Can we pray for departed if they were non Christian?

Folks, I am not sure if this is the correct forum. Pardon me if it’s not.

A non-Christian friend asked me if we could pray for a departed who died without receiving Christ. I said yes.

He also asked if we could intercede on their behalf and pray for the forgiveness of their sins. Well, if we can pray for them, it must be so that their sins can be forgiven and they be admitted to heaven.

But where can I find documentation on this?

We can, and we should. We are all in need of God’s mercy

Apologetics? Really? OK.

Thanks Denise. Any documentation on the efficacy of our prayers for Non-Christian departed?

A direct quote from the Catechism about praying for non-Christian dead might not exist. At least, I couldn’t find any references using that phrase. However, the Catechism tells us this about the possible salvation of non-Christians:

Possible salvation of non-Christians: #s 846-848.

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

Ergo, if non-Christians may be saved, it stands to reason that we may pray for them. :wink:

It is taught we cannot know who is in heaven or hell, we don’t know what happens to them. So, praying for their souls is perfectly fine! Not only that, praying for anyone’s salvation is ALWAYS the right thing to do, whether there is a written ‘rule’ or not.

God is merciful.
He is not bound any “proofs”. We know prayer works. Be at peace. Pray. Just pray.

By all means we should. Non-Christians are made in the image & likeness of God just as Christians. We are all God’s handiwork.

We can pray for them, even have a Mass offered for them.

All very helpful. Thanks!

The destination of everyone who dies is decided by the state of their soul at death. They either go to Hell immediately if they died in a state of mortal sin, or if they died in a state of grace they either go straight to Heaven or Purgatory first then Heaven later.
We, of course, may and should pray for the souls of the departed but our prayers cannot change if they are saved or not.
Those in Heaven do not need our prayers. Prayers for those in Hell are wasted on those in Hell as they will never be released. The most effect our prayers can have are for those in Purgatory but they are already saved so prayers can only help them move more quickly to Heaven.

Well, since we cannot know who is in heaven, hell or purgatory (except the canonized saints in heaven), our prayers are never wasted. All our prayers are wanted and useful for those in purgatory. We can add to our prayers, or have it in mind, that if our prayers for a particular person aren’t helpful to them (they’re in heaven or hell), then the merits of those prayers may be applied to others who do need them. Perhaps you know this and simply didn’t want to add all that ;)–but in any case, our prayers are never wasted for God sees our intentions are good and “goes with” that. :slight_smile:

I agree and yes I know prayers are not wasted but its been said so many times I assume people knew.

Our prayers, Masses, and intercessions for others are not necessarily restricted in their application to our own particular timeline. God can apply prayer when and where and in whatever way it will be most effective. If I offer prayers and have a Mass said next week for someone who died last year, the effect of those prayers can be applied to the person at the moment of their death or prior to their death or to them in purgatory. We have no way of knowing.

It is customary to have Masses said for the deceased. That doesn’t mean that the spiritual effect of those Masses must be applied by God on our timeline; he can apply them in any way He wishes fo the benefit of the one being prayed for.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit