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anointing of the sick

anointing of the sick, sacrament of the Orthodox Eastern Church and the Roman Catholic Church, formerly known as extreme unction. In it a sick or dying person is anointed on eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, hands, feet, and sometimes, in the case of men, the loins, by a priest while he recites absolutions for sins committed. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that through the sacrament the sick and dying receive remission of sins, health of soul, and, if God wills, health of body. The sacrament may be shortened, and it may be given conditionally, as when there is doubt as to whether the recipient is living or as to whether he is baptized. Anointing of the sick is given only to persons seriously ill and in danger of death from internal causes; hence, it is not given before operations or in battle before attack. Anointing of the sick, the last confession, and the viaticum are the last rites of the church. The chief biblical text for anointing of the sick is James 5.14,15. In the Eastern churches it is normally given by three priests, and it may be given to the healthy to prevent sickness; it is not so widely used in the Eastern churches as in the West.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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