Christianity was founded around 2000 years ago in the area of modern-day Israel and Palestine.

It is based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, known as Christ (the anointed one). Christianity is a world-wide religion followed by people of many different cultures and backgrounds. Although Christians hold much in common, there is a wide diversity of beliefs, ethical standpoints and forms of worship among the many denominations and groups which make up the Christian Church. The two major groups of Christians in Britain are Protestants and Roman Catholics.  Orthodox christians make up the remainder of the Christian community.

At the centre of Christian belief is Jesus, who is regarded as the revelation of God. For many Christians this revelation is such that he is understood to be the incarnation of God. The Christian holy book is called the Bible and key Christian practices are baptism and Holy Communion (or Eucharist). Prayer and meditation are important to Christians in their daily life, and many Christians are also involved with justice, peace and development issues, in common with adherents of other faiths.


Attitudes to healthcare staff and illness

Most Christians have a positive attitude towards healthcare staff and are willing to seek medical help and advice when sick.


Religious practices

Key Christian practices (depending on denomination) are Holy Communion, confession, absolution and the anointing of the sick. The relevant hospital chaplain would be able to offer these sacraments to Christians on a hospital ward. Prayer is also very important to Christians and they would appreciate some privacy for this.



There are no universal Christian dietary regulations.



There are no universal Christian fasting regulations. Some Christians fast on particular days and at particular times of the year. Some Christians give up certain foods during Lent (a 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter). Other Christians observe Friday as a no-meat day or may fast before receiving Holy Communion.


Washing and toilet

Washing and toilet present no unusual problems for Christians.


Ideas of modesty and dress

There are no particular points to be noted in this area and most Christians would not object to being examined by doctors of the opposite sex.


Death customs

Dying patients of all Christian denominations may wish the services of the appropriate chaplain. It is important that whenever possible Roman Catholic patients be offered the sacrament known as the sacrament of the sick. If a baby is seriously ill, stillborn or dies shortly after birth, it is customary for parents to be offered a service of blessing, baptism or funeral for their baby. A chaplain or minister usually performs the service, although a member of staff may perform an emergency baptism in their absence if requested. Some Christians do not practise infant baptism and may prefer that sick or dying babies receive a blessing instead.


Birth customs

There are no specific or universal Christian customs relating to birth itself, although many Christian traditions practise infant baptism. This may be significant for a new-born child who is dying, as the family may request that the baby is baptised.


Family planning

For many Christians, family planning is an individual choice. All Christian churches uphold the sanctity of life and every effort is made to preserve life. Certain churches discourage their members from using artificial means of contraception. Roman Catholics believe that every human being has a divine right to live, and that life begins at conception, so abortion is forbidden. Abortion is also strongly condemned in some other Christian denominations.


Blood transfusions, transplants and organ donation

Most Christians do not object to blood transfusions and may receive transplants or donate organs for transplant. Jehovah's Witnesses are an exception to this (see the relevant section for further details).