Last week it was widely reported that Pope Francis had said you'd get to meet your pets in heaven. As it turns out, he never said that. Poor Fido.
The mis-quoted remarks from Pope Francis were first reported by an Italian newspaper, then re-reported in English by the New York Times. The quote was inspired by words from earlier popes, heightening the confusion. Statements that "paradise is open to all of God's creatures" and "we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ" were apparently made by Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978. He was supposedly comforting a child who had lost his dog at the time that he made those remarks.
In reality, Pope Francis simply said, "the Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us."
The New York Times issued an incredibly long correction to their story, "Dogs In Heaven? Pope Francis Leaves Pearly Gates Open":
An earlier version of this article misstated the circumstances of Pope Francis' remarks. He made them in a general audience at the Vatican, not in consoling a distraught boy whose dog had died. The article also misstated what Francis is known to have said. According to Vatican Radio, Francis said: "The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us," which was interpreted to mean he believes animals go to heaven. Francis is not known to have said: "One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God's creatures.'' (Those remarks were once made by Pope Paul VI to a distraught child, and were cited in a Corriere della Sera article that concluded Francis believes animals go to heaven.) An earlier version also referred incompletely to the largest animal protection group in the United States. It is the Humane Society of the United States, not just the Humane Society.
Some outlets that re-reported the story from the New York Times even got statements from PETA, who applauded the Pope.
"PETA Christian is deeply touched and encouraged that Pope Francis has acknowledged that other species are called along with human beings into eternal life with Christ," PETA Director of Christian Outreach and Engagement told Buzzfeed.
So I guess if we've learned anything valuable from this story it's that PETA has a Director of Christian Outreach and Engagement. No word yet if they're still deeply touched and encouraged by the Pope now that the truth has come out.
The battle over whether dogs (and people) have souls rages on.
Image: All Dogs To Heaven movie poster from the Movie Poster Database