Pope Francis: All Dogs Go to Heaven – Fiction!

Pope Francis: All Dogs Go to Heaven – Fiction!

Summary of eRumor: 

Pope Francis told a young boy grieving the death of his dog that he would see his pet again in heaven.

The Truth:

Despite widespread media coverage to the contrary, Pope Francis didn’t comfort a grieving boy or promise that his dog would go to heaven.

It was Pope Paul VI who told a young boy in the ‘70s that he would be reunited with his dog in heaven, a Vatican spokesperson told Reuters:

“The news stories were apparently based on a misreading of remarks Pope Francis made at his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 26 and on a comment that a past pope did make several decades ago.

Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, once said, reportedly while comforting a child whose dog had died, ‘one day we will see our animals in the eternity of Christ.’

‘There is a fundamental rule in journalism. That is double-checking, and in this case it was not done,’ the Vatican’s deputy spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini, said when asked about how the media ran with the story.”

It appears that the confusion started after the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera covered Pope Francis’s weekly address at St. Peters Square on November 26, 2014. The address focused on the apocalypse and a “new heaven” and “new earth” that would follow. In response to the place of animals in the so-called new heaven and new earth, the paper reported:

“Certainly the issue is recurring and sometimes controversial, in the Church. It is said that Paul VI had comforted a child in tears for the death of his dog and said: “One day we will review our animals in the Eternity of Christ.”

An Italian version of the Huffington Post then picked up the story and confused Pope Paul VI with the apostle Paul:

“Pope Francis opens the prospect of paradise for animals and does it in a general audience dedicated to the theme of life and death. In this regard, the Pope quoted the Apostle Paul that to a child in tears for the death of his dog had answered: ‘One day we will review our animals in the eternity of Christ.’”

By the time English-language newspapers like the Express picked up the story, the headline had changed to, “’All donkeys go to heaven’ Pope says the Kingdom of Heaven is open to ALL God’s creatures.” The Express reported:

“In his weekly audience in St Peter’s Francis quoted the apostle Paul who comforted a child who was crying after his dog died.

‘One day we will see our animals again in eternity of Christ’, Francis quoted Paul as saying. The Pope added: “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.’

His position is markedly different from that of Pope Benedict XVI said that the other animals ‘are not called to the eternal life.’”

The eRumor flew to new heights when American media picked up the story. By then, it was widely reported that Pope Francis had himself comforted the little boy who was grieving his dog’s death. The New York Times published a version of that false account and issued a lengthy correction on December 16, 2014:

“An article on Friday about whether Pope Francis believes that animals go to heaven — a longstanding theological question in the church — misstated the pope’s recent remarks and the circumstances in which they were made.

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.”

This eRumor wasn’t intended to mislead or dupe readers. It’s a perfect example of how a factual account can transform over time (and through multiple translations) until it loses its original meaning.