Congregation says only priests authorised to anoint sick
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a note reaffirming its determination that only a priest may administer the Sacrament of the Sick.
Zenit reports that the Congregation was responding to several questions it had received in recent years.
"Neither deacons nor lay persons therefore may exercise such ministry and any action in this connection is a simulation of the sacrament" and would be "invalid," said the dicastery. Canon law provides sanctions for such an action, it added.
The congregation's "Note on the Ministry of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick" was published on Friday in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
It had been issued by the congregation on 11 February - the World Day of the Sick - with the signature of its then prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI).
The Note, also signed by the dicastery's secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato, is addressed to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, bishops' conferences and Eastern synods.
The Vatican Note describes as "definitive tenenda" -- to be considered in a definitive manner -- the doctrine that makes the priest the only minister of the sacrament.
The Greek words of the Letter of James, which the Vulgate translates as "presbyteros Ecclesiae," "cannot refer to the elders of the community, but to the particular category of faithful to whom, by the imposition of hands, the Holy Spirit had placed to lead the Church of God," the commentary explained.
The commentary includes a reminder about "the particular dignity and efficacy" of the sacrament, underlining that the priest, being its minister, "makes present in an altogether particular way the Lord Jesus Christ, Head of the Church," because "He who acts in this Sacrament is Jesus Christ," while the priest is the "visible" instrument.
Vatican: Only a Priest Is Minister of Anointing of the Sick (Zenit 24/10/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Vatican Note on Ministry of Anointing of the Sick (Zenit 24/10/05)
26 Oct 2005