First the pope said all dogs can go to heaven, and then he didn't.
On Friday, newspapers all over the world gushed about what appeared to be brand new dog doctrine to come out of the Vatican. Pope Francis, while consoling a boy whose dog had died, promised the kid they would be reunited in heaven. It was viral social media fodder and a huge win for PETA. It also gave Catholic pet-owners everywhere a glimpse at a brighter afterlife full of rough-and-tumble slobber kisses and turds.
Well, turns out the pope was totally misquoted.
What actually happened was that last month, while Pope Francis waxed eloquent about cosmic harmony before a general audience, an Italian newspaper interpreted his statements as a case for the eligibility of animals to enter heaven. The paper alluded to a legendary moment in former Pope Paul VI's career when he purportedly did try to quiet a child crying over the death of a pet dog by assuring the salvation of the dog's eternal soul.
Other media outlets from the Huffington Post to the New York Times and CNN picked up the story, attributing Paul VI's radical promise to Francis. Considering our current pope is a selfie-snapping, atheist-embracing, gay rights-promoting priest of the people, the notion that he would extend paradise to man's best friend seemed just likely enough to bemuse the entire American news media.
It also doesn't help that the Bible isn't totally clear on whether animals are getting into heaven or not. The church's traditional position has always been that animals don't have souls, yet Paul VI evidently thought differently and certain biblical passages paint heaven as a place where lions and sheep lounge about rolling pastures together. Could there be space for Rover too? This is an issue of singular pertinence to the people; the Vatican seriously needs to take a stance.
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