I'm writing about Catholicism and from what I extracted of a conversation with a priest friend of mine,

When we ask a Saint for intercession, we need to know that person is alive in heaven. Before that person becomes a Saint, there's a process that requires something extraordinary to happen; when the person isn’t yet considered a Saint, we can have private devotion to them, as long as they were Catholics, and ask for intercession; if something extraordinary happens it can serve to beatify / sanctify that person.

This got me wondering... are there any non-Catholic saints?

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    There was an instance in the last few years of three or four Catholics martyrs being canonized but there was was a Protestant who was martyred with them and only the Catholics were canonized. Caused a minor controversy, I think that'd form the basis for a good answer but I can't find the reference.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 21:56
  • I recall watching the news many years ago when someone presented the idea of designating sainthood to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The response was he wasn’t catholic and the impression I got was that was the only thing preventing it. But it was only a news piece. I can’t even remember who was being interviewed. Commented May 14 at 15:03
  • "only thing preventing it" That would definitely not be the only thing.
    – eques
    Commented May 16 at 21:56
  • Related question Commented May 17 at 21:18

7 Answers 7


Are there any non-Catholic saints?

The short answer seems to be in the affirmative!

Saint Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833) seems to fit the bill here. He is an Eastern Orthodox Saint and has been glorified in their tradition. He is in many Catholic lists of saints and Pope John Paul II addressed him as a saint!

Thus there are a few non-Catholic saints recognized by Rome.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov (Russian: Серафим Саровский) (1 August [O.S. 19 July] 1754 (or 1759) – 14 January [O.S. 2 January] 1833), born Prokhor Moshnin (Прохор Мошнин), is one of the most renowned Russian monks and mystics in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th-century startsy (elders). Seraphim extended the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson. He taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit. Perhaps his most popular quotation amongst Orthodox believers is "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved."

Seraphim was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903. His biographer Nicholas Motovilov was one of his "spiritual children". Pope John Paul II referred to him as a saint. (Wikipedia).

There are many Catholic websites online that include Seraphim of Sarov as being a saint.

Here is what Catholic Saints Info has to say about St Seraphim of Sarov:

Son of a builder, he had a middle-class upbringing. Monk at Sarov in 1777, taking the name Seraphim. Studious as a boy, he was able to apply himself there as the monks of Sarov spent much of the day studying Scripture and the early Church writings. Severely ill and bed-ridden from 1780 to 1783, Seraphim continued his studies, and received repeated apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Ordained in 1793, he celebrated Mass daily, which was unusual at the time.

In 1794 he became a hermit in the forest near the Sarov monastery. In 1804 he was severely beaten by thieves, and left for dead; he dragged himself to the monastery, spent five months in recovery, and spent the rest of his life stooped and requiring a cane to walk. He lived for a while atop a pillar, then in a walled up cell. Offered the abbacy of Sarov in 1807, but declined, and lived the next three years without speaking.

In 1810 his health had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer live in the woods. He returned to the Sarov abbey, and lived as a hermit within its walls. In 1832 he received a vision from the Virgin Mary that told him to return to the world and give others the benefit of his wisdom. He attracted followers and students, became known as a healer, and was called by the honourific starets, Russian for spiritual teacher. Many of his teachings have been reprinted in the West, and Pope John Paul II referred to him in the book Crossing the Threshold of Hope (as a saint).

Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Saints lists the feast day of St Seraphim of Sarov as being celebrated in the Catholic Church on January 2.

Furthermore, in Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (1994), he made a very strong allusion to Martyrs of Christ of various faiths: Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants:

37."The Church of the first millennium was born of the blood of the martyrs: "Sanguis martyrum - semen christianorum".(21) The historical events linked to the figure of Constantine the Great could never have ensured the development of the Church as it occurred during the first millennium if it had not been for the seeds sown by the martyrs and the heritage of sanctity which marked the first Christian generations. At the end of the second millennium, the Church had once again become a Church of martyrs. The persecutions of believers — priests, religious and laity — has caused a great sowing of martyrdom in different parts of the world. The witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, as Pope Paul VI pointed out in his Homily for the Canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs.(22)

This witness must not be forgotten. The Church of the first centuries, although facing considerable organizational difficulties, took care to write down in special martyrologies the witness of the martyrs. These martyrologies have been constantly updated through the centuries, and the register of the saints and the blessed bears the names not only of those who have shed their blood for Christ but also of teachers of the faith, missionaries, confessors, bishops, priests, virgins, married couples, widows and children.

In our own century the martyrs have returned, many of them nameless, "unknown soldiers" as it were of God's great cause. As far as possible, their witness should not be lost to the Church. As was recommended in the Consistory, the local Churches should do everything possible to ensure that the memory of those who have suffered martyrdom should be safeguarded, gathering the necessary documentation. This gesture cannot fail to have an ecumenical character and expression. Perhaps the most convincing form of ecumenism is the ecumenism of the saints and of the martyrs. The communio sanctorum speaks louder than the things which divide us. The martyrologium of the first centuries was the basis of the veneration of the Saints. By proclaiming and venerating the holiness of her sons and daughters, the Church gave supreme honour to God himself; in the martyrs she venerated Christ, who was at the origin of their martyrdom and of their holiness. In later times there developed the practice of canonization, a practice which still continues in the Catholic Church and in the Orthodox Churches. In recent years the number of canonizations and beatifications has increased. These show the vitality of the local Churches, which are much more numerous today than in the first centuries and in the first millennium. The greatest homage which all the Churches can give to Christ on the threshold of the third millennium will be to manifest the Redeemer's all-powerful presence through the fruits of faith, hope and charity present in men and women of many different tongues and races who have followed Christ in the various forms of the Christian vocation.

It will be the task of the Apostolic See, in preparation for the Year 2000, to update the martyrologies for the universal Church, paying careful attention to the holiness of those who in our own time lived fully by the truth of Christ. In particular, there is a need to foster the recognition of the heroic virtues of men and women who have lived their Christian vocation in marriage. Precisely because we are convinced of the abundant fruits of holiness in the married state, we need to find the most appropriate means for discerning them and proposing them to the whole Church as a model and encouragement for other Christian spouses."

Rome may one day start canonizations for others Christian denominational martyrs as Martyrs for Christ!

Let us not forget that outside the normal process of canonization, the Pope remains free to pronounce an equipollent canonization at his discretion.


Gregory of Narek (c. 950 – 1003/1011) is notable as a saint recently recognised by the Catholic Church despite being a member of the miaphysite Armenian Apostolic Church centuries after the Council of Chalcedon and so never in communion with Rome, nor with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

He is named as a saint in paragraph 2678 of the Catholic catechism, was named a Doctor of the Church in 2015, and he was inscribed for 27 February in the General Roman Calendar (i.e. for the western Catholic Church) in 2021.


Eastern Orthodox saints

Many early saints recognized in Catholicism would not call themselves "Roman Catholic" but adhered to what is now called Eastern Orthodoxy. Outstanding examples include the Cappadocian Fathers and St. John Chrysostom. After the schism between East and West, Catholic recognition of Eastern Orthodox saints became rare, especially toward those like St. Photius, who criticized Roman doctrines such as the filioque. Rome does, however, acknowledge the sanctity of certain later Eastern Orthodox saints such as St Gregory Palamas and St Seraphim of Sarov. Such saints might think of themselves as catholic with a small "c" only.


One saint who was not a Catholic, and probably not even a Christian, is St. Nicodemus. He was the Pharisee who came to Jesus at night to speak to him and asked how a grown man could be reborn. (John 3:1–21) The second time Nicodemus is mentioned, he effectively defends Jesus in the Sanhedrin by saying that the Law requires that a person be heard before being judged (John 7:50–51). Finally, Nicodemus appears after the Crucifixion and assists Joseph of Arimathea in preparing the body of Jesus for burial (John 19:39–42).

Catholic tradition holds that Nicodemus eventually converted and became a believer, but this is not found in the Bible. Nicodemus is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Churches and in the Catholic Church.


A similar example is St. Gamaliel. He too was a leader of the Pharisees, famous to Christians for defending Peter and other apostles, thereby saving their lives in Acts 5.

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Gamaliel is well known in Jewish tradition as the grandson of Hillel the Elder and a teacher in his own right. Ecclesiastical tradition claims that Gamaliel had embraced the Christian faith and his tolerant attitude toward early Christians is explained by this. He too is venerated by both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

Saints of the earliest Church

To this we may add all of the apostles and some other very early saints other than Peter, because their sainthood is based on their activities prior to the establishment of the Roman Church. The earliest saints--the apostles and martyrs such as St. Stephen and St. James--did not think in terms of Catholicism per se, and their church was in Jerusalem rather than Rome. At the time of their martyrdom, Christianity was not yet a separate religion from Judaism.

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    Tradition holds that both were baptized prior to their deaths. If the Church did not believe that Nicodemus or Gamaliel were not baptized they would not be considered Saints as that would indicate that the Good News that they heard was rejected, what Jesus preached, as they were alive during the time of Jesus. The term Roman Catholic did not come into being until the 11th century. Eastern and Western liturgies were united as one up to 1054! Orthodoxy and Catholicism were one, so St. John Chrysostom and the Cappadocian Fathers are considered Catholic.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 9:57
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    Thanks for this... It raises a large question as to the propriety of Christians claiming the certain Jews had, in effect, changed their religion, when the historical basis is dubious. Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 19:24

Typically, when we say a Saint and talk about intercession, we are speaking about a canonized Saint. Since canonization is a formal process, it has rules to follow. Generally, a person will not be considered for canonization unless they were formally in the Catholic Church in life.

It is theoretically possible to have a non-Catholic canonized Saint, but no such Saint exists currently, and I personally find it incredibly unlikely that such a canonization will ever occur.

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    there are exceptions (see my answer): Jews such as Nicodemus and Gamaliel plus certain Eastern Orthodox saints. Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 12:32
  • @DanFefferman Saints who lived and were venerated before the formalized canonization process weren't ever canonized. For instance, Saint Augustine was never canonized. He was venerated by the Church before the formalized process.
    – jaredad7
    Commented May 13 at 12:32

I would say: In practice, there may be a Catholic, in particular, priests, bishops, and nuns having better changes become canonized, compared to laypersons or non-Catholics.

In fact, John Paul II pointed to that and called for looking at family persons for canonizing, and like the above mentioned, people outside the church.

I would say the practice can never be 100% perfect but in the whole the church follows the idea as the Bible says.

In the gospels there are a lot of paragraphs like "the first will be the last", or, especially the paragraph of the Faith of a Roman Officer in Matthew chapter 8:

10 I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! 11</sup And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. 12</sup But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  • AFAIK a few laypersons have been canonized (or are in process). However, those with a live dedicated to the religion will find somewhat easier to live a life of sanctity, and the laypersons that live a saint live are more likely to end up retiring to a monastery, even if it's on their last days.
    – Ángel
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 21:07
  • Yes, for sure! and it has really practical reasons! A priest is a public person. For sure there are thousands of people in families or, much more nuns or monks with a really exemplary christian live but they are less known. Canonizym is a heavy process, aprooved stricktly so it needs witnesses, (only one expample) or people which contribute such a process after the person has lived.
    – Christian
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 6:14

And there is another point: The (good!) examples above are all from Judges, the early church, or the Orthodox. Orthodox are very close to Catholics and Judges are our ancestors. Jesus Christ and Peter were not Catholics, they were judges. But, what to say if we would ask for Dietrich Bonnhöfer? His song "von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen" is widely known in the German Catholic Church, his life was very exemplary, but he is a Protestant. What about Mahatma Gandhi? Just from their life, they may be canonized but they both were in religions/confessions which differed more. So, although there are reasons for not canonizing, we as Catholics are sure that we will see them in heaven :)


Non-catholic saints are already mentioned in above answers. But there are a few non-Christian saints as well. Saint MichaEl, RaphaEl and GabriEl were followers of El. Saint Brigit was a Celtic goddess. Saint Josaphat of India was a Buddhist deity.

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