Can someone who is not Catholic be canonized?

Can someone who lived of life of morality and virtue, but not Catholic, become a saint.

There were obviously the angels who are considered saints, but that seems incoherent how they became those or are labeled as those.

Further explanation on this would be much appreciated.

The angels are considered so because they are in heaven and intercede for us. Non Catholics, other than some Israelites before us, haven’t yet been considered Saints officially. Some Church Fathers considered some pagans to be Saints. There is nothing preventing the Church, aka, specifically the Pope, from infallibly canonizing a non Catholic though. It would be controversial, but it is possible. see tnis:

Saints are:

  1. Venerated by the community
  2. Canonized
  3. Martyrs
  4. Offering of life

These are the four ways people can become Saints. Not all Saints are canonized, the early Church didn’t do that. Afaik canonization in our modern sense began in the 12th century.


No, at least not the way we understand the title.

Reason: Canonized Saints are supposed to be Catholic role models, showing us how to live our Catholic Faith.

A very faithful non-Catholic might be a good role model (in terms of being a good person or lover of Christ), but they can’t be a good role model of what it means to be a good Catholic because they are not one.

I hope this helps.


BTW, it might be possible for a person who was never baptized to become a Saint if he/she was martyred for the Faith.

For example, I remember a story about some Christians who were being killed in Africa by muslims. The Christian simply had to renounce Christ & accept Islam in order not to be killed. But the Christians refused and were being killed. A muslim (who was friends with at least one of the Christians being killed) was so inspired by their faith that he apparently decided to convert right there and be killed with the Christians.

If a non-Catholic is ever canonized, it would be someone like that Muslim man who converted seconds before being martyred.

Technically, a “saint” is anyone who is in Heaven with God enjoying the Beatific Vision. This would include angels, canonized saints with the title Saint (as in Saiint Francis, Saint John the Baptist etc) and probably a number of other deceased humans whose names are lost to time or remembered only by their loved ones or descendants, and who may have only made to Heaven after significant purification in Purgatory.

Catholic teaching is that we may have hope that non-Catholics who live virtuous lives may be saved and make it to Heaven, at which point they would be “saints”. But since they aren’t officially beatified and canonized by the Church, we would not be permitted to publicly venerate them, for instance by naming a church after them or having a memorial on the calendar for them. They would be honored as a group on All Saints’ Day along with all the other saints in Heaven.

If you’re talking about canonizing a non-Catholic as an official canonized saint of the Church, that may be technically possible, but it’s highly unlikely to ever happen. There are already plenty of holy Catholic men and women whose causes never make it all the way to canonization, and the Church does not want to hold up non-Catholics as models of heroic virtue for Catholics to emulate, because it would suggest that you could still be just as holy outside the Church as you could in it. It would also be pretty weird attending a Catholic church named after a non-Catholic, or having a Catholic feast day on the calendar for a non-Catholic. Popes have from time to time publicly recognized in some way the saintliness of some Orthodox saints, such as St. Seraphim of Sarov, but that’s as far as they go.


Jesus wasn’t Catholic. Neither were the Apostles (including Paul). They were Jewish.

I think there is a difference between “saintly people” and actual canonizes saints.

Jesus is not a “saint”. He is God.

The Apostles became Christian on Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian Church. In those days there was only one Christian Church, which was the same as the Catholic Church today as we have the direct apostolic succession. The Apostles were all Christians at the time of their death.

So those are not good examples.


Well I am certain Pope John Paul II has canonized certain Orthodox monk but I don’t quite remember which one…

Anyway everyone who is in Heaven is already Catholic so all Saints are Catholic now- perhaps they weren’t during life but now they are.

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Again, the term “saint” means anyone in heaven, canonized or not. All Saints’ Day commemorates all those persons as a group.

Canonized saints, who are officially recognized by the Church, are the subgroup of saints we are permitted to publicly venerate, such as by having a feast for them on the calendar or a church named for them or by giving them the title “Saint John” etc.

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No, of course not. There are many reasons why not.

  1. You don’t have access to their lives, their spirituality like you do in investigations into saints lives by the Church.
  2. What purpose would God revealing a saint outside of His Church serve His Church? How would it be an example For Catholics to achieve sainthood.
  3. As mad as people get about Mormon baptism of the dead of people of other faiths Imagine the sheer disrespect to other faiths to have the chutzpah to canonize them!
  4. The scandal it would cause in the mission of the a Church to spread the gospel and administer sacraments. We already are at a dark age of Church evangelizing and spreading the Gospel.
  5. There is the exception of the Old Testament “saints”. And in respect to our a Jewish brothers you rarely hear the word saint used for these Old Testament figures. Occasionally you MIGHT hear, saint Adam, st Moses, st Elijah but rarely would that be used.
    So once Christ established the Church, it is the normative for salvation. And outside of the Church there is no salvation. Even if you take modern understanding of that phrase it means that ANY saint in heaven is indeed Catholic. And that is very offensive if they never were. Hence why saying st Martin Luther, or Saint Martin Luther King would be so very offensive. To their families, and followers claiming them as Catholic is not only disrespectful to our faith, but to the very person who would have been canonized.

Hijacking (is this allowed? If not I’ll make a thread): why are those in heaven considered Catholic? Our faith seems to be so deficient. The early Church knew of no trinity, papal infallibility, immaculate conception, etc. But when they died, they knew of all that and more. I expect that when we die, we will see so many defects in knowledge. Also, they can see God, they don’t have faith anymore, so they don’t share the Catholic faith. To them, the faith must look infantile and radically deficienct. When someone enters heaven, I cease to think of them as Catholic, and only a perfect knower of God. So why are they considered of our faith?

Because Catholic Church contains fullness of Truth about God… and also because all the Saints are part of Catholic Church.

You see, Catholic Church has three parts

Church Militant - those on Earth
Church Suffering- those in Purgatory
Church Triumphant- those in Heaven (Saints)

Saints are truly Catholic- they are at every Mass, they pray for us and they also pray for those in Purgatory. We ask Saints for intervention and we pray for those in Purgatory as well. This is great unity and communion in the Church- we are in communion with the Saints. Isn’t that amazing?

They know more than we do, but as much as Catholic Theologians are as Catholic as someone who isn’t amazing thinker but lives in peace with Church and listens to those in authority is Catholic and yet their difference in knowledge is immense, so are Saints whose knowledge of God is so great we can’t even compare ours to it parts of same Church we are.

That doesn’t say “Paul was baptized without water and Trinitarian formula”… it isn’t present either but to draw conclusion that it wasn’t done that way isn’t quite logical.

Church regulates Sacraments and even their validity. Marriage was once valid if two professed their vows and they needed no witnesses. Now such Marriage is invalid. Church has power to bind and loose and that can affect even validity of Sacraments. So yes, what was valid 2K years ago might not be completely valid now. I am also not sure whether Pentecost is supposed to be baptism … I am inclined to say it isn’t but I am not entirely sure.


They were all the first Catholics, along with the Blessed Mother Mary.


You’re veering a bit off topic. I’ve presented the Church teaching; if you want to engage in a lengthy discussion aboutt it, I think it would be better to make your own thread. There already seems to be a lot of hijacking in this thread, so I will not add to it.

Correct. And that’s the end of the matter as far as I’m concerned.

They (except for St John and Mother Mary) certainly weren’t martyred for being Jewish.


A virtuous pagan can go to Heaven and therefore be a saint, but to be canonized a person must be Catholic. Not even the prophets of the Old Testament are called saints.

The thread is asking about whether someone who is not a Catholic can be canonized.

We know the Apostles are saints. My post inquires about whether they could be considered “Catholic.”

If they are not, then the obvious answer to the OP, is “No, it is not required to be a Catholic in order to be canonized.” If they are in fact Catholic (as many people here are asserting that they are), then the possible counterexample they present is invalid. That seems like it is very closely related to the topic of this thread.

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AFAIK it’s not impossible to canonize a non-Catholic but it’s problematic because one of the purposes of canonization is to provide people with models of virtue and models of spirituality, and while a non-Catholic Christian or a non-Christian might be able to provide that in many ways, it’s not in a Catholic context, even though anybody in Heaven is part of the Church triumphant.

It’s something Popes will have to pray about.


This is not a simple question. St John Paul II reflected on the idea in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, That All may be One. The closest he comes to acknowledging the saints of other communities is in the martyrs, see below. The work of ecumenism brings us closer to other, noncatholic communities and to those members who have been recognized as holy in those communities.

A classic example would be the companions of St Charles Lwanga. These saints were martyred in Uganda in the 19th century, 22 Catholics and 9 Anglicans. The 22 Catholics were canonized by Paul VI, who acknowledged the Anglicans. He did not canonize the Anglicans; that is the responsibility of their own community. If we achieve unity with Anglicans, we will be led to it by the holiness already present in each other’s community. Unity will include a shared recognition of that holiness.

In a theocentric vision, we Christians already have a common Martyrology . This also includes the martyrs of our own century, more numerous than one might think, and it shows how, at a profound level, God preserves communion among the baptized in the supreme demand of faith, manifested in the sacrifice of life itself.138 The fact that one can die for the faith shows that other demands of the faith can also be met. I have already remarked, and with deep joy, how an imperfect but real communion is preserved and is growing at many levels of ecclesial life. I now add that this communion is already perfect in what we all consider the highest point of the life of grace, martyria unto death, the truest communion possible with Christ who shed his Blood, and by that sacrifice brings near those who once were far off (cf. Eph 2:13).
John Paul II. Ut unum sint 84


Incorrect: St. Elijah the Prophet is venerated in the Catholic Church. His feast day is July 20.

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