Pope: Children are not their parents' property

Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI, in a mass on Sunday in which he baptized 13 babies, said parents should not regard their offspring as a "private property", but rather focus on providing them with a Christian upbringing. The 81-year-old pontiff presided over the ceremony held in the Sistine Chapel and which commemorates Jesus' own baptism in the river Jordan by the prophet John the Baptist.

In his homily, Benedict said parents should also refrain from "moulding (their children) on the basis of their own ideas and desires," nor allow them the full liberty of fulfilling every wish and aspiration.

Benedict also defended baptism, the water ritual in which infants are introduced to Christianity.

Through baptism "we are not harming (children), but gifting them the richness of divine life ... a freedom which needs to be educated and formed over the years so as to make personal choices possible and responsible," Benedict said.

Later, during the traditional Sunday Angelus noon blessing to the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square, Benedict referred to the Roman Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families scheduled from January 13 to 18 in Mexico City.

Benedict will not be attending the event due to concerns that the Mexican capital's high altitude may be harmful for his health, but said Sunday he will follow proceedings in prayer and through a satellite video link.