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Hemin upregulates heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), a stress-induced enzyme implicated in protection from a variety of injuries while its related isoform HO-2 is constitutively expressed. The role of hemin or HO-1 in the pancreas and their potential modulation of pancreatic injury are unknown. We show that HO-1 is induced in pancreatitis caused by caerulein and more prominently in severe pancreatitis caused by feeding a choline-deficient diet (CDD). Intraperitoneal hemin administration dramatically increases peritoneal and pancreas macrophages that overexpress HO-1 in association with pancreatic induction of the chemoattractants monocyte chemotactic protein-1 and macrophage inflammatory protein-1α but not RANTES or macrophage inflammatory protein-2. Hemin administration before CDD feeding protected 8 of 8 mice from lethality while 7 of 16 controls died. Protection is mediated by HO-1–overexpressing macrophages since hemin-primed macrophages home to the pancreas after transfer to naive mice and protect from CDD-induced pancreatitis. Suppression of hemin-primed peritoneal cell HO-1 using HO-1–specific small interfering RNA prior to cell transfer abolishes protection from CDD-induced pancreatitis. Similarly, hemin pretreatment in caerulein-induced pancreatitis reduces serum amylase and lipase, decreases pancreatic trypsin generation, and protects from lung injury. Therefore, hemin-like compounds or hemin-activated macrophages may offer novel therapeutic approaches for preventing acute pancreatitis and its pulmonary complication via upregulation of HO-1.