Priests attending the sick

Published on 25th Mar, 2020
Priests attending the sick Archdiocese of Wellington

Hospital chaplaincy and visiting the sick:

I have provided the following clarifications to parishes, priests and lay pastoral leaders about Alert Level 4.

Communion to the sick is not able to happen.  At this unprecedented time of dealing with a pandemic and in the light of government regulations around the Covid-19 there are also some considerations about care of the sick and hospital chaplaincy that we need to follow.

Priests can be contacted by phone through their normal numbers (check the parish website). If a priest is called to attend to the sick at home this must be done by phone or electronic means such as video call rather than by home visit.

The regulations around movement are to absolutely minimise the possibility of community transmission of the Covid-19 virus. For the common good therefore we must follow those instructions to not create a greater evil.

We need to be pastorally close to the sick person and their family by the methods mentioned but not risk further virus transmission. This will also mean the limitation of anointings of the sick. Technically it is the words and the oil, not the anointing touch that is the matter and form of the sacrament. However, the risk of transmitting the virus by the proximity of the anointer and anointed (closer than one metre) means this is outside the regulations for social/physical distancing. Equally for communion to the sick.

In the hospital setting, the ecumenical nature of the chaplaincy set-up means that a request from Catholics can be responded to. Priests who are on hospital duty will be specially trained for the new situation. Priests who are not hospital chaplains cannot go to the hospitals automatically to visit parishioners. Apart from the current travel restrictions all access to the hospitals is restricted.

Cardinal John Dew

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