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'Dial a Priest' offers phone prayers, last rites during coronavirus pandemic

Clergy members all across the country are providing prayers and last rites by phone so patients don’t have to die alone.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — It is one of the saddest realities of the coronavirus pandemic: People are isolated and many are dying alone.

Hospitals all across the United States are overwhelmed with patients. Restrictions to keep both staff and patients safe means loved ones are not able to visit.

For those who are dying because of the virus, it also means priests are not able to be with them in their last moments. Clergy members don't want to see that happen, so they are giving people their last rites by phone.

The new project, Dial-A-Priest was launched in early April by the Virginia Theological Seminary and General Theological Seminary along with TryTank Experimental Lab. 

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The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija is helping spearhead the new hotline.

"For those of us of faith, and really all people, we know that the transition from this world to the next is a holy moment," Lebrija said.

Anyone in the country can call Dial a Priest to connect to a clergy member. The call goes out to 100 volunteer priests at the same time.

Nurses and doctors can call the number at the request of family members. A clergy member on the other line will read the ministration of death from the book of common prayer.

"We can offer that for their comfort, for the prayers that, we, as a people do, commending this person to God, and for the family as well, so they know that person didn't die alone," Lebrija said.

The priests are all Episcopal, but no one will be turned away regardless of religion. 

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The hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at 213-423-3600. The number can also be found at www.DialAPriest.com. There will soon be an option for prayers in Spanish when you call the line.

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