Did the Pope tell us all dogs go to heaven?

Jeffery Ritterdownload (3)
January 20, 2015

Pope Francis recently returned back to Rome from the Philippines, but it was some remarks he made back in November that still has people talking. His statement has many groups, including scholars and theologians, pondering whether the church is looking to change its traditional stance on the afterlife for animals.

One of the first official stances by the Catholic Church on the afterlife of animals came down from Pope Pius IX who led the church from 1846 to 1878, longer than any other pope in history. He was a strong advocate for the doctrine that pets and other animals have no consciousness and even sought to stop the creation of an Italian chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The first main and public challenge to that belief was made by Pope Paul VI who reigned from 1963 till his death in 1978. While comforting a young boy who’s dog had just died he is reported 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.” John Paul II continued that belief in 1990 when he sermonized that animals do have souls and are “as near to God as men are.”

Since being elected, Pope Francis has taken many stances that have challenged traditional and long-standing teachings of the church including its stance on the afterlife of animals. He said during an audience in St. Pete’s square, “It is beautiful to think of this, to think of Heaven. We will all be there together. It is beautiful, it gives strength to the soul.”

These remarks have drawn praise and criticism as to their meaning and scope. Many groups with extremely divided views on the relationship between humans and animals have weighed in on the subject. “It’s a vegan world, life over death and peace between species,” Sarah Withrow King, director of Christian outreach and engagement at PETA told the New York Times. “I’m not a Catholic historian, but PETA’s motto is that animals aren’t ours, and Christians agree. Animals aren’t ours, they’re God’s.”

And those on the other side spoke up as well. “As on quite a few other things Pope Francis has said, his recent comments on all animals going to heaven have been misinterpreted,” Dave Warner, a spokesperson for the National Pork Producers Council told the New York Times. “They certainly do not mean that slaughtering and eating animals is a sin.”