A story circulating on the internet claims that Pope Francis recently said that animal companions can go to heaven. According to reports, while speaking to a boy grieving for a dog who had passed, Pope Francis said, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” However, the quote actually came from Pope Paul VI, who was said to have offered the words of comfort to a boy several decades ago. Nonetheless, the news story immediately launched a world-wide discussion between everyone from animal rights activists to theologians.
Previous Popes have cast doubt on whether or not all dogs (and other pets) go to heaven. Pope Pius the IX supported the idea that animals have no consciousness and therefore are not eligible for heaven. Others, such as Pope John Paul II have said that animals do have souls.
Technically Pope Paul VI wasn’t making a doctrinal statement when he stated that people could see animals in the afterlife, but the statement is great comfort to all believers who have lost animals that they loved. But since there has been no official word either way, the question of pet’s souls will have to remain unanswered for now.