Do canonical Eastern Orthodox priests ever admit Catholics to the sacraments?

I have in mind extreme cases, such as danger of death, or situations where the Catholic will be otherwise deprived of the sacraments for a considerable length of time. I know they do not object to Catholics attending Divine Liturgy, I am just asking about sacraments.

And would there be differences between jurisdictions (Constantinople, Moscow, the various autocephalous churches, etc.)? I am thinking more of “mainline” Orthodox, not small splinter sects. I do know of one Syriac priest from a small non-canonical Orthodox church who will administer sacraments to Catholics, but he seems to be the exception, not the rule.

Yes, they do, though generally not officially and on a case-by-case basis . Intercommunion is quite common in the Middle East between Melkite Catholics for a variety of social and historical reasons. I don’t know how widespread it is, but in the United States I know several Melkite Catholics who have received sacraments in Antiochian Orthodox churches, even for long periods of time.

It is much less common in other jurisdictions, but I do know of at least one case of a Russian Orthodox priest hearing the confession of a Catholic man and giving him Holy Communion. The circumstances were exceptional and would not ordinarily be repeated.

Also, in the days of communist Russia in the labor camps and elsewhere, it was not uncommon at all for Catholics to approach Orthodox priests when necessary; Orthodox prisoners likewise approached Catholic priests.

Even though sacramental sharing is sometimes tolerated, concelebration is most definitely not.

My own experience with Syriac Orthodox (who are non-Caledonian, Oriental Orthodox) has been different from yours. I was invited to receive Holy Communion by a Syriac bishop. The circumstances were quite ordinary and there was no lack of ability to receive the Mysteries in my own church.


Yes, they do.

It always comes down to the particular circumstances.

In the Near Middle East, Antiochian Orthodox and Melkites have shared church buildings, and are much more amenable to intercommunion than other jurisdictions.

The Catholic population in Greece is so small Catholics often receive sacraments from Orthodox priests.

My Ukrainian pastor was initiated by an Orthodox priest in secret as there were no Catholic priests allowed in that area at that time.

I know of many other examples - do you have a specific need, or are you just asking a hypothetical question?

Deacon Christopher


That comes as a real surprise to me.

It’s for the most part hypothetical. I do not ever expect to be in a part of the world, for an extended period of time, where the only way I could obtain valid sacraments would be either from the Orthodox or not at all.

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I’m not finding it in a search right now (but it’s somewhere on my shelves!), but there’s a book titled something like “the other Catholics: faithful and true” in which the priest/author describes Divine Liturgy in the gulag: the priest using his palm for the Holy Table, and a bit of bread hidden away and a sequestered grape or two turned to wine . . . about four minutes! . . . and noone really cared which side of the schism one another were supposed to be on.


I think the book you’re looking for is The Other Catholics: Faithful and Obedient. Red cover? We have several copies of it in our parish bookstore. Fr. Walter Ciszek also talks about his experiences ministering to both Catholic and Orthodox prisoners while he was also a prisoner in With God in Russia. People were just happy to have a priest and priests were generous in sharing their ministry.

Here is one example of many:

Beside Fr. Casper and I, there were also two Lithuanian priests, who always went around together and three Greek Orthodox priests, who joined us from time to time. We all said Mass regularly, thanks to Fr. Vikotr, who supplied everything - and never seemed to run out. Each priest was assigned his own little group or “parish”, and we tried to make our work inconspicuous by keeping the groups separate and distinct. Yet Viktor saw to it that every prisoner, if he wanted to, knew at least one priest in the camp.


Me too! I had got the impression from somewhere that Orthodox communities have much less respect for Catholics than vice-versa, so, despite sharing of sacraments being possible it would be rare.

I’m glad to be informed I was wrong!

Yes! that one!

It’s probably not the best book for an introduction to eastern catholicism, though: there’s a definite (and justified!) “chip on the shoulder” that comes through at several points.

But definitely well worth reading.

Generally speaking, that is true, though I would not characterize it as a lack of respect. There are simply in a different place in terms of ecumenism then we are. And I would hate for you to get the impression that it is not rare. Sacramental sharing is rare from the Orthodox side. But it does happen, and in some places and times it happens with greater frequency than others. It is never considered the norm.


It is also not the most well-written book that I’ve ever come across, but I agree that it is definitely worth reading.

@babochka Thanks for the direct and helpful follow up!

I think it’s a bunch of very loud Russian nationalists and the more extreme of the monks on Mt. Athos that cause the impression (kind of like that one Disney dog cartoon giving Siamese a bad reputation).


Definitely. And those types also exist within Catholicism, though they have less influence than they do in Orthodoxy. I was once warned against going to an Orthodox Church to venerate the relics of an important saint, simply because they were not in a Catholic Church. This was in real life, by a traditionalist Catholic in good standing with the Church.


Those types have almost no influence in Catholicism in terms of official ecumenical relations. That’s the difference.


I think the local situation depends upon what is done. If there are lots of both Catholic and Orthodox parishes in the neighbourhood then sacraments are usually not given to the other. I also think the different meetings between Catholics and Orthodox both on lay level and bishop level have helped. The situation is different today than 20, or even 10 years ago. In a way, I think that because people move all over the world and also refugees coming from all over the world that have helped as well as secularism. Christians need to stick together in many countries.

I have seen pictures of a Catholic deacon assisting at an Orthodox wedding with reading the Gospel and giving the homily. The bride was from one country/language and the groom from a different country/language and they both lived in a third country/language where none of their family members/relatives resided. A Catholic and an Orthodox marrying and there were at least three languages spoken.

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It is a wonderful thing to see differences dissolve in the face of the persecutions of Christians in the Gulag imprisonments… Persecutions are Baptisms by blood, and we have an African-American Priest who remarked that there was Salvation by Theosis in the Black Baptist Churches of the South before the Civil Rights Movement, but now have dropped aside pretty much, for lack of persecutions…

There is a lot of ego in proving one’s ideas better than another’s ideas…
That disappears in the persecutions of Christians by evil men…

Let God Arise!
Let His enemies be scattered!
Let them that hate Him flee from before His Face!

Untried men are not yet saved!
(Well, they are not yet matured/perfected/fully saved)



That is very interesting. What do you mean “salvation by theosis”, and in this context?

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Theosis is quintessential Salvation in the EOC - It is an encounter with God that divinizes the person who has prepared his soul for it in repentance from this world… It is an event which is characteristic of the experience of Christian Saints… Padre Pio, on your side of the aisle, comes to mind… Contemporaneously on ours, we have St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco… Currently we have many others not yet named… It is the “Knowing God” that IS Life Eternal and is the mark of the Marriage of the Lamb - It is the Union of God and Man in a way that confers God’s Holy Power in various ways according to one’s preparation… Discipleship is preparation for this event, and all will experience it, but not all that many will have it happen in this life, for many are Called (by God), but few are Chosen… When Paul writes “Whom He hath Justified, these also He hath Glorified…” he is referring to what we call Theosis when he uses the term Glorified… Moses had it, as did Elijah, and all the Prophets… It is a temporary event, and not permanent - Such people live in a state of Divine Illumination, which is different… But it is a very lasting condition that is produced by such an encounter with the Living God… Moses spent 40 days and nights in this presence of God, and his face was to lit up that they had to cover it so as to not frighten the Jews…

It is the Salvation of the mature/perfect in the EOC…

St Thomas Aquinas had one experience of it in his last year of life, and did not finish the Summa, and taught no more classes, saying after it to his Abbot: “All I have written is straw…”

It is more than a big deal…

It is T H E Big Deal…

Prophesy comes after and through it…

Southern Black Baptist Churches did not have the discipleship for it, you see, but the persecutions prepared the way in the absence of the discipling of their Churches, to the great benefit of their Churches… The Gulag’s persecutions had the same effect…


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Definitely, and in other Orthodox churches as well.

It’s just that those two groups are so noisy that they drive the perception.

Outside of the Russian Orthodox, they don’t in Orthodoxy, either.

In all seriousness, without the nationalistic demands of the RO, either +JPII or +Benedict and the EP would have managed to restore communion . . .

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What “nationalistic demands” are you referring to?

And would it really have been that easy to restore communion? What about papal infallibility, filioque, the use of economia to allow second (and even third) marriages, and so on?

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