Fact Check

Did Pope Francis Say This About 'Rivers Drinking Their Own Water'?

The quote has been online longer than Francis has been pope. A version of it even made it into a video game.

Published Sep 23, 2022

TOPSHOT - Pope Francis thanks the audience at the end of a holy mass in the Expo Grounds in Nur-Sultan on September 14, 2022. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images) (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)
Image Via FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images
Claim:
Pope Francis said, "Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is …. life is good when you are happy, but much better when others are happy because of you."

Fact Check

In September 2022, Snopes readers asked about a quote that has been widely shared and falsely attributed to Pope Francis. The quote has several variations, all extolling the virtue of living selflessly.

The longer version of the quote reads, "Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is …. life is good when you are happy, but much better when others are happy because of you."

Here's one example of the quote attributed to Francis, as posted in a meme on Facebook.

Advertisement, Poster, Flyer

Versions of quote have also been widely shared online in Spanish, with varying attributions. Some posts claim Pope Francis said it, others have no attribution.

We couldn't find any record of Francis making this statement — and an early version of it appeared on the internet well before Francis became pope in 2013. A communications expert and amateur poet who uses the pen name Gonzalinho da Costa traced a similar statement to a 2009 post on a website called Meditation Relaxation Sans Stress, archived here. There, the quote says:

We know that trees do not eat their own fruits
cows do not drink their own milk
rivers dont drink their own water
Let us also learn to serve our sisters brothers
and all objects of nature
To secure our present and humanity's future

The website linked the words to the Vedas, ancient Hindu scriptures ("As said in most ancient scripture of world The Vedas"). The name Prof. Lallan Prasad appeared under the words. We reached out to a University of Delhi professor with that same name, asking if he wrote the words or knows their origin, and will update this story if we receive a response.

A very similar quote appeared in the 2019 role playing game "Days Gone." A character in the game, Rikki, states, "Rivers do not drink their own water. Trees do not eat their own fruit. And clouds do not swallow their own rain. What great ones have is always for the benefit of others."

As of this writing, we haven't found the original source of the quote but will update this story if we do. We found no evidence it was a statement made by Pope Francis, however, and as noted above, what appears to be an original online version of the quote was posted four years before he became pope.

Sources:

Da Costa, Gonzalinho. “Another Fake Quote Attributed to the Pope.” Poetry of Gonzalinho Da Costa, 10 Dec. 2020, https://poetryofgonzalinhodacosta.blogspot.com/2020/12/another-fake-quote-attributed-to-pope.html.

Saab, Hannah. “Days Gone: 10 Best Quotes.” ScreenRant, 27 Sept. 2021, https://screenrant.com/days-gone-best-quotes/.

"SEVA." Meditation-Relaxation-sans-Stress. 2009, https://web.archive.org/web/20201011045759/https://sites.google.com/site/meditationrelaxationsansstress/seva.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more

Article Tags

Become
a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.

Perks

Ad-Free Browsing on Snopes.com
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime
default