| WASHINGTON/VATICAN CITY
WASHINGTON/VATICAN CITY Dec 13 It was a
heartwarming story for legions of pet owners and animal lovers
around the world.
Pope Francis, talking to a distraught boy whose pet had
died, declared there was a place in heaven for the creatures we
share our lives with. His comment was reported this week by many
news media outside Italy, with dozens of articles in the United
States. It was veritable catnip to social media.
However, it turned out the pope had not made the comment.
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 on
Saturday, when asked about how the media ran with the story.
The spokesman said he received a number of calls on the
story from outside Italy on Friday and was taken by surprise
because he did not recall the pope saying anything like that.
Religion News Service was among the first media to put the
record straight. It said in an article published late on Friday
that the error appeared to have stemmed from a piece in the
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Nov. 27, whose headline
The article recounted the pope's words from his general
audience on Nov. 26, when the topic was the transformation of
all creation into a new heaven and a new earth. It cited the
remark about animals and attributed it to Paul VI, but its
headline said "The pope and animals. 'paradise is open to all
The New York Times, which ran a story on Thursday about the
purported comment by Francis, acknowledged its mistake, saying
in a correction on Friday that it had misattributed the remark
by Paul VI to the current pope.
A spokeswoman for the New York Times did not immediately
have any comment.
On its website, CNN also corrected its story, noting the
misattribution and saying it was unclear what Francis believes
about pets going to heaven. A spokeswoman for CNN had no
Reuters did not publish a story on the remarks erroneously
attributed to Francis.
WHAT DOES THE POPE THINK ABOUT PETS?
As for what Francis does think about animals, he has not
spoken much about them in public, but Benedettini said that from
the general tone of his speeches and gestures "it is clear that
he is in spiritual harmony with all of creation."
The spokesman said the pope was preparing an encyclical that
will deal in part with the environment and recalled that a group
that looks after stray dogs once brought the animals to his
general audience and the pope was pleased.
When he made a Christmas season visit to a Rome parish last
year, Francis willingly let a young girl place a lamb on his
shoulders as a shepherd would carry it. The pope once told
priests that a good pastor should know not only the names of his
parishioners but also the names of their dogs, Benedettini said.
Recent popes have said different things about the possible
spiritual side of animals.
In 1990, Pope John Paul implied that animals had souls
because they too were created from the breath of God. In 2008,
former Pope Benedict upset some animal lovers when he said only
humans were "called to eternity."
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)