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Are ‘Orthodox’ Incorrupt ‘Saints’ in Heaven?

Good evening TIA,

Salve Maria!

I have been sent information regarding apparently incorrupt Eastern Orthodox saints. I have seen arguments online between Catholics and Orthodox Christians regarding the legitimacy of the Eastern Orthodox church and some of these supporters point to the apparently incorrupt saints from their church. I have three apparent saints:
  • St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco died in 1966 and was found incorrupt in 1993 and apparently healed a "sick boy":

    "Archbishop Anthony crossed himself and raised up the aër [veil] covering Vladyka John’s face. This was the moment when I saw Archbishop John’s face for the first time. His face and body were intact — they were incorrupt — and we were laying eyes on true relics... a sick boy was brought to the relics who was a son of one of our diocesan priests. Archbishop Anthony gave his blessing for the boy to touch the relics. And the boy was healed. Now he is completely healthy, much taller than I, and plays college rugby."

  • St. Nectarios of Aegina died in 1920 and was found incorrupt in 1934:

    " 'I was very amazed to see that it was the Father Nectarios that we all knew. And that he could still be recognized from his face and expression. Even his beard was intact; I pulled at some of his beard, but it would not come out. I touched his hand and saw that it was skin. It had remained so well on the bones (there was not much flesh) and had not shriveled up. He could be recognized by anyone who had known him when he was alive.' By the will of God, years later the relics of the Saint dissolved, and what we have now are his Holy bones. They have since been encased in our Saint’s mitre in Aegina. The top opened so one can kiss the crown of his head. The other parts of his relics, which have much fragrance, are located in a silver box."

  • St Moses of Optima died in 1862 and was apparently found incorrupt later in life. I have read multiple sources and none of them for this "saint" have a concrete year in which he was found incorrupt. They all say, "his body was later found to be incorrupt."
What does TIA think of these apparently incorrupt bodies of Eastern Orthodox "Saints?"

At the Council of Florence, Pope Eugene IV made an ex cathedra papal pronouncement that explicitly taught that there is no salvation for anyone outside of the Catholic Church, which includes the schismatic Eastern Orthodox.

Since this is a dogma of the faith, it would seem that the apparent incorruptibility of these bodies would prove that salvation in the Eastern Orthodox is possible.

Did Our Lord give a special privilege to these individuals and those they served? Are these incorrupt bodies not actually incorrupt, but lies that the Orthodox church has propagated to seem more legitimate?

Thank you for hearing my question.

    In Jesu et Maria,


TIA responds:

Dear N.B.,

You could have added to your list some Buddhist monks and Muslims that are allegedly incorrupt and asked if they also are in Heaven.

Your presupposition is that the incorrupt body of a person is proof of his eternal salvation; however, this presupposition is not correct.

The Catholic Church does not consider the fact of a person’s body being incorrupt as a necessary proof of sainthood. It may be a symptom of the sanctity of a person, but it is not a necessary symptom. More clearly stated, we can say that the fact that a person has an incorrupt body does not necessarily mean that he is in Heaven and had practiced the virtues in a heroic degree.

Natural causes

There are natural causes that can explain the incorruptibility of the body:
  1. The pharaohs of Egypt passed through a sophisticated process of preservation of their bodies, and until today several of their bodies are incorrupt.

  2. There are processes of embalming using formalin that can preserve the bodies for a long time. One of these cases where formalin was used is that of John XXIII, who before his death ordered or allowed a large quantity of this liquid to be injected in his body, as you may read here.

  3. In some cities the composition of the soil has elements that preserve the bodies of those who are buried there. This is the case of the city of Guanajuato in Mexico. In its Panteón Cemetery, many persons were found whose bodies were incorrupt. The picture below show some children buried in that cemetery long ago.

    Mummies of Guanajuato

    A 1955 photo of some of the children mummies exhumed from Panteon Cemetery in Guanajuato, Mexico - photo by George Pickow, Getty

    This phenomenon is attributed to the dry and salty soil of the area, as you may read here.

  4. An extreme cool weather may also preserve human or animal bodies. This is why some people ask to be frozen before or after they die with the hope that a “cure” for death will be found in the future and then they may be defrosted, use that new “solution” and live forever.
Preternatural causes

There are also preternatural and supernatural causes for a body to remain incorrupt.

The Devil, who knows the laws of nature perfectly, can inspire some of his followers to use methods unknown by man to preserve the bodies of persons after their deaths. This seems to be the case of the Buddhist monks mentioned above, whose process of incorruption involved their voluntary suicide.

Supernatural causes

Finally, God can, by a special favor, partially or completely preserve the bodies of some of his Saints in order to glorify them and to show that their lives should be imitated.

The more similar to a living body the incorrupt body is, the greater is the miracle God makes to show His favor to the Saint He wants to honor. One of the paradigmatic cases in this regard is the body of St. Catherine Labouré, which is so well-conserved that she appears to be just sleeping, with her skin as pink as if the blood were still running through her body.

Regarding partially incorrupt bodies, there is a point to clarify. It is a custom in the Church to cover the preserved part of a Saint’s body with a simulacrum, that is, with a wax imitation of the body. This is the case, among many others, of St. John Bosco, who only has some tissues of his hand and arm incorrupt, and a wax simulacrum of his entire body covers these parts.

Some atheists, pagans and heretics imagine that the Church does this to fool Catholics and lead them to believe that the entire body is incorrupt. Based on this error, they attribute fraud to this procedure.

It is a slander based on either ignorance or bad faith.

As said before, the Church has never pretended that the simulacrum is the incorrupt body of the Saint. Out of respect for the sensibilities of ladies and children who could be shocked to see an arm or other member detached from its body and in a mummified stage, the Church makes the simulacra. But every educated Catholic knows that it is just a casing for the real relic.

Thus, N.B., the fact that there are – really or allegedly – incorrupt bodies in the “Orthodox” church does not put any serious challenge to the fact that only Catholics can reach Heaven as Pope Eugene infallibly stated in the Bull Cantate Domino. If they are really incorrupt, it can be due to natural or preternatural causes.


     TIA correspondence desk
Posted on June 29, 2023


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