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Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

Pope Francis' Catechesis
Wednesday 26 February 2014 - in Arabic, CroatianEnglish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning.
Today I would like to talk to you about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which allows us to touch God’s compassion for man. In the past it was called “Extreme Unction”, because it was understood as a spiritual comfort in the face of imminent death. To speak instead of the “Anointing of the Sick” helps us broaden our vision to include the experience of illness and suffering, within the horizon of God’s mercy.

There is a biblical icon that expresses, in all its depths, the mystery that shines through the Anointing of the Sick: it is the parable of the “Good Samaritan” contained in the Gospel of Luke (10:30-35). Each time that we celebrate this Sacrament, the Lord Jesus, in the person of the priest, comes close to the one who suffers and is seriously ill or elderly. The parable says that the Good Samaritan takes care of the suffering man by pouring oil and wine on his wounds. Oil makes us think of that which is blessed by the Bishop each year at the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, precisely in view of the Anointing of the Sick. Wine, however, is a sign of Christ’s love and grace, which flow from the gift of his life for us and are expressed in all their richness in the sacramental life of the Church. Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he might continue to care for him, sparing no expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community — it is us — to whom each day the Lord entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we might lavish all of his mercy and salvation upon them without measure.

This mandate is repeated in an explicit and precise manner in the Letter of James, where he recommends: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (5:14-15). It was therefore a practice that was already taking place at the time of the Apostles. Jesus in fact taught his disciples to have the same preferential love that he did for the sick and suffering, and he transmitted to them the ability and duty to continue providing, in his name and after his own heart, relief and peace through the special grace of this Sacrament. This, however, should not make us fall into an obsessive search for miracles or the presumption that one can always and in any situation be healed. Rather, it is the reassurance of Jesus’ closeness to the sick and the aged, too, because any elderly person, anyone over the age of 65, can receive this Sacrament, through which Jesus himself draws close to us.

But when someone is sick, we at times think: “let’s call for the priest to come”; “no, then he will bring bad luck, let’s not call him”, or “he will scare the sick person”. Why do we think this? Because the idea is floating about that the undertakers arrive after the priest. And this is not true. The priest comes to help the sick or elderly person; that is why the priest’s visit to the sick is so important; we ought to call the priest to the sick person’s side and say: “come, give him the anointing, bless him”. It is Jesus himself who comes to relieve the sick person, to give him strength, to give him hope, to help him; and also to forgive his sins. And this is very beautiful! And one must not think that this is taboo, because in times of pain and illness it is always good to know that we are not alone: the priest and those who are present during the Anointing of the Sick, in fact, represent the entire Christian community that as one body huddles around the one who suffers and his family, nurturing their faith and hope, and supporting them through their prayers and fraternal warmth. But the greatest comfort comes from the fact that it is the Lord Jesus himself who makes himself present in the Sacrament, who takes us by the hand, who caresses us as he did with the sick, and who reminds us that we already belong to him and that nothing — not even evil and death — can ever separate us from him. Are we in the habit of calling for the priest so that he might come to our sick — I am not speaking about those who are sick with the flu, for three or four days, but rather about a serious illness — and our elderly, and give them this Sacrament, this comfort, this strength of Jesus to continue on? Let us do so!"


"Je vous salue bien cordialement chers amis de langue française, en particulier les séminaristes des Carmes, de Paris, les diocésains de Bourges et leur Évêque, les lycéens d’Athènes, ainsi que les paroisses et les jeunes venant de France. Je vous invite à ne pas oublier l’importance du Sacrement des malades. La mort et la maladie ne sont pas des tabous. N’hésitez pas à proposer ce sacrement aux personnes qui souffrent pour que Jésus leur donne sa consolation et sa paix. Bon pèlerinage.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Denmark, Canada and the United States. I greet in particular the participants in the World Congress of SIGNIS and the pilgrimage group of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter from the United States. With affection I greet the alumni and friends of the Pontifical Canadian College on the 125th anniversary of the College’s establishment. Upon all present I invoke joy and peace in Christ our Lord!

Herzlich begrüße ich die Brüder und Schwestern aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Liebe Freunde, habt keine Scheu, für die Kranken die Priester zu rufen, damit sie ihnen die Krankensalbung spenden. So wird ihnen der Heiland und Herr des Lebens mit seiner Gnade nahe sein. Gott segne euch.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de las Diócesis de Mérida-Badajoz, Plasencia y Córdoba, así como a los Paracaidistas del Ejército de Tierra, de Madrid, y los demás fieles provenientes de España, Nicaragua, México, Argentina y otros países latinoamericanos. Saludo de manera especial al Cuerpo de Bomberos que ha venido aquí. Gracias. Invito a todos a valorar la paz y el ánimo que Cristo nos comunica en el sacramento de la Unción de los enfermos para sobrellevar cristianamente los sufrimientos. Muchas gracias.

Queridos peregrinos de língua portuguesa: sede bem vindos! Em cada um dos sacramentos da Igreja, Jesus está presente e nos faz participar da sua vida e da sua misericórdia. Procurem conhecê-Lo sempre mais, para poderem servi-Lo nos irmãos, especialmente nos doentes. Sobre vós e sobre vossas comunidades, desça a benção do Senhor!

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية وخصوصًا بالقادمينَ منالعِراق ولُبنان لاسيما بالمُطران رولان أبو جودة النائبَ البطريركيّ الماروني والوفدَ المُرافقِ منَ الأهلِ والأصدقاء. الربُ يسوع يُوكِلُ إلينا يوميًّا أشخاصًا يُعانون في الجسدِ والروح، لِنَقبَلهُم ونُفِض عليهِم رحمةَ اللهِ وخلاصَه.

Witam pielgrzymów polskich, a szczególnie dyrektorów diecezjalnych rozgłośni radiowych z Polski, przybyłych na rzymskie rekolekcje. Proszę was tu obecnych, abyście troszcząc się o chorych zachęcali ich, by z ufnością przyjmowali sakrament namaszczenia. Niech będzie dla nich umocnieniem i jednoczy ich z Chrystusem. Niech napełni ich serca pokojem i mocą w znoszeniu cierpienia, choroby, czy starości oraz pomaga w odzyskiwaniu zdrowia i pełni sił. Polecając waszej modlitwie wszystkich chorych z serca wam błogosławię."


"Seguo con particolare apprensione quanto sta accadendo in questi giorni in Venezuela. Auspico vivamente che cessino quanto prima le violenze e le ostilità e che tutto il Popolo venezuelano, a partire dai responsabili politici e istituzionali, si adoperi per favorire la riconciliazione, attraverso il perdono reciproco e un dialogo sincero, rispettoso della verità e della giustizia, capace di affrontare temi concreti per il bene comune. Mentre assicuro la mia costante preghiera, in particolare per quanti hanno perso la vita negli scontri e per le loro famiglie, invito tutti i credenti ad elevare suppliche a Dio, per la materna intercessione di Nostra Signora di Coromoto, affinché il Paese ritrovi prontamente pace e concordia.

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Saluto i fedeli della diocesi di Avezzano con il Vescovo Mons. Pietro Santoro; quelli di Adria e di Piazza Armerina; i Diaconi della diocesi di Milano; e i Legionari di Cristo, che hanno concluso il loro Capitolo Generale. Saluto i membri della Confedilizia, i pensionati di Confagricoltura e l’Associazione Stampa Romana. Accolgo i convegnisti, le autorità accademiche e i malati qui presenti per la Giornata Mondiale delle Malattie Rare, che ricorre dopodomani, e auspico che i pazienti e le loro famiglie siano adeguatamente sostenuti nel loro non facile percorso, sia a livello medico che legislativo. Saluto le numerose scuole, in particolare il Liceo “Giordano” di Aversa e la Scuola “Sant’Anna-Falletti” di Roma. Questo incontro susciti in tutti un rinnovato impegno di testimonianza cristiana.

Un pensiero speciale rivolgo ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Domani celebreremo la memoria di san Gabriele dell’Addolorata: il suo esempio aiuti voi, cari giovani, ad essere entusiasti discepoli di Gesù; incoraggi voi, cari ammalati, ad offrire le vostre sofferenze in unione a quelle di Cristo; e sproni voi, cari sposi novelli, a fare del Vangelo la regola fondamentale della vita coniugale."



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