Church in Hong Kong Provides Spiritual and Material Aid in Fight Against SARS

HONG KONG, MAY 20, 2003 (ZENIT.org-FIDES).- About forty-five priests in Hong Kong responded to the doicese’s call for volunteers needed to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to SARS-assigned hospitals.

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With the permission from local authorities, the Hong Kong diocese has chosen five of the priests to minister in hospitals and the remaining forty will visit Catholic families and persons in quarantine. The five priests chosen are Joseph Chan Wing-chiu, Luis Ho Siu-keung, Benedict Lam Cho-ming, Simon Li Chi-yuen and Jesuit Father Marciano Baptista. They have been given a special course at Caritas Medical Center with regard to precautions to take when carrying out their ministry among the sick.

The priests say they are not afraid of catching SARS. Father Baptista was the first to make a hospital visit on May 3, and reported that “our visit helped the patients to carry on and it was a great sign of hope for them. Their greatest fear is that they may die without receiving the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick.” The priest said he wore protective clothing and spent ten minutes with each patient. He anointed the person using a baton to avoid direct contact.

Father Joseph Vhan, assistant priest at the church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, said: “The sacrament of the sick gives strength, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties of those who are seriously ill and the fragility of old age and it helps to overcome the temptation to discouragement and despair when facing death.”

In the meantime the diocese has a telephone line for urgent cases of Catholics who are in danger of death requesting the ministry of a priest. SARS-designated hospitals have also adopted the use of mobile phones for patients and staff who can see their family members through webcam.

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ZENIT Staff

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