The question of whether animals will join us in the afterlife finally has a definitive response from Rome.
It’s a topic that’s been long debated, with Popes weighing in unofficially on both sides. Last December, a story broke nationwide claiming that Pope Francis had declared that animals are going to heaven, but it turns out that the media had conflated two stories, and that it was actually Pope Paul VI who had, many years earlier, told a young boy that “one day we will see our animals in the eternity of Christ.”
Paul was later contradicted by Pope Benedict XVI, who said in a sermon that “for other creatures, who are not called to eternity, death just means the end of existence on Earth.”
Notably, neither of these were doctrinal statements, and Catholic theologians continued to disagree and debate.
But no more. Despite last year’s media mix up — and despite Paul’s and Benedict’s contradictory statement — Pope Francis did just officially declare that animals will join us in heaven, in his June 18 Encyclical, which offers official and binding doctrine on the question.
And in fact, he has gone far beyond animals and the afterlife, linking animals to the Trinity and declaring that the Mother of God “grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for creatures of this world laid waste by human power.” For Catholics, the idea of Mary grieving for both the poor and animals, in the same sentence, is revolutionary.
So it’s almost anti-climactic that on the question of animals in heaven, Francis takes a stand: “Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.”
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