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Last rites not only for those near death

(CNN) -- In the Catholic Church, the last rites began as a ritual of healing, but the emphasis shifted over time to forgiving the sins of a dying person as preparation for going to heaven.

The church has tried to return to the original meaning of the sacrament by emphasizing that it is not only for those who are close to death but for anyone who is ill and by calling it the Anointing of the Sick or the Sacrament of Anointing.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says the sacrament was instituted by Christ to give spiritual aid and comfort to the seriously ill.

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