" and receives the food of the new life, the body and blood of
Christ. The Eastern Churches maintain a lively awareness of the unity of
Christian initiation by giving Holy Communion to all the newly baptized
and confirmed, even little children, recalling the Lord's words: "Let the
children come to me, do not hinder them." The Latin Church, which
reserves admission to Holy Communion to those who have attained the age of
reason, expresses the orientation of Baptism to the Eucharist by having
the newly baptized child brought to the altar for the praying of the Our
1245 The solemn blessing concludes the celebration of Baptism. At the
Baptism of newborns the blessing of the mother occupies a special place.
IV. Who can receive Baptism?
1246 "Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is able to be
The Baptism of adults
1247 Since the beginning of the Church, adult Baptism is the common
practice where the proclamation of the Gospel is still new. The
catechumenate (preparation for Baptism) therefore occupies an important
place. This initiation into Christian faith and life should dispose the
catechumen to receive the gift of God in Baptism, Confirmation, and the
1248 The catechumenate, or formation of catechumens, aims at bringing
their conversion and faith to maturity, in response to the divine
initiative and in union with an ecclesial community. The catechumenate is
to be "a formation in the whole Christian life . . . during which the
disciples will be joined to Christ their teacher. The catechumens should
be properly initiated into the mystery of salvation and the practice of
the evangelical virtues, and they should be introduced into the life of
faith, liturgy, and charity of the People of God by successive sacred
1249 Catechumens "are already joined to the Church, they are already of
the household of Christ, and are quite frequently already living a life of
faith, hope, and charity." "With love and solicitude mother Church
already embraces them as her own."
The Baptism of infants
1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children
also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of
darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God,
to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of
salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the
parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God
were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.
1251 Christian parents will recognize that this practice also accords with
their role as nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them.
1252 The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the
Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second
century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the
apostolic preaching, when whole "households" received baptism, infants may
also have been baptized.
Faith and Baptism
1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community
of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the
faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and
mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or
the godparent is asked: "What do you ask of God's Church?" The response
1254 For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after
Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter
Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads
only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life
in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth.
1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents' help is important.
So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm
believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized - child or adult on
the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function
(officium). The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility
for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.
V. Who can Baptize?
1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in
the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, any person,
even someone not baptized, can baptize, if he has the required intention.
The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she
baptizes, and to apply the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The Church finds
the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and
the necessity of Baptism for salvation.
VI. The necessity of Baptism
1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.
He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and
to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom
the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking
for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than
Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes
care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that
all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has
bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound
by his sacraments.
1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer
death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are
baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like
the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a
1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire
to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity,
assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the
1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to
one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy
Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way
known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of
the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the
will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It
may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if
they had known its necessity.
1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can
only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites
for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should
be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say:
"Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope
that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without
Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little
children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
VII. The grace of Baptism
1262 The different effects of Baptism are signified by the perceptible
elements of the sacramental rite. Immersion in water symbolizes not only
death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal. Thus the two
principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy
For the forgiveness of sins . . .
1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins,
as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn
nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God,
neither Adam's sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the
gravest of which is separation from God.
1264 Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such
as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as
weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that
Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, "the tinder for sin"
(fomes peccati); since concupiscence "is left for us to wrestle with, it
cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace
of Jesus Christ." Indeed, "an athlete is not crowned unless he
competes according to the rules."
"A new creature"
1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte
"a new creature," an adopted son of God, who has become a "partaker of the
divine nature," member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a
temple of the Holy Spirit.
1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace
- enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through
the theological virtues;
- giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy
Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
- allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
Thus the whole organism of the Christian's supernatural life has its roots
Incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ
1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: "Therefore . . . we
are members one of another." Baptism incorporates us into the Church.
From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New
Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations,
cultures, races, and sexes: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into
1268 The baptized have become "living stones" to be "built into a
spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood." By Baptism they share in
the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are "a
chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that
[they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of
darkness into his marvelous light." Baptism gives a share in the
common priesthood of all believers.
1269 Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no
longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us. From now on,
he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of
the Church, and to "obey and submit" to the Church's leaders, holding
them in respect and affection. Just as Baptism is the source of
responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within
the Church: to receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of
God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church.
1270 "Reborn as sons of God, [the baptized] must profess before men the
faith they have received from God through the Church" and participate in
the apostolic and missionary activity of the People of God.
The sacramental bond of the unity of Christians
1271 Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians,
including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic
Church: "For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are
put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.
Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they
therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are
accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church." "Baptism
therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who
through it are reborn."
An indelible spiritual mark . . .
1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is
configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible
spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase
this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of
salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.
1273 Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful have received
the sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian religious
worship. The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve
God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to
exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and
1274 The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord ("Dominicus
character") "for the day of redemption." "Baptism indeed is the seal
of eternal life." The faithful Christian who has "kept the seal" until
the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to
depart this life "marked with the sign of faith," with his baptismal
faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God - the consummation of
faith - and in the hope of resurrection.
1275 Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together:
Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its
strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with
Christ's Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ.
1276 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20).
1277 Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the
Lord's will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself,
which we enter by Baptism.
1278 The essential rite of Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in
water or pouring water on his head, while pronouncing the invocation of
the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
1279 The fruit of Baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that
includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the
new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of
Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact the person
baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a
sharer in the priesthood of Christ.
1280 Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the
character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship.
Because of the character Baptism cannot be repeated (cf. DS 1609 and DS
1281 Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those
who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of
grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even
if they have not been baptized (cf. LG 16).
1282 Since the earliest times, Baptism has been administered to children,
for it is a grace and a gift of God that does not presuppose any human
merit; children are baptized in the faith of the Church. Entry into
Christian life gives access to true freedom.
1283 With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy
of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their
1284 In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have
the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he
pours water on the candidate's head while saying: "I baptize you in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
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