Health workers hold a protest outside a Manila hospital over concerns for their own safety amid a coronavirus outbreak. Anointing of the sick during the observance of the World Day of the Sick in Manila was canceled this year due to fears about the spread of the virus. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
There was no anointing of the sick during the observance of this year’s World Day of the Sick in Manila on Feb. 11 due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani, who presided over a Mass at Manila Cathedral, said he was advised not to do so."I was told by the master of ceremonies not to in order to avoid personal contact," said the bishop, adding that he was surprised by the move. Anointing of the sick is a Catholic sacrament administered by a bishop or a priest to those who are sick or suffering from old age. It is done by anointing a patient's forehead and other parts of the body with oil while reciting prayers.Instead, organizers of the observance in Manila had an exposition and a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. "This was also being done in Lourdes," said Bishop Bacani. In his homily, the bishop urged those who were sick to turn to God. "If you are suffering, just approach him. If you are feeling hopeless, approach him," he said.Pope Francis, meanwhile, called for "human warmth and the personalized approach of Christ" among healthcare professionals, workers and volunteers.In his message for the 28th World Day of the Sick, which the Vatican released last week, the pontiff noted that human warmth is sometimes lacking in addressing sickness."What is needed is a personalized approach to the sick, not just of curing but also of caring, in view of an integral human healing," he said.He expressed concern over attacks on medical practitioners during conflicts and the attempts to manipulate medical care to advance political interests.