Priests defy ban on last rites

Msgr Charles Portelli (left) and Fr Frank Brennan SJ (Supplied)

Melbourne’s Catholic priests are taking a quiet stand, giving dying parishioners the last rites in defiance of the Andrews Government’s stage 4 restrictions. Source: The Australian.

The Government has banned faith leaders from visiting patients at home, in a hospital or a care facility “for last rites or to perform other religious ceremonies in person”. The rules also state “last rites … can be provided using video or livestreaming”.

That is impossible, said Msgr Charles Portelli, parish priest of St Mary of the Assumption Parish, Keilor Downs – a COVID-19 hotspot.

Msgr Portelli said providing the sacraments to the dying was one of a priest’s most serious obligations and it can only be done in person.

Fr Frank Brennan SJ – rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne and a part-time chaplain to St Vincent’s Hospital – was unaware of the restriction. Fr Brennan has been giving the last rites in full PPE gear.

Msgr Portelli said the Andrews Government’s restriction on administering the last rites, especially during a pandemic in which almost 700 Victorians had died, was an attack on “the free practice of religion”.

Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli knew nothing about the ban on the last rites when contacted by The Australian. After checking the DHSS rules he has sought “urgent clarification” from the Government.


Coronavirus: We must be there for them, say priests defying ban on last rites (By Tess Livingstone, The Australian

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