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Sacramental Rites

The sacramental rites of the Episcopal Church include Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, and Unction (BCP, pp. 860-861). These rites are distinguished from the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, which were given by Christ and are understood to be necessary for the Christian life of all persons.


The Roman Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments, including Baptism, Eucharist, and the five other sacramental rites. Peter Lombard (c. 1095-1160) identified these seven rites as sacraments of the church. This position was affirmed by the Council of Florence (1439) and the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The Orthodox Church also accepts seven sacraments. Martin Luther (1483-1546) was willing to identify Reconciliation of a Penitent as a sacrament, in addition to Baptism and Eucharist.


In 1521 Henry VIII was awarded the title “Defender of the Faith” by Pope Leo X in recognition of Henry's treatise Assertio Septem Sacramentorum (Assertion of the Seven Sacraments) which defended the doctrine of the seven sacraments against Luther. After the English Reformation, Marriage or the Reconciliation of a Penitent are presented as sacraments by some Elizabethan homilies and formularies. Article XXV of the Articles of Religion acknowledged Baptism and the Lord's Supper as the two sacraments ordained by Christ in the gospel. Article XXV states that the five other sacramental rites “have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God” (BCP, p. 872). The five sacramental rites are not understood to be necessary for all Christians.

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Christian Burial

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