Annoiting of the sick


Can a non Catholic Christian who is close to death receive the annointing of the sick? If you have a friend in that category should one call a priest in their behalf?


You should ask your Priest. I have heard that non-Catholics can receive this with certain conditions, but I have not actually read that anywhere. It’s not specifically noted in Canon Law in the section pertinent to Anointing of the Sick, nor in the Catechism. They mention that it is for “the faithful”.


No to the first question.

Yes to the second.

Only Catholics can receive Anointing of the Sick.

Calling a priest is always a good idea because it gives the dying person one last chance to become a Catholic on earth.

During extreme times such as war, persecution or natural disaster, it is sometimes possible for non-Catholics to be anointed. Certain conditions (from which not even the bishop can dispense) must be present:

  1. Extreme situation such as war, persecution, natural disaster.
  2. It must be impossible for the non-Catholic to have recourse to a minister of his own faith (not just inconvenient, but impossible)
  3. The non-Catholic must believe everything that the Church holds true with regard to the Sacrament, including the necessity of a validly ordained priest.

Given that all 3 conditions must first be met, it is nearly impossible for such a situation to even occur (a battlefield situation is about all I can imagine). Especially when we consider #3, the obvious response is “if such a person truly believes, then he would become Catholic on his deathbed.”

When I consider all the requirements, I can hardly imagine any situation where I, as a priest, would ever be able to do it. To receive someone into the Church and then administer the Sacraments? Of course, yes! But I cannot imagine myself ever doing it with someone who rejects the invitation to join the Church.

[85.] Catholic ministers licitly administer the Sacraments only to the Catholic faithful, who likewise receive them licitly only from Catholic ministers, except for those situations for which provision is made in can. 844 §§ 2,3, and 4, and can. 861 § 2.[166] In addition, the conditions comprising can. 844 § 4, from which no dispensation can be given,[167] cannot be separated; thus, it is necessary that all of these conditions be present together.

Canon 844 §4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.

46…These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases, because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them. And the opposite is also true: Catholics may not receive communion in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of Orders.


What a nice and comprehensive response. Thank you for help on this matter and may the cup of life for you and yours always overflow with love and grace of God. george


You’ve given a very thorough answer so I’m just tagging along and wondering why a non-Catholic would care about receiving a Catholic sacrament from a Catholic priest? If someone really did want to receive the sacrament, wouldn’t they want to become Catholic so they could receive all the sacraments the Church has to offer?

I mean, I’ve been anointed and it’s a beautiful, wonderful sacrament. If I were close to death like the person mentioned in the OP I would want to be anointed if possible. But I’d also want to go to confession…and receive Viaticum…and the apostolic blessing…and if there’s anything I’ve missed I’d like to know about it!


Perhaps an Orthodox person might find him/herself in a situation where no Orthodox priest was available and death was imminent and a Catholic priest was available for the Sacrament, which the Orthodox believe in.


Yes, for an Orthodox person the rules are different.

When this question comes up (as it does on a fairly regular basis) it’s usually being asked about a person who is both non-Catholic and non-Orthodox.

Still, it’s a good point to remind everyone: in the case of an Orthodox person, the Catholic priest can administer Anointing (and Communion and Confession).


This happened last year with the husband of a friend of mine. She is a devout Catholic, and while he was not against the faith, he had no interest in being Catholic. Very occasionally he would attend Mass with her. She nursed him for 2 years with terminal cancer.

A few days before he passed, he asked for the priest to come, and when he arrived he asked to be baptized, and then received the annointing of the sick.


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