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The Catechism of the Catholic Church Today on the Anointing of the Sick formerly called, Extreme Uction.


  • The Catechism Today
  • Al the Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states on this issue:

1499 "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ." (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 11; cf. James 5:14-16; Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Peter 4:13)


I. Its Foundations In The Economy Of Salvation


Illness in human life


1500 Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death.


1501 Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.


The sick person before God


1502 The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing. (cf. Psalms 6:3; 38; Isaiah 38) Illness becomes a way to conversion; God's forgiveness initiates the healing. (cf. Psalms 32:5; 38:5; 39:9, 12; 107:20; cf. Mark 2:5-12) It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: "For I am the Lord, your healer." (Exodus 15:26) The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others. (cf. Isaiah 53:11) Finally Isaiah announces that God will usher in a time for Zion when he will pardon every offense and heal every illness. (cf. Isaiah 33:24)


Christ the physician


1503 Christ's compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that "God has visited his people" (Luke 7:16; cf. Matthew 4:24) and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; (cf. Mark 2:5-12) he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of. (cf. Mark 2:17) His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: "I was sick and you visited me." (Matthew 25:36) His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them.


1504 Often Jesus asks the sick to believe. (cf. Mark 5:34, 36; 9:23) He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, (cf. Mark 7:32-36; 8:22-25) mud and washing. (cf. John 9:6-7) The sick try to touch him, "for power came forth from him and healed them all." (Luke 6:19; cf. Mark 1:41; 3:10; 6:56) And so in the sacraments Christ continues to "touch" us in order to heal us.


1505 Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.". (Matthew 8:17; cf. Isaiah 53:4) But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the "sin of the world,". (John 1:29; cf. Isaiah 53:4-6) of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.


"Heal the sick . . ."


1506 Christ invites his disciples to follow him by taking up their cross in their turn. (cf. Matthew 10:38) By following him they acquire a new outlook on illness and the sick. Jesus associates them with his own life of poverty and service. He makes them share in his ministry of compassion and healing: "So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.". (Mark 6:12-13)


1507 The risen Lord renews this mission ("In my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." [Mark 16:17-18]) and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name. (cf. Acts 9:34; 14:3) These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly "God who saves." (cf. Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12)


1508 The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28, 30) so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church." (2 Corinthians 12:9; Colossians 1:24)


1509 "Heal the sick!" (Matthew 10:8) The Church has received this charge from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that St. Paul suggests is connected with bodily health. (cf. John 6:54, 58; 1 Corinthians 11:30)


1510 However, the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5:14-15)


Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments. (cf. Council of Constantinople II (553) DS 216; Council Of Florence (1439) 1324- 1325; Council Of Trent (1551) 1695-1696; 1716-1717)


A sacrament of the sick


1511 The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick:

This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord.

(Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mark 6:13; James 5:14-15)

1512 From ancient times in the liturgical traditions of both East and West, we have testimonies to the practice of anointings of the sick with blessed oil. Over the centuries the Anointing of the Sick was conferred more and more exclusively on those at the point of death. Because of this it received the name "Extreme Unction." Notwithstanding this evolution the liturgy has never failed to beg the Lord that the sick person may recover his health if it would be conducive to his salvation. (cf. Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1696)


1513 The Apostolic Constitution Sacram unctionem infirmorum, (Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution, Sacram Unctionem Infirmorum, November 30, 1972) following upon the Second Vatican Council, (cf. Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 73) established that henceforth, in the Roman Rite, the following be observed:

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with duly blessed oil - pressed from olives or from other plants - saying, only once: "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up."


(cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 847 § 1)

II. Who Receives And Who Administers This Sacrament?


In case of grave illness . . .


1514 The Anointing of the Sick "is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived." (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 73; cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon. 1004 § 1; 1005; 1007; Corpus Canonum Ecclisarum Orientalium, Canon 738)


1515 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person's condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.


" . . . let him call for the presbyters of the Church"


1516 Only priests (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick. (cf. Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1697; 1719; Code of Canon Law, Canon 1003; Corpus Canonum Ecclisarum Orientalium, Canon 739 § 1) It is the duty of pastors to instruct the faithful on the benefits of this sacrament. The faithful should encourage the sick to call for a priest to receive this sacrament. The sick should prepare themselves to receive it with good dispositions, assisted by their pastor and the whole ecclesial community, which is invited to surround the sick in a special way through their prayers and fraternal attention.


III. How Is This Sacrament Celebrated?


1517 Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration, (cf. Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 27) whether it takes place in the family home, a hospital or church, for a single sick person or a whole group of sick persons. It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord's Passover. If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ's Passover the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the "viaticum" for "passing over" to eternal life.


1518 Word and sacrament form an indivisible whole. The Liturgy of the Word, preceded by an act of repentance, opens the celebration. The words of Christ, the witness of the apostles, awaken the faith of the sick person and of the community to ask the Lord for the strength of his Spirit.


1519 The celebration of the sacrament includes the following principal elements: the "priests of the Church" (James 5:14) - in silence - lay hands on the sick; they pray over them in the faith of the Church (cf. James 5:15) - this is the epiclesis proper to this sacrament; they then anoint them with oil blessed, if possible, by the bishop.


These liturgical actions indicate what grace this sacrament confers upon the sick.


IV. The Effects Of The Celebration Of This Sacrament


1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. (cf. Hebrews 2:15) This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will. (cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1325) Furthermore, "if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5:15; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1717)


1521 Union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior's redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.


1522 An ecclesial grace. The sick who receive this sacrament, "by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ," "contribute to the good of the People of God." (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 11 § 2) By celebrating this sacrament the Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person, and he, for his part, through the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father.


1523 A preparation for the final journey. If the sacrament of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the sacrament of those departing). (Council of Trent (1551): DS 1698) The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father's house. (Council of Trent (1551): DS 1694)


V. Viaticum, The Last Sacrament Of The Christian


1524 In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of "passing over" to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:54) The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father. (cf. John 13:1)


1525 Thus, just as the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist form a unity called "the sacraments of Christian initiation," so too it can be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist as viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life "the sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland" or the sacraments that complete the earthly pilgrimage.


In Brief


1526 "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:14-15).


1527 The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has as its purpose the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age.


1528 The proper time for receiving this holy anointing has certainly arrived when the believer begins to be in danger of death because of illness or old age.


1529 Each time a Christian falls seriously ill, he may receive the Anointing of the Sick, and also when, after he has received it, the illness worsens.


1530 Only priests (presbyters and bishops) can give the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, using oil blessed by the bishop, or if necessary by the celebrating presbyter himself.


1531 The celebration of the Anointing of the Sick consists essentially in the anointing of the forehead and hands of the sick person (in the Roman Rite) or of other parts of the body (in the Eastern rite), the anointing being accompanied by the liturgical prayer of the celebrant asking for the special grace of this sacrament.


1532 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects:

  1. the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
  2. the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
  3. the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
  4. the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
  5. the preparation for passing over to eternal life



  1. Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
    St. Ephrem the Syrian, (of Edessa), (A.D. 306-378)
    St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396)
    St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407)
    Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417)
    Victor of Antioch, (A.D. c.370-c.406)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)
    St. Caesarius of Arles, (A.D. 468-542)
Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"There is also a seventh (mode of pardon) though a hard and laborious remission of sins through penitence, when the sinner washes his bed with his tears, and his tears become his bread, day and night, and when he is not ashamed to declare his sin to the priest of the Lord, and to seek a remedy according to him who saith, I said, I will confess against myself mine my injustice to the Lord. (Psalms 31) Wherein that also is fulfilled which the Apostle James saith, "But if any be sick among you, let him call in the priests of the Church, and let them impose hands on him" anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."

T. ii. Hom. ii. in Levit. n.4 ,p. 191.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 206-207

Origen seems here to apply the text of St. James to those who are infirm, or sick from sin; but such are all sinners, whether in health or sickness. Tertullian (160-230 A.D.) mentions a Christian called Proculus, who cured the Emperor Severus of a disorder, by anointing him with oil.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, (of Edessa), (A.D. 306-378), Syrian; born in Nisebis, deacon, hymnist, poet. His works were even during his own lifetime almost all translated into Greek, and were, as St. Jerome informs us, held in such high estimation, as to be read in some churches after the Holy Scriptures. We have his life by St. Gregory of Nyssa.

Arguing against the Marcionites, that the body, or flesh, is not from the devil, he says:
"If it happen to thee when sick that the medicines of the physicians are of no avail, the priests piously bring thee aid, they pray for thy salvation and safety, and one indeed breathes into thy mouth, while another signs (seals) thee."

T. ii. Syr. Serm. xlvi. adv. Hæres. 541.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 207

St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396), German; reluctantly made bishop in the A.D. 374., Doctor of the Church. He closed a great and glorious career in A.D. 396. We have his life by Paulinus.

"Why then do you (Novatians) impose hands, and believe it to be the effect of the benediction, if the sick person happen to recover."

T. ii. L. i. De Poenit. n. 36, col. 400.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 207

St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407), Syrian; archbishop, Doctor of the Church. Born at Antioch in 344; he was ordained priest in A.D. 383, and raised to the see of Constantinople in the year A.D. 398. His eloquence gained him the title of Chrysostom, or the mouth of gold. His expositions of Scripture, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, are very valuable. This illustrious prelate died on his road to exile, in A.D. 407.

"Our parents beget us unto the present life; but priests beget us unto the life that is to come. And the former cannot even ward off the death of the body from their children, nor repel an approaching disease; but the latter have often saved the sick soul, and one about to perish; in some making the punishment lighter, and preventing others entirely from falling; and this not by doctrine and admonition only, but also by the help of their prayers. For not only when they regenerate us, but they have power also to forgive sins committed afterwards; for, he says, "Is any man sick among you? Let him call in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."

T. i. L. iii. De Sacerd. n. 6, p. 470.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 207-208

Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417) was pope from (A.D. 401 to 417), he lost no opportunity in maintaining and extending the authority of the Roman See as the ultimate resort for the settlement of all disputes.

"And as your friendliness has chosen to take advice concerning this, amongst other things, my son, the deacon Coalestin, has added in his letter, that you have set down what is written in the epistle of the blessed Apostle James, "Is any one sick among you, let him call in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man, and if he have committed sin, he shall pardon him." Which, there is no doubt, ought to be taken, or understood, of the faithful who are sick, who can be anointed with the holy of chrism, which, having been prepared by a bishop, may be used not only for priests, but for all Christians, for anointing in their own need, or in that of their connections. But we observe that something superfluous is added, even the doubt whether that be lawful for a bishop, which there is no doubt is lawful for priests. For the words are addressed to priests for this reason, that bishops, hindered by their engagements, cannot go to every sick person. Whereas if a bishop be able, or think fit to visit any such, and to bless, and touch him with chrism, he can do so without any hesitation, as it is his to prepare the chrism. For this chrism cannot be poured upon penitents, in as much as it is a kind (a genus) of sacrament. For to persons to whom the other sacraments are denied, how can it be fancied that one kind (of sacrament) can be granted?"

Ep. xxv. ad Decentium, n. xi. p. 589, T. viii. Galland.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 20

Victor of Antioch, (A.D. c.370-c.406), priest of Antioch, flourished at the close of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century. Commented on Mark's Gospel.

Commenting on St. Mark, Chapter 6:13 he says:

"And they cast out many devils and anointed with oil many that were sick." Luke also states the like; but what is here added, concerning the mystical unction and the use of oil, is mentioned by Mark alone amongst the Evangelists. However, what the Apostle James narrates, in his canonical (epistle), does not differ from the foregoing: for he writes: "Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil," (verses 14-15). Amongst other things, oil relieves the inconveniences resulting from toil, it feeds the light, and produces gladness. The oil, therefore, which is used in the sacred unction, denotes mercy from God, the cure of sickness, and the enlightening of the heart. It may, nevertheless, be said that prayer effects all these things, but that the oil is only the outward symbol of all that is done."

T. iv. p. 383, Bill. Max. SS. PP.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 209

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

Speaking against charms and incantations, he says:

"But then, if any part of the body give thee pain, and thou believes truly, that the words: "The Lord of Sabbath," and such like phrases, which the divine Scriptures assign to Him who is God by nature, will free thee from the evil, do thou, praying for thyself, utter these words; for thou wilt act better than those (condemned above) giving the glory to God, and not to the unclean spirits. I will also mention that divine Scripture, which says.
"Is any man sick among you."

T. i. L. vi. De Ador. in Sp. et Ver. p. 211.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 209-210

St. Caesarius of Arles (A.D. 468-542), Bishop for forty years, was the foremost ecclesiastic of his generation in Gaul. In all the Christian West, only Gregory the Great and Gregory of Tours overshadowed him.

"As often as any infirmity supervenes, let him who is sick receive the body and blood of Christ; and then anoint his body, that what is written may be accomplished in him: "Is any one sick, let him bring in the priests, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil." See, brethren, that he who, in sickness, has recourse to the Church, shall deserve to obtain both health of body, and pardon of sins."

In Append. T. v. S. Aug. Serm. cclxv. col. 3048.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 209



The Anointing of the Sick, formerly called Extreme Uction, is the sacrament which is administered to dying persons or to people in danger of death, to strengthen them in this life or in their passage out of this life, into hopefully a better one. LIke all other sacraments, Catholics believe this sacrament was divinely instituted by Our Lord before His glorious Ascension into Heaven.


The Church's Scriptures that support the Anointing of the Sick formerly called, Extreme Uction:


After Jesus instructs the Apostles and their disciples how to evangelize, in the process they anointed with oil many that were sick.

12 And going forth they preached that men should do penance: 13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

Mark 6:12-13

The Prayer of Faith

13 Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.


James 5:14-15


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