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‘Priests are an emergency service’: 8,000 people sign petition supporting the ‘Amess Amendment’

Over 8,000 people have signed a petition supporting the Amess Amendment, which would allow entry to a crime scene to ministers of religion (such as Catholic priests) in order to perform religious rituals or prayer associated with the dying, such as the last rites. 

The petition was launched by worldwide conservative advocacy group Citizen Go following the proposal of the ‘Amess Amendment’ by Labour MP Mike Kane. The amendment would allow priests to enter crime scenes to pray with a Catholic “in the final moments of life”.

Mr Kane seeks to add the amendment to legislation which is currently going through Parliament. The intention is to add the “Amess amendment” to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. It is understood that there are peers ready to put forward the amendment in the committee stage in the House of Lords and cross-party discussions are underway.

The text accompanying the online Citizen Go petition supporting the amendment reads: “The ‘Amess Amendment’ has now been introduced into the House of Lords  to add to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, and this  would allow entry to a crime scene to ministers of religion in order to perform religious rituals or prayer associated with dying.

“Sign the petition calling on the CEO of the Royal College of Policing, the Home Secretary and the Minister for Crime and Policing  to respect the needs of religious minorities and support the Amess Amendment.”

The amendment is being proposed to ensure access for Catholic priests to administer the last rites, including at crime scenes, following the chilling murder of English MP Sir David Amess. As reported by Gript, a Catholic priest was refused entry by a priest to give last rites to the dying MP, who was a devout Catholic. In the Catholic Church, the sacrament of the last rites or the ‘anointing of the sick’ is given to those who are ill or dying.

Whilst a local priest, Fr Jeffrey Woolnough, went to the scene of the attack in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex to give Sir David the last rites, he was not allowed to reach him to do so.

“I think it’s 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,” said Mr Kane, who spoke of Sir David’s Catholic faith in a tribute in Parliament last month.

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“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.”

The proposal from the Labour MP would assert the right of priests to be allowed to reach those who were seriously ill or to say prayers for those who had just passed away.  Mike Kane MP was one of Sir David’s Parliamentary colleagues who is also a Catholic.

According to Citizen Go, Sir Amess was unable to receive the Last Rites, “something that would have been extremely important to him as a Catholic, because the police would not allow the priest to pass through the cordon.”

The advocacy group also states: “This denial of comfort has caused much outrage amongst both Catholics and non-Catholics alike and led for calls for the law to be changed. Bishop Mark Davis of Shrewsbury has said that priests must be recognized as part of the emergency services.”

Citizen Go also argued that the anointing of the sick can be done swiftly and does not interfere with any type of invasive treatment, and said that the law must change so that no one else is “deprived of the consolation” of their faith in their final moments of life.

“In this particular situation where a suspect had already been apprehended and there were plenty of witnesses, it ought to have been obvious that a priest was not going to interfere with the administration of justice. It is easy to eliminate a DNA sample. An experienced priest is trained not to interfere with the work of the medics and the anointing of the sick does not involve any kind of invasive treatment. It can be done extremely swiftly in under a minute.

“The inquest has stated that Sir David fought for his life for over an hour, during which time a priest could have been able to administer spiritual healing and comfort, alleviating his distress and allowing him to depart in peace.

“It is heartbreaking to think of Sir David, or any other person being deprived of the consolation of his faith in his final moments. This is why the law must change.”

The group has blasted the denial of the Last Rites to Sir David as an assault on religious rights, stating: “Denying the injured a priest is an act of religious illiteracy and ignorance that tramples on religious rights.

“The law needs to recognise that priests and ministers of religion are a vital emergency service. Join with us in calling for the implementation of the Amess Amendment.”

The organisation also stated that the implementation of the Amendment would be “a fitting tribute” to Sir David Amess.

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