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REUTERS Tony O'Brien
REUTERS Tony O'Brien
REUTERS Tony O'Brien
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'Amess amendment' proposed to give priests last rites access at crime scenes

by Heather Preston

An amendment to ensure Catholic priests can administer a person's last rites, even at crime scenes is being proposed in Parliament.

In the Catholic tradition, the last rites are the final prayers said to commend a person to God's mercy.

It comes after Father Jeffrey Woolnough was unable to reach Catholic MP Sir David Amess, at the scene where he was stabbed last Friday.

Catholic Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, Mike Kane has suggested adding the "Amess amendment" to legislation to allow priests to reach and pray with terminally ill Catholics "in the final moments of life" or just after they have died.

Kane, founder of the Catholics for Labour group spoke during tributes to Sir David in the House of Commons on Monday.

After honouring Sir David for his "deep Catholic faith" he explained that it was "vital that people of faith can receive the ministry and sacraments they need in the final moments of life and at the point of death."

"There should be a presumption by the authorities whether it be a care home or a crime scene that pastors can tend to the spiritual needs of the individual concerned," he added.

But some professionals have argued that the proposed change could lead to the potential contamination of a crime scene. Speaking to Premier, Kane acknowledged the importance of respecting safety and medical considerations but said that there are ways to ensure that priests don´t compromise any forensic evidence. 

"We can have training for priests or clergy members if that is what government requires. Priests also can be fingerprinted, if needed, to make sure that any evidence that they see on the body is from the priest when they're anointed with oil. 

"I say, from a personal point of view, we shouldn't be watching too many crime dramas, I think, where the sanctity of the crime scene seems more important than the sanctity of the victim. And I think, again, trying to be positive, that's where we want to get to with this amendment. We want to get to the point that yes, the crime scene is important, but the last wishes and the faith of the victim, or if it's not a victim, of someone just dying in a care home. It's also extraordinarily important as well," he continued. 

When asked if the amendment had received enough support so far he said he could see a lot of support when he raised it in the House of Commons on Monday. 

"It seemed to get an awful lot of support from members in the chamber at that moment. And the prime minister was nodding as well when I mentioned this," Kane said.

"Just raising the issue has highlighted this to those public authorities, whether they would be care homes, hospitals, police and because we're not criticising anyone here. But this is important to people who require this sacrament. So in that sense, getting this on the agenda, has already highlighted that issue. I know it's given great hope to a number of people who knew David as well, whether we can get an amendment... this is much more technical, but we're going to look. I'm talking to a few members of the House of Lords today."


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