Pope Francis assures women they can breastfeed in church, just like the Virgin Mary

Women breastfeed babies during an event, at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City on Aug. 1, 2015. | Reuters/Henry Romero

Pope Francis made a bold statement while attending a ceremony in Vatican during the weekend: women should feel free to breastfeed their children inside the church.

The pontiff was presiding the baptism of 15 newborn boys and 13 girls at an annual ceremony that paid tribute to the baptism of Jesus when, at one point, he encouraged mothers to feed their babies who were crying out of hunger as the service in the Sistine Chapel was "a little long." To assure the women, the pope even emphasized that the Virgin Mary herself nursed Jesus as a baby.

In many parts of the world, including the United States, breastfeeding in public has always been a subject of debate, with many people still regarding the act as going beyond the bounds of decency. With the head of the Catholic Church himself announcing that there is nothing wrong if women feed their babies even during service, it is hoped that people and institutions will be more accepting of mothers who need to breastfeed in the open.

It was not the first time that the pope publicly supported women nursing in public. Around the same time last year, he reminded mothers who were at a baptism ceremony at the Sistine Chapel not to hesitate in breastfeeding their young ones who might be hungry.

"You mothers give your children milk and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them, don't worry," he said during the homily.

In 2013, the pontiff mentioned, in an interview with Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa, that during a General Audience, which is usually held at St. Peter's Square on Wednesday mornings, he noticed a young mother behind the barrier, soothing a crying infant. He told the mother that the child was probably hungry and that she should feed him. He noted that she appeared to be embarrassed to nurse her baby in public, especially with the pope close by.