Can love to heal real sickness


The pursuit of happiness is deeply anchored in the human heart and has always been accompanied by the longing to be freed from illness and to understand its meaning when one is affected by it. It is a human phenomenon that affects everyone in one way or another and has a special echo in the Church. She sees illness as a means of union with Christ and spiritual purification, and it is an opportunity for those who deal with the sick person to practice love. Moreover, like other human ailments, illness is a situation that particularly invites prayer: both for the strength to accept the illness with a believing mind and devotion to God's will, as well as for the grace to be healed from it.

The prayer for regaining health can be found in every epoch of the Church, including the present, of course. What is new in some respects is that there are increasing numbers of prayer meetings, sometimes connected with liturgical celebrations, at which God is supplicated for healing. In various, not uncommon cases, it is stated that healings have actually occurred. This creates expectations that this will happen again at other similar meetings. In this context, it is sometimes referred to as a presumed healing charism.

The question arises as to how such gatherings, at which healing is prayed for, are to be correctly classified from a liturgical point of view and, above all, what task the ecclesiastical authority has to watch over the correct order of the liturgical celebrations and for this purpose to issue appropriate standards.

It therefore seemed appropriate, according to Canon 34 des Code of Canon Law to publish an instruction aimed primarily at helping the local ordinaries to better guide the faithful on this matter, promoting what is good and correcting what should be avoided. In order to properly classify and understand the disciplinary provisions, a sound doctrinal framework was necessary. Therefore, the aforementioned provisions are introduced by a doctrinal part about the healing graces and the prayers for these graces.



1. Illness and healing: their meaning and value in the salvation economy

“Man is called to joy, but daily experiences suffering and pain in a variety of ways.” (1) When the Lord promises salvation, he therefore speaks of the joy of the heart through liberation from suffering (cf. Isa 30,29; 35,10; bar 4.29). It is he who "redeems from all evil" (Know 16.8). Among the sufferings, those connected with the disease are always present in human history; man carries within himself the deep longing to be freed from them and from all evil.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel experience “that sickness is mysteriously connected with sin and evil.” (2) Among the punishments that God threatens the unfaithful people, illnesses occupy a large part (cf. Dtn 28.21-22.27-29.35). The sick person who asks for healing from God confesses that he was rightly punished for his sins (cf. Ps 38; 41; 107,17-21).

But the disease also hits the righteous and man wonders why this is so. This question is asked repeatedly in the book of Job. “If it is true that suffering has a sense of punishment whenever it is linked to guilt, it is not true that all suffering is a consequence of guilt and has the character of punishment. The figure of the righteous Job is particular evidence of this in the Old Testament. And if the Lord agrees that Job will be tried by suffering, it is to prove his righteousness. The suffering here has the character of a test ”. (3)

So although disease can have a positive downside, in that it demonstrates the fidelity of the righteous or is a means of restoring righteousness injured by sin, or of bringing sinner to consciousness and repentance, it remains an evil. That is why the prophet announces the coming times when there will be no more illnesses and suffering and the thread of life will no longer be cut off from death (cf. Isa 35,5-6; 65,19-20).

In the New Testament, the question of why the disease also affects the righteous finds its full answer. During his public activity, Jesus met the sick again and again. He heals many in miraculous ways. The healings actually characterize his work: "Jesus went through all cities and villages, taught in their synagogues, preached the gospel of the kingdom and healed all diseases and ailments" (Mt 9.35; see 4.23). The healings are signs of his messianic mission (cf. Lk 7.20-23). They reveal the victory of the kingdom of God over every kind of evil and become symbols for the restoration of the whole person in body and soul. They serve as proof that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins (cf. Mk 2.1-12), and are signs of salvation goods, such as the healing of the paralyzed man at the Betesda pond (cf. Joh 5.2-9.19-21) or those born blind (cf. Joh 9).

According to the testimony of the New Testament, the first evangelization was also accompanied by numerous miraculous healings that confirmed the power of the gospel message. The first Christian communities saw the promise of the risen Lord fulfilled in their midst: "And through those who believe, the following signs will occur: the sick, on whom they lay hands, will be healed" (Mk 16.17-18). Philip's sermon in Samaria was accompanied by wonderful healings: “But Philip came down to the capital of Samaria and preached Christ there. And the multitude heeded Philip's words with one accord; they listened and saw the miracles he was doing. For out of many possessed the unclean spirits came out with loud cries; also many lame and cripples were healed "(Acts 8.5-7). For St. Paul, the signs and wonders worked in the power of the Spirit are a mark of the preaching of his gospel: “For I only dare to speak of what Christ, through me, in order to lead the Gentiles to obedience Has effected word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit of God "(Rom 15.18-19; see 1 Thes 1,5; 1 Cor 2,4-5). It can be assumed that most of these signs and wonders, which revealed divine power and supported the preaching, were extraordinary healings. They were miracles that were not exclusively linked to the person of the apostle, but also occurred through the believers: “Why then does God give you the Spirit and work miracles among you? Is it because you obey the law or because you have accepted the message of faith? "(Gal 3,5).

The messianic victory over illness and other human sufferings is not only a reality in its elimination through extraordinary healings, but also in the voluntary and innocent suffering of Christ, who through his passion gives everyone the opportunity to unite with him. “After all, Christ himself, who is without sin, in fulfillment of the scriptures with the prophet Isaiah (cf. Isa 53: 4f.) In his Passion took on all imaginable wounds and shared all the pains of men. ”(4) Even more:“ In the cross of Christ, not only was redemption fulfilled through suffering, but human suffering itself is also part of it at the same time been redeemed. In bringing about salvation through suffering, Christ also raised human suffering to the level of redemption. That is why every person can share in the redeeming suffering of Christ through his suffering ”. (5)

The Church takes care of sick people with loving care. But it also honors the mission of the sick “to live their human and Christian calling and to participate in the growth of the kingdom in a new and even more valuable way. You have to make your program the words of the apostle Paul, words that give light, in order to recognize the gracious meaning of your situation: 'For the body of Christ, the church, in my earthly life I add to what is still in the sufferings of Christ is missing? (Col 1.24). This discovery fills the apostle with joy: 'Now do I rejoice in the sufferings I endure for you? (Col 1:24) ”. (6) This Easter joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Like St. Paul, “can many sick people 'despite the distress? to bearers of the joy that the Holy Spirit gives? (1 Thes 1,6), and to witness the resurrection of Christ ”. (7)

2. The longing for healing and the prayer for healing

Assuming accepting the will of God, the sick person's longing for healing is good and deeply human, especially when it is expressed in trusting prayer to God. Jesus Sirach calls out: “My son, do not delay when you are sick, pray to God; because it makes you healthy "(Sir 38.9). Various psalms are supplications for healing (cf. Ps 6; 38; 41; 88).

During Jesus' public ministry, many sick people turn to him - either directly or through their friends or relatives - asking for the restoration of health. The Lord accepts these requests; the Gospels do not contain a single suggestion that he rebuked such requests. The Lord's only complaint concerns the occasional lack of faith: “When you can? Anyone who believes can do anything "(Mk 9.23; see. Mk 6,5-6; Joh 4,48).

The prayer of believers who seek healing for themselves or for the healing of others is laudable. The Church, too, asks the Lord in the liturgy for the health of the sick. Above all, it has one sacrament which “is especially intended to strengthen those who have been tried by illness: the anointing of the sick.” (8) The Church is in the habit of celebrating this sacrament “through the anointing and prayer of the priests. In this sacrament she entrusts the sick to the Lord in his suffering and glorification, so that he may raise them up and save them. ”(9) Immediately beforehand, the Church prays at the consecration of the sick oil:“ Through your blessing become the consecrated oil for all, whom we anoint with it, a sacred token of your mercy that drives away sickness, pain and distress, beneficial for the body, soul and spirit. " ) Because the sacrament is a pledge and promise of the future kingdom, healing is also the announcement of the resurrection: “There will be no more death, no mourning, no lamentation, no hardship. Because what was before is gone "(Rev. 21.4). In addition, the Roman Missal a measurement form for the sick; It is prayed for spiritual graces and also for the healing of the sick. (12)

in the Benedictive of Roman rituals is there a Ordo benedictionis infirmorum, which contains various euchological texts in which healing is prayed: in the second form of the Preces, (13) in the four Orationes benedictionis per adultis, (14) in the two Orationes benedictionis pro pueris, (15) in the prayer of the Rite brevior.(16)

It goes without saying that prayer does not preclude the use of meaningful natural means of maintaining and regaining health, but rather encourages, just as it urges the children of the Church to care for the sick and help them to overcome disease, To give help in body and mind. For it is “entirely in the plan of Divine Providence that man fights resolutely against every kind of illness and conscientiously and diligently strives for the great good of health”. (17)

3. The “healing charism” in the New Testament

It is not just the wonderful healings that affirm the power of the preaching of the gospel in apostolic times. The New Testament also reports that the apostles and other first evangelizers were given real authority to heal the sick by Jesus. According to the accounts of Matthew and Luke, the Lord gives the twelve "authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all diseases and ailments" when they are first sent out (Mt 10.1; see. Lk 9.1); and he tells them: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons!"Mt 10.8). When sending out the seventy-two disciples, the Lord gave the order: "Heal the sick who are there" (Lk 10.9). This authority is given to them in connection with their missionary mandate, not for their own honor, but to affirm their mission.

The Acts of the Apostles generally tells of the miracles that took place: "by the apostles there were many miracles and signs" (Acts 2.43; cf. 5,12). They were miracles and signs, extraordinary acts, that revealed the truth and the power of the apostolic mission. In addition to these brief general references, the Acts of the Apostles primarily speak of the wonderful healings that were brought about by individual evangelizers: Stephen (cf. Acts 6.8), Philip (cf. Acts 8: 6-7) and above all through Peter (cf. Acts 3.1-10; 5.15; 9.33-34.40-41) and Paul (cf. Acts 14,3.8-10; 15,12; 19,11-12; 20,9-10; 28,8-9).

As already mentioned, the end of the Gospel of Mark as well as the Letter to the Galatians broaden the horizon and do not limit the wonderful healings to the work of the apostles and some evangelizers, who are of outstanding importance in the first missionary work. From this point of view, the references to the “healing charisms” (cf. Cor is particularly important. The meaning of the word charisma is very broad in itself; a charisma is a "freely given gift", in the case mentioned it is about "gifts to heal diseases". These graces are given to an individual (cf. Cor 12: 9), so they are not understood as healings that each of the healed has obtained for himself, but as a gift that is given to a person in order to bring about healing grace for others. This gift is bestowed in the "one spirit," and it is not specified how that person obtains the healings. One can assume that this happens through prayer, perhaps accompanied by a symbolic gesture.

In the epistle of James there is a reference to an act of the Church by the elders, which is about the healing of the sick - also physically. It is not about wonderful healings, but something else that has to be differentiated from the “healing charisms” according to 1 Cor 12.9. "Are any of you sick? Then he calls the elders of the church to him; they are to say prayers on him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. Faithful prayer will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him ”(Jak 5.14-15). It is about a sacramental act, about the anointing of the sick with oil and the prayer over him, not just “for him”, as if it were nothing more than a prayer for intercession and help; Rather, it is a powerful act about the sick person. (18) The words "save" and "straighten up" show that this act is not only and not primarily about physical healing, although it is included. The first expression in James usually refers to spiritual salvation (cf. 1.21; 2.14; 4.12; 5.20), but is also used in the New Testament to mean “to heal” (cf. Mt 9,21; Mk 5,28.34; 6,56; 10,52; Lk 8.48). The second word sometimes has the meaning of "resurrect" (cf. Mt 10.8; 11.5; 14: 2), but also means the "straightening up" of a person who is depressed by an illness by being wonderfully healed (cf. Mt 9,5; Mk 1,31; 9,27; Acts 3,7).

4. The prayers for healing through God in tradition

For the Fathers of the Church it is a matter of course that the believers ask God not only for the health of the soul but also of the body. Saint Augustine writes about the goods of life, health and physical well-being: "It is necessary to pray that they will be kept when one has them and that they will be given when one does not have them" (19 ) The same Father of the Church left us the testimony of a friend's healing brought about by the prayers of a bishop, a priest and a few deacons in his home. (20)

The same orientation can be found in the liturgical rites of the West and the East. The missal says in a closing prayer: “This sacrament strengthens us in body and soul.” (21) In the Good Friday liturgy, the invitation is made to ask Almighty God “He will take away the diseases” and “give health to the sick”. . (22) One of the most significant texts is the consecration of the sick oil.Here God is invoked that the oil will become consecrated oil through the blessing, "which drives away sickness, pain and distress, and is beneficial for the body, soul and spirit". (23)

In the Eastern rites of the Anointing of the Sick, the terms are essentially no different. Just a few important formulas need to be remembered. In the Byzantine rite, during the anointing of the sick, the prayer is said: “Holy Father, physician of soul and body, you have sent your only begotten Son Jesus Christ to heal every disease and to save us from death, heal by the grace of your Christ also this your servant from the infirmity of the body and soul that torments him. ”(24) In the Coptic rite the Lord is invoked to consecrate the oil, so that all who are anointed with it may gain health of soul and body. During the anointing of the sick, the priest referred to Jesus Christ, who was sent into the world "to heal all diseases and to save from death," and asked God to "raise the sick from the ailments of the body and guide him in the right way." to assign ". (25)

5. The “healing charism” in the context of the present

In the course of church history there is no shortage of saints who performed extraordinary healings. So such healings were not unique to apostolic times. The so-called “healing charism”, about which some doctrinal clarifications are made here, is not, however, to be classified under these phenomena. Rather, it is about the question of the special prayer meetings that are organized to obtain wonderful healings among the sick participants, or about healing prayers after Holy Communion with the same goal.

There is an abundance of evidence in the history of the Church of healings associated with places of worship (shrines, places near relics of martyrs or other saints, etc.). For this reason, too, pilgrimages to some shrines became known and popular in ancient times and in the Middle Ages, such as those to St. Martin of Tours or St. James in Santiago de Compostela and many others. The same thing is happening in the present, for example in Lourdes for more than a century. Such healings do not imply a “healing charism” because they are not performed by a person endowed with this charisma. But it is necessary to take this phenomenon into account in the doctrinal assessment of the prayer meetings mentioned.

In prayer meetings with the aim of obtaining healings - a goal that is paramount in the planning of such meetings or at least has an influence on them - one can distinguish between meetings in which a true or presumed "healing charism" is involved and other meetings not associated with such charisma. In the former gatherings, the intervention of one or more people or a qualified group of people, such as the leader of the group organizing the meetings, is necessary for the prayer to be effective. If there is no connection with the “healing charism”, the celebrations provided for in the liturgical books are of course permitted and often appropriate, such as mass for the sick. If the liturgical norms are not observed, such celebrations are not permitted.

There are often other celebrations in sanctuaries that are not in themselves directly aimed at seeking healing graces from God, but where obtaining healings is an important element of the intentions of the organizers and the participants. For this reason, liturgical celebrations are held, for example the exposure of the Blessed Sacrament with a Eucharistic blessing, and non-liturgical celebrations that correspond to popular piety promoted by the Church, such as the solemn rosary. Such celebrations are also allowed if their authentic meaning is not distorted. When exposing the Holy Eucharist, for example, the desire to obtain the healing of the sick should not be put so much in the foreground that the real aim of the exposure is lost, namely “to lead the faithful to a living awareness of the wonderful presence of Christ to invite them to unite with him. This union culminates in sacramental communion ”. (26)

The “healing charism” cannot simply be attributed to a particular category of believer. It is evident that St. Paul, in his references to the various charisms in 1 Cor. 12, does not give the gift of "healing charisms" to a particular group - the apostles, the prophets, the teachers, those in charge, or others - assigns. The allocation of charisms follows a different logic: “All of this is effected by one and the same spirit; to each he gives his special gift as he wishes ”(1 Cor 12.11). Consequently, it would be completely arbitrary if, in the prayer meetings where healings are sought, were assigned a "healing charism" to any group of participants, such as the group leaders; rather, one must entrust oneself to the utterly free will of the Holy Spirit, who gives some a special charism of healing in order to reveal the power of the grace of the Risen One. But not even the most urgent prayers bring about the healing of all diseases. Saint Paul must learn from the Lord: “My grace is enough for you; for it shows its strength in weakness "(Ex Cor 12.9). In addition, the sufferings to be borne can have a profound meaning, according to the saying: "For the body of Christ, the Church, I supplement in my earthly life that which is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ" (Col 1,24).



Art. 1 - Every believer is allowed to pray to God for healing. When such prayers are held in a church or other sacred place, it is appropriate for an ordained minister to lead them.

Art. 2 - Prayers for healing are considered liturgical prayers if they are included in the liturgical books approved by the competent ecclesiastical authority; otherwise it is a question of non-liturgical prayers.

Art. 3 - § 1. Liturgical healing prayers are celebrated according to the prescribed rite and with the liturgical vestments that are shown in Ordo benedictionis infirmorum of Roman rituals are specified. (27)

§ 2. According to the Praenotanda (28) same Roman rituals In the rite of the blessings of the sick, the Bishops' Conferences can, after prior examination by the Holy See, make the adjustments that they consider appropriate pastorally or possibly necessary.

Art. 4 - § 1. The diocesan bishop (29) has the right, according to can. 34 CIC to issue norms for liturgical healing services.

§ 2. Those who are responsible for the preparation of such liturgical celebrations must adhere to the norms mentioned when carrying them out.

§ 3. Permission for these services must be given expressly, even if bishops or cardinals organize or participate in them. If there is a just and just cause, the diocesan bishop has the right to prohibit another bishop.

Art. 5 - § 1. Non-liturgical healing prayers, which, due to their nature, have to be distinguished from liturgical celebrations, are gatherings for prayer and reading of the Word of God, about which the local ordinary according to can. 839 § 2 CIC watches.

§ 2. Care must be taken to avoid confusing these free, non-liturgical prayers with liturgical services in the proper sense.

§ 3. It is also necessary to ensure that when such celebrations are carried out - especially those who lead them - do not resort to forms that give space to the hysterical, artificial, theatrical or sensational.

Art. 6 - The diocesan bishop watches over the use of the means of social communication, especially television, during liturgical or non-liturgical healing prayers, according to can. 823 CIC and the guidelines issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its instruction of March 30, 1992 (30).

Art. 7 - § 1. While maintaining the above-mentioned provisions of Art. 3 and with the exception of the divine services for the sick, which are provided for in the liturgical books, no liturgical or liturgical services are allowed in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours not inserted into liturgical healing prayers.

§ 2. At the celebrations mentioned in § 1 there is the possibility of inserting special prayer intentions for the healing of the sick in the intercessions, if this is provided for.

Art. 8 - § 1. According to can. 1172 CIC, the letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of September 29, 1985 (31) and the Roman Rituals (32) exercised under the direction of the diocesan bishop.

§ 2. The im Roman rituals The exorcism prayers contained therein must be distinguished from the liturgical and non-liturgical healing services.

§ 3. It is strictly forbidden to include such exorcism prayers in the celebration of Holy Mass, the sacraments or the Liturgy of the Hours.

Art. 9 - Those who conduct liturgical or non-liturgical healing services must endeavor to maintain a climate of genuine devotion in the congregation and use the necessary wisdom when healings occur among those present; at the end of the celebration, they should collect any testimony with simplicity and care and present it to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority.

Art. 10 - The diocesan bishop is obliged to intervene if abuses occur in liturgical or non-liturgical healing services and there is an obvious offense for the community of believers or if liturgical or disciplinary norms are seriously violated.


In an audience given to the undersigned Prefect, Pope John Paul II approved the present Instruction, which had been adopted in the Ordinary Assembly of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.

Rome, at the seat of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on September 25, 2000, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Rome, at the seat of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on September 14, 2000, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

+ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger,

+ Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B.,
Archbishop em. from Vercelli,

(1) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Christifideles laici, No. 53: AAS 81 (1989), 498.

(2) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1502.

(3) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, No. 11: AAS 76 (1984) 212.

(5) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, No. 19: AAS 76 (1984) 225.

(6) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Christifideles laici, No. 53: AAS 81 (1989), 499.

(12) Cf. Roman Missal, Ex Decreto Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II instauratum, Auctoritate Pauli PP. VI promulgatum, Editio typica altera, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, MCMLXXV, pp. 838-839.

(13) Cf. Roman rituals, Ex Decreto Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II instauratum, Auctoritate Ioannis Pauli PP. II promulgatum, De Benedictionibus, Editio typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, MCMLXXXIV, n. 305.

(18) See CONCILE OF TRENTE, sess. XIV, Doctrina de Sacramento Extremae Unctionis, cap. 2: DH 1696.

(21) The celebration of Holy Mass, Missal for the dioceses of the German-speaking area, Freiburg 1976, closing prayer on the 26th Sunday of the year; see. Roman Missal, p. 563.

(23) The celebration of the sacraments of the sick, Appendix III; see. Rituals Romanum, Ordo UnctionisInfirmorum eorumque Pastoralis Curae, n.75.

(24) GOAR J., Euchologion sive rituals Graecorum, Venetiis 1730 (Graz 1960), 338.

(25) DENZINGER H., Rite Orientalium in administrandis Sacramentis, vv. I-II, Würzburg 1863 (Graz 1961), v. II, 497f.

(30) See CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Instruction on Some Aspects of the Use of Social Communications in Promoting the Doctrine of the Faith, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 1992.

(31) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Epistula Inde from aliquot annis, Ordinariis locorum missa: in mentem normae vigentes de exorcismis revocantur: AAS 77 (1985) 1169-1170.

(32) Cf. Roman rituals, Ex Decreto Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II instauratum, Auctoritate Ioannis Pauli PP. II promulgatum, De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam, Editio typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, MIM, Praenotanda, nn. 13-19.