Hong Kong (Fides Service) – No less than forty five priests in Hong Kong volunteered to go to SARS assigned hospitals to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, in response to a call from the diocese. After obtaining permission from the local authorities, the Hong Kong diocese has chosen five of the generous priests who offered to minister in hospitals and the remaining forty will visit Catholic families and persons in quarantine.
The four priests chosen are Fathers Joseph Chan Wing-chiu, Luis Ho Siu-keung, Benedict Lam Cho-ming, Simon Li Chi-yuen (diocesan priests) and Jesuit Father Marciano Baptista. They have been given a special course at Caritas Medical Centre 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 3 May. He said “Our visit helped the patients to carry on and it was a great sign of hope for them. Their grates 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. PA (Fides Service 16/5/2003 EM lines 31 Words: 372)