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News reports suggesting Pope Francis said dogs can go to heaven grabbed headlines Friday. But in an example of getting lost in translation, the pontiff never actually commented about whether pets get a pass to the afterlife — an idea that gained traction among animal lovers and roused theologians.
The confusion began when Pope Francis last month spoke broadly about the world during a speech later posted to the Vatican’s website. One particular part of his talk — “Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us” — was highlighted and analyzed by Italy’s Corriere della Sera. The newspaper interpreted it to mean the pope believes animals go to heaven, and drew an analogy with another pope who spoke on the subject.
“It is said that Paul VI consoled a tearful child whose dog had died, and told him: ‘One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ,’” the newspaper said.
That’s where the message apparently got mixed up. Many news organizations, including The New York Times and NBC News, attributed the Pope Paul VI quote to Pope Francis. The Vatican didn't comment on the initial reports. The Pope’s exact words have been available on the Vatican’s website since Nov. 26.