Catholic World News

Pope calls for greater attention to last rites

January 03, 2012

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick deserves greater attention, Pope Benedict XVI has said.

In his message for the World Day of the Sick, the Pope reflects on the “sacraments of healing,” Confession and the Anointing of the Sick. Speaking particularly of the latter, he writes: “This sacrament deserves greater consideration today both in theological reflection and in pastoral ministry among the sick.”

Through these sacraments, the Pope observed, the Church follows “the example of Christ, who bent down before the material and spiritual sufferings of man in order to heal them.” The Holy Father remarked that the Church has always recognized the close ties between physical and spiritual healing, and has used the sacraments to heal “lacerations of the soul.”

Speaking of physical healing, Pope Benedict said that the story of the 10 lepers cured by Christ, and the one who returns to give thanks, shows the primacy of spiritual health. Jesus tells him, “your faith has saved you.” This story, the Pope said, drives home the point that “reacquired health is a sign of something more precious than mere physical healing, it is a sign of the salvation that God gives us through Christ.”

The “sacraments of healing,” the Pope observed, “have their natural completion in Eucharistic Communion.” This is particularly true, in the case of those who are near death, when anointing is followed by the administration of the Viaticum.

The World Day of the Sick is observed each year on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Pope’s message for the 2012 observance was released by the Vatican on January 3.


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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jan. 03, 2012 9:54 PM ET USA

    Is it too much of an excercise of faith to believe that Christ wants to heal the body as well as the soul? The words of the Mass have changed in that regard, and of course the Pope and the Magesterium have the right to change them, but the Centurion did ask for the healing of his servant's body. If he did in fact wish that his servant's "soul" be healed it was either that it was too much to hope for or that it was implied. In any case, a healed body without a healed soul is disaster.

  • Posted by: Anselm - Jan. 03, 2012 9:41 PM ET USA

    Slightly misleading headline that reminds us of the need for proper catechisis on this Sacrament. "Last Rites" is recieving the Holy Eucharist for the final time ("food for the journey"). Due to medical situations, most only get the Annointing of the Sick, which is not "Last Rites." The annointing is part of emergency situations, however, one does not need to be dying to receive it. It can be requested for chronic illness or pending surgery. See the rubrics for who can give what.

  • Posted by: mrschips19308196 - Jan. 03, 2012 9:10 PM ET USA

    This report makes me ask why little ones under the age of six or seven cannot receive the Sacrament of the Sick. Years ago when my mother was two years old, she was dying of paratyphoid fever.A priest was called to the home and as he was conferring the Sacrament,she woke out of an unconscious state and began to play with the stole hanging around his neck. I don't understand the reasoning behind the unwillingness to give this Sacrament to little children, too, for healing at least.

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Jan. 03, 2012 8:40 PM ET USA

    Most parishes,no matter how large, are lucky if they have 2 priests. That stretches them pretty thin. Since only priests can administer the Sacrament of the Sick,(entailing not only spiritual/physical healing but forgiveness of sins), it can't be delegated to another ministry.

  • Posted by: Nuage - Jan. 03, 2012 7:37 PM ET USA

    All the Sacraments have been under siege, but especially this one. The Holy Father is correct in pointing this out. A major cause is the replacement of priests as hospital chaplains by lay ministers. In certain regions of the country, Catholic priests simply do not serve hospitals and it is virtually impossible to get a priest to a dying patient. Also, wWhen I called a priest for my sister who had been in a head-on collision, he came dressed in civies and did a nice blessing - no sacrament.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jan. 03, 2012 4:27 PM ET USA

    As an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to the Sick, I can attest that the care of the sick has passed almost exclusively to the laity. Another reason to do away with these quasi-ministries.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 03, 2012 12:05 PM ET USA

    Interestingly enough, your title for this article shows why this Sacrament is not receiving the attention and use that it deserves.