When is Last Rites just anointing of the sick?

By Domenico Bettinelli, Jr. ( articles - email ) | Mar 31, 2005

Several media outlets, most notably CNN, were reporting breathlessly earlier this evening that Pope John Paul has "received Last Rites," as if it meant his death were imminent. What they don't understand is that what they call "Last Rites" is most likely just the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

Now whenever an 84-year-old man in the Pope's weakened condition catches a serious infection, it's not a good thing for him and anointing of the sick is certainly called for, because it may indeed signal his imminent death. Then again it might not. We just don't know and the simple fact of his having received the sacrament doesn't really tell us anything other than that he's very sick. And we all knew that before.

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