Confession and anointing the sick rules clarified

Rules about the sacraments of confession and anointing the sick during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have been clarified by the Vatican.

Chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on liturgy Archbishop Leonard Blair, sought the Vatican’s advice through the papal representative in the U.S., apostolic nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

Pierre in turn checked with Archbishop Arthur Roche, who is the secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments.

As a result of Pierre and Roche’s advice, Blair wrote to U.S. bishops last week with answers to their concerns.

The Sacrament of Penance (confession), he wrote, “is not to be celebrated via cell phone,”.

He went on to say: “in the present circumstances cell phones should not be used, even for the amplification of voices between a confessor and penitent who are in visual range of each other.”

This is because the seal of confession could be jeopardised via the phone.

Blair’s letter also clarified the bishops’ questions about Anointing the Sick during the pandemic.

He explained the Vatican said it is not possible for the anointing with oil to be delegated to someone else, such as a nurse or doctor.

Blair’s memo came as bishops have worked to devise policies for sacramental ministry that respond to the tightening social restrictions imposed by civil authorities to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some areas, they had to change decisions they had made, where cellphones were being used for confessions and medical personnel were anointing the sick.

In response to these restrictions, U.S. bishops have suspended the public celebration of Mass and restricted the celebration of other sacraments.

More than 100,000 people in the U.S. have contracted the COVID-19 pandemic and more than 1,500 have died, as of Friday.


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