Corporal and spiritual works of mercy

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Corporal and spiritual works of mercy are acts performed for the benefit of other persons as an expression of the virtue of charity. They are a requirement of the Christian worship of God (Matthew 25:31-46 1 John 3:17-22).

The classic enumeration of them is seven corporal (physical) works of mercy and seven spiritual (social, non-corporal) works of mercy.[1]

Corporal works of mercy

  • feed the hungry
  • give drink to the thirsty
  • clothe the naked
  • shelter the homeless
  • visit the sick and imprisoned
  • ransom (rescue) the captive
  • bury the dead

Spiritual works of mercy

  • instruct the ignorant
  • advise the doubtful
  • correct sinners
  • be patient with those in error or who do wrong
  • forgive offenses
  • comfort the afflicted
  • pray for the living and the dead

Prayer for the dead as a work of mercy: Doctrinal differences

Judaism: prayer for the departed soul

In accordance with an ancient tradition over 2,000 years old, since before the time of Christ, and to the present day, devout Jews offer prayers for their dead: Prayer for the Soul of the Departed - Kel Maleh Rachamim.[2] See Kaddish.

Orthodox and Catholic Bible Doctrine

In the Bible see 2 Maccabees 12:41-45 Matthew 12:31-32 1 Corinthians 3:14-15 2 Timothy 1:15-18.
See also 2 Timothy 1:18 multiple versions with commentaries and additional commentaries.

See Purgatory. (See also Apocrypha.)

Islam: Du'a prayers for the righteous dead

In the Quran, God prohibits all believers from offering prayers for the disbelievers or idol worshippers regardless of whether they are dead or alive:
"Neither the prophet, nor those who believe shall ask forgiveness for the idol worshippers, even if they were their nearest of kin, once they realise that they are destined for Hell." 9:113
If they died as disbelievers or idol worshippers nothing and no prayer can change their fate:
"With regard to those who have deserved the retribution, can you save those who are already in Hell?" 39:19 [3]
For the righteous dead the devout Moslem can ask God in prayer to
"forgive and have mercy upon him, excuse him and pardon him, and make honorable his reception. Expand his entry, and cleanse him with water, snow, and ice, and purify him of sin as a white robe is purified of filth. Exchange his home for a better home, and his family for a better family, and his spouse for a better spouse. Admit him into the Garden, protect him from the punishment of the grave and the torment of the Fire." Du'a [4]

Protestantism: unbiblical superstition

Protestant Christian doctrine mainly regards prayers for the dead as a harmful pagan superstition not found in the Bible, although Lutheran theology does not ban the practice.[5]

Good works in Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism and Islam

Martin Luther: good works to gain Heaven are dangerous

About good works in general, Martin Luther said that doing good is more dangerous than sinning:
"Those pious souls who do good to gain the Kingdom of Heaven not only will never succeed, but they must even be reckoned among the impious; and it is more important to guard them against good works than against sin." [6]

Vatican II: formation of the faithful

Vatican II states:
"In various seasons of the year and according to her traditional discipline, the Church completes the formation of the faithful by means of pious practices for soul and body, by instruction, prayer, and works of penance and of mercy." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 105 [7])

Jewish Tzedakah: the mitzvot

Tzedakah: The performance of good works of merciful charity is a demand of Judaism and a central tenet of Jewish life, also called mitzvot (singular, mitzvah, commandments).[8]

The Qur'an: compassionate mercy

The Koran has two hundred verses urging the practices of compassionate mercy.[9]

Compare Koran: Verses of Violence and The Bible versus the Qur'an


  1. Catholic Encyclopedia. Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy (
  2. Kel Maleh Rachamim - Prayer for the Soul of the Departed
    Jewish Encyclopedia. Prayers to and of the dead ( Part of the article Jewish Encyclopedia: Death, views and customs concerning
    Judaism 101: Life, Death and Mourning (
    Is it okay to ask a deceased tzaddik to pray on my behalf? By Tzvi Freeman (
    My Jewish Learning. Kaddish, a Memorial Prayer in Praise of God: The Kaddish is recited in a prayer service, on a daily or weekly basis, after the death of a close relative. By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (
  3. Prayers for the Dead (A Quranic Perspective) - - True Islam (
  4. Duaas from the Hadith‎. Duaas for the Graves and Funerals (
    Invocations for the dead in the Funeral prayer (
    The Charitable And Sending Of Good Deeds To The Dead (
  5. See the following:
  6. Tischreden, Wittenberg Edition, Vol. VI., p. 160 , quoted by Father Patrick O'Hare, in The Facts About Luther.
    (Works by Luther, Earliest editions, Wittenberg edition. Nineteen volumes published between 1539-1558. Twelve volumes of German and seven volumes of Latin works.) See— See also
  7. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium Solemnly Promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1963 (
  8. Tzedakah: More than Charity (
    Judaism 101. Tzedakah: Charity
    My Jewish Learning. Mitzvot: A Mitzvah Is a Commandment
    List of the 613 Mitzvot
  9. Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran, Posted by Zia Shah (


  • The Catholic Encyclopedia, Robert C. Broderick, Virginia Broderick, illustrator. Thomas Nelson Inc, publishers, Nashville, New York. Copyright © 1976 by Robert C. Broderick. page 383b. ISBN 0-8407-5096-X.
  • The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II, Introductions by Douglas G. Bushman. S.T.L., General Editor Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP, Copyright © 1999, Daughters of St. Paul, Pauline Books & Media, 50 St. Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3491. page 76. ISBN 0-8198-7018-8.