Pope Francis Says All Dogs (And Cats) Do Go To Heaven

Christina Peden
by Christina Peden
Pope Francis continues to prove he’s anything but traditional with his latest declaration

Recently, during his weekly address at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, a young boy approached the Pope, upset about the loss of his beloved family dog.

The Pope’s response? “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures,” he told the boy.

While these might just seem like habitual words of comfort given to a young child, they’re actually anything but — the debate over the souls of animals has long been a bone of contention in the Catholic Church.

Back in the days of Ancient Egypt, there was little question that animals had souls and would make it into heaven: cats were considered sacred beings, and dogs were revered as well. Ramses III, who became Pharaoh in 1198 BC, buried his dog Kami with all the pomp, circumstance and ritual afforded to a man of high standing — Kami has interred in a coffin with linen, incense, jars of ointment and the ritual scroll he would need to get into paradise.

Related: National Pet Memorial Day

However, the rise of Christianity and the Catholic Church shed doubt on these kinds of beliefs. It’s a debate that clearly continues to this day.

Pope Pius IX, who was head of the church longer than any other pope, actually tried to prevent the formation of the Italian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals by stating that animals had no souls.

Then in 1990, Pope John Paul II contradicted this, saying that “… animals possess a soul and mean must love and feel solidarity with smaller brethren,” and that animals are “as near to God as men are.” Though this quote was reported in the Italian press, it was not very widely spoken of.

Related: Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge

Just three years ago, John Paul II’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, asserted the traditional doctrine that only humans have souls, saying, “For other creatures, who are not called to eternity, death just means the end of existence on Earth.”

But of course, now we have Pope Francis saying the opposite. (Which, when you think about it, is little wonder: his papal name was adopted in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Clearly, the pope is an animal lover.)

While religion can be a subject of heated debate among humans, anyone who has ever known and loved a pet will likely agree: if anyone deserves to go to heaven (whatever that might mean to you), it’s our most loyal furry friends, who love us unconditionally and without fail, always. We know that once our pets cross the Rainbow Bridge, they’ll be patiently waiting for us on the other side.

For many of us, spending time with animals IS like heaven on earth. We can’t imagine anyone else we would more like to spend eternity with.

[Source: Psychology Today]

Christina Peden
Christina Peden

Christina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada's all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city's numerous parks or curled up with a good book.

More by Christina Peden