Claim: Pope Francis told a boy grieving the loss of a pet dog that animals go to heaven.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, December 2014]
Did Pope Francis really say that animals will be welcomed into heaven after they die? I’ve heard conflicting reports about whether it
was Pope Francis or perhaps a previous Pope who actually made that statement. Thanks!
Origins: In early December 2014 remarks purportedly made by Pope Francis about pets going to heaven began to circulate widely on the internet. According to a number of English-speaking sources (including the New York Times), Pope Francis confirmed in November 2014 that non-human animals also go to heaven. The Times and a number of other sources reported that the Pope stated:
One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.
The rumor began to circulate through English-speaking news outlets on 11 December 2014. The following day, the Times issued a correction and explained a combination of mistranslation, indirect sourcing, and confusion about statements made by previous a Pope had led to the error:
He spoke in a general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 26, not in consoling a distraught boy whose dog had died. According to Vatican Radio, Francis said, in speaking of heaven, “The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.” He did not say: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures” Those remarks are reported to have been made by Pope Paul VI to a distraught child.
The news was initially published on 27 November 2014 in Corriere della Sera, an Italian-language newspaper. The remarks initially attributed to Pope Francis were indeed made by Pope Paul VI at some point prior to his death in 1978, while the actual statement made by Pope Francis at the center of the confusion did not mention pets in any form and was far more vague:
Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.
On 13 December 2014, the Vatican’s deputy spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini chided media outlets for the error and said:
There is a fundamental rule in journalism. That is double-checking, and in this case it was not done.