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Pope baptizes twins after successful surgery to separate them

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VATICAN CITY -- Their heads encased in white bandages covering the wounds where they had been conjoined, 2-year-old twins named Ervina and Prefina were baptized by Pope Francis Aug. 6 in the chapel of his residence.


The babies from the Central Africa Republic are still hospitalized at the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital in Rome, a spokesman said Aug. 10. But their mother, identified only as Ermine, "really wanted the pope to baptize them."


A team of doctors, led by Dr. Carlo Marras, chief of neurosurgery at the hospital, performed the final separation surgery June 5. The hospital held a news conference a month later to announce the successful separation of the conjoined twins and their progressive recovery.


Dr. Marras attended the baptism, according to a photograph tweeted by Antoinette Montaigne, a former government official in the Central African Republic and lawyer specializing in children's rights.


Pope Francis visited a hospital when he went to the Central African Republic in 2015; returning to Rome, he asked the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome to begin a project there.


Mariella Enoc, president of the Rome hospital, met Ermine and her newborn twins during a visit to Bangui in July 2018 as part of the project to establish a pediatric medical center there, the hospital said. The twins and their mother arrived in Rome two months later.


After more than a year of tests and studies, particularly given how many veins the babies shared, they underwent their first surgery in May 2019; a second operation followed a month later. New veins and grafts were allowed to grow for a year before the final surgery to separate the girls, who had been joined at the back of the head.


A news release from the hospital July 7 said, "June 29 they celebrated their second birthday looking in each other's eyes."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020