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During a recent public appearance, Pope Francis comforted a young boy whose dog had recently died. He was heard telling the boy, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”
The Pope, who took his papal name from the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, seems to be breaking with tradition (once again) with his most recent statement.
According to the New York Times, the Catholic Church has long supported doctrine that stated dogs and other animals have no soul, thus prohibiting their access to heaven. Even Pope Pius IX, who led the Catholic Church from 1846 to 1878, once sought to stop the formation of an Italian chapter of the SPCA.
Although theologists are saying the Pope was only speaking conversationally and not making an official statement, his remarks have captured the attention of animal welfare organizations around the world.
A representative for The Humane Society said that if dogs do, in fact, have souls “then we ought to seriously consider how we treat them.” PETA has also jumped on the new statement, using it to urge Catholics to move to a vegan lifestyle.
Frankly, it’s been easier for the Church to remain vague on the issue because of all the questions that arise from it. (Does this include mosquitoes? Do our pets need to be baptized to be welcomed past the pearly gates?)
So, what do you think? Will we someday be reunited with the pets we love so deeply and dearly? I certainly hope so!