The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals applauded news stories of Francis' words, seeing them as a rejection of traditional Roman Catholic dogma that argues animals cannot get to paradise because they lack souls.
"By saying that animals can go to heaven, God shows that animals are not simply objects but have a spiritual dimension to their lives," said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Rucinski in a statement. "They deserve justice, not exploitation. The planet can't sustain us or our animal companions. We need to live more lightly on Earth."
The pope's comments came during a meeting with leaders from religions other than Christianity to discuss issues such as violence against women and children, poverty, and climate change. During the discussion, Pope Francis asked participants if animals have life after death, noting that this is an "old question" for humans. Leaders from several religions responded by saying they did not know about any afterlife for animals, but some suggested pets may be welcomed by those who love them in heaven.
After hearing these responses, Pope Francis said: "Even animals have a good day when you die. That's what I believe. So animals go to heaven?" According to reports, the room full of religious leaders laughed at this comment.
This week, the international media was buzzing with news that Pope Francis announced that animals go to paradise when he said so. The Vatican quickly clarified that this wasn't new doctrine but rather a reiteration of an old tradition.
In fact, it's not the first time that a pope has talked about animals going to heaven. In 1415, Pope John XXIII wrote a book called "De Miseria Humana" or "On human misery." In it, he says that humans have the duty to protect animals, and if we fail in this duty, they will abandon us like God did with Adam after he ate the apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Chickens are one of many species included in this statement. However, since animals go to heaven when Jesus returns, it is likely that chickens entered paradise before man.
During his weekly address in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis confirmed that dogs, like "all of God's creatures," may get to paradise. According to the New York Times, the Catholic Church's leader made the comment to console a small kid who was lamenting the death of his dog. "Don't worry, the dog goes to heaven," the pope is reported to have said.
This isn't the first time that the Pope has spoken about animal heaven. In 2014, while visiting an animal shelter in Rome, he told those present, including several children, that pets can be angels on earth if they are loved from their birth.
"An angel is someone who shows love at every moment, in every way possible. Animals do this as well. They show love by protecting others or waiting for them to leave so they can have their space. This is what makes them such great ambassadors of love," the Pope said at the time.
In another speech, this time before students at Rome's LUISS University, he raised the issue again, saying that animals are part of God's creation and so they will be welcomed into heaven when Jesus returns to rule over life after death.
However, it's not just humans that go to heaven.
According to theologians, Francis, who got his papal name from the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, was merely conversing. Pope John Paul II claimed in 1990 that animals have souls, while his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, asserted the reverse in 2008. Neither pope defined what they meant by soul, nor did they explain how or why animals acquire souls.
They both only said that animals have a spiritual nature which we can glimpse through their behavior. The fact that animals feel pain and fear death shows that they have a spirit just like us. This doesn't mean that they are equal to us in terms of their ability to think and reason, but rather that they are fellow creatures with whom we share a spiritual essence. Animals' souls don't go to heaven or hell after they die, but instead they continue living within themselves forever.
Pope Francis has expressed sympathy for animals many times over the years. In 2014 he told reporters that if you want to know how people will act in the future, look at how they treat animals today. He also promised to protect the environment when he was elected pope. And in 2015 he wrote a letter to scientists around the world asking them not to perform experiments on animals.
So overall, yes, animals have souls. They don't vote in elections or pay taxes, but they do have a spiritual essence that cannot be taken away from them.
According to theologians, Francis—who derived his papal name from the patron saint of animals, St. Pope John Paul II claimed in 1990 that animals have souls, while his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, asserted the reverse in 2008. Either way, they do not go to hell when they die.
In 1990, Pope John Paul II appeared to contradict Pius when he declared that animals had souls and are "as close to God as mankind are." However, the Vatican did not actively advertise his claim, possibly because it directly contradicted Pius, who was the first to announce papal infallibility in 1854. Thus, some have argued that the pope's words were simply an example of what theologians call "proximate causality," which is a term used to describe how things appear to be connected but may not be so connected in reality.
The pope made the statement during an interview with a French journalist in which he was asked if animals had a soul. He replied: "Yes, they do have a soul. All living things have a soul. Even plants have a soul. It is just that we can't see it."
Some have interpreted these words as meaning that animals are endowed with a spiritual substance called a "soul" by default rather than from humanity. Others believe that while animals do have a spirit, they cannot communicate with humans and thus could not experience joy or sorrow. Still others believe that the pope was only making a general statement about the existence of a spiritual component behind all life instead of specifically referring to human beings' ability to communicate with animals.
While Jesus cared for the needs of animals, he never advocated abolishing slavery or animal testing.
The Roman Catholic Church claims that they do not have souls, although other Christians disagree. Most Christians desire to guarantee that animal welfare is as excellent as it can be and that there are regulations in place to preserve animal welfare. In the Bible, God says that he made humans in his image so they deserve respect and protection.
In conclusion, all creatures share a common origin with mankind and are worthy of respect as fellow beings. Because of this, every act against an animal is regarded as an attack on human dignity and must be prevented. Christianity also recommends kindness toward animals by not using them for sport or entertainment and provides guidelines on how to treat livestock with care.
Pets Have a Place in Paradise, According to Pope Francis During his weekly address in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis confirmed that dogs, like "all of God's creatures," may get to paradise.
"All of God's creation has a place in paradise," the pope said. "And this includes pets: all of God's creatures have a place in paradise."
The pope was answering questions from the crowd about how people can be sure that they will spend eternity in heaven after dying.
People often wonder whether animals and plants don't feel sorrow or joy, so they cannot go to heaven when they die. But according to Pope Francis, animals do experience pain and pleasure just like humans do.
"Many more people today ask how they can be sure that after they die they will go to heaven instead of hell. This question is very important," the pope said. "Only those who know they have done wrong will try to correct their lives, but if we hope to enter heaven it is necessary to believe in Jesus Christ."
Pope Francis went on to say that everyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ will end up in hell unless they are saved by being baptized and joining the Catholic Church.