The practice of anointing the sick is “a sacrament of healing,” Pope Benedict XVI said, describing it as one that should be pursued by all those who are seriously ill. The Holy Father made his remarks in a message for the World Day of the Sick, to be observed Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, according to Catholic News Service.
Emphasizing that the sacrament, formerly known as extreme unction, is not intended solely as an “end-of-life” ritual, the Pope said that anointing may be administered in “various human situations connected with illness.” The oil that is associated with the sacrament acts “as God’s medicine,” he said, “offering strength and consolation, yet at the same time [pointing] beyond the moment of the illness toward the definitive healing, the resurrection.”
Anointing of the sick and the sacrament of penance are linked as the Church’s two sacraments of healing, Pope Benedict said, and both have their natural completion “in eucharistic Communion.” Accordingly, he continued, the Church should ensure that the elderly and the sick enjoy the possibility of frequently receiving Communion.
In a separate message, one delivered during a talk at his weekly general audience on Jan. 11, Pope Benedict discussed the sacrament of Communion in additional detail, describing it as a sustaining force for those who are “tired, worn out and lost.”
“The Eucharist is food for pilgrims,” he said. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, the pope said, his words were meant to help not only Peter and his companions but all those in search of refreshment today.
Taking part in the Eucharist is “indispensable for Christian life,” Pope Benedict said, and is still a source of strength so that “our life is not lost, despite our weakness and our infidelity, but is transformed.”