Pope Francis on Thursday baptized conjoined twins who had been separated at a Vatican-owned hospital in June.

The announcement of the baptism came not from the Vatican but from Antoinette Montaigne, a politician from Central African Republic, where the girls were born with fused skulls on June 29, 2018, in the town of Mbaiki.

When the twins were stable enough to make the trip, they were transferred to the capital, Bangui, where they were cared for in a hospital built with the help of the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital, a Vatican-owned hospital in Rome. The unit built in the Central African Republic was a project started after Pope Francis visited the war-torn country in 2015.

Ervina and Prefina with their mother at the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital on June 29, 2020. (Credit: Bambino Gesu Hospital.)

In Bangui, the family met with Mariella Enoc, the Italian director of the Bambino Gesu, who made the decision to transfer the girls to Rome to see if a separation was possible. A special taskforce was created to study the case, and decided it was worth the risk.

It took three surgeries and hundreds of man-hours but Ervina and Prefina Bangalo were successfully separated with a final surgery on June 5 that ran for 18-hours, involving 30 specialists.

“Ervina and Prefina were born twice. If we had stayed in Africa, I don’t know what fate they would have had,” their mother, Ermine Bangalo, said at a press conference where the successful procedure was announced.

“Now that they are separated and doing well, I would like them to be baptized by Pope Francis, who has always taken care of the children of Bangui. My little ones can now grow up, study and become doctors to save other children,” she had said.

On Thursday, that wish came truth.

Montaigne, the woman who announced the baptism, is a politician with dual French and Central African citizenship who is also a lawyer specializing in children’s rights. In 2014, she was invited to the Central African Republic to become Minister of Communication, Civics, Dialogue and National Reconciliation in the interim government. After she left the government, she began running the Central African Peace Academy.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma