Pope Francis turns out not to have made pets in heaven comment

Sat Dec 13, 2014 6:54pm EST
 
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By Frances Kerry and Philip Pullella

WASHINGTON/VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - It was a heartwarming story for legions of pet owners and animal lovers around the world.

Pope Francis, talking to a distraught boy whose pet had died, declared there was a place in heaven for the creatures we share our lives with. His comment was reported this week by many news media outside Italy, with dozens of articles in the United States. It was veritable catnip to social media.

However, it turned out the pope had not made the comment.

The news stories were apparently based on a misreading of remarks Pope Francis made at his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 26 and on a comment that a past pope did make several decades ago.

Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, once said, reportedly while comforting a child whose dog had died, “one day we will see our animals in the eternity of Christ."

“There is a fundamental rule in journalism. That is double-checking, and in this case it was not done,” the Vatican’s deputy spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini, said on Saturday, when asked about how the media ran with the story.

The spokesman said he received a number of calls on the story from outside Italy on Friday and was taken by surprise because he did not recall the pope saying anything like that.

Religion News Service was among the first media to set the record straight. It said in an article published late on Friday that the error appeared to have stemmed from a piece in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Nov. 27, whose headline was misleading.   Continued...

 
Pope Francis releases a white dove prior to delivering a Holy Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul November 29, 2014.  REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov