The below is part of the longer article
A Pope for All Species
SEPT. 24, 2015
We all know that Pope Francis cares deeply for the marginalized, but did you
realize that his compassion bridges the species barrier? He
suggests that animals will go to heaven and that the Virgin Mary "grieves
for the sufferings" even of mistreated livestock.
"Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature,
resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place,"
he has written.
I share his conviction that dogs go to heaven - indeed, heaven would be
diminished if there were no dogs. And it's exhilarating to see a spiritual
leader whose empathy goes beyond the widow and orphan to, say, the parrot
blessed a parrot belonging to a former male stripper).
More on Francis' empathy for animals in a moment. In a larger sense, it is this
boundless compassion that has made him such a popular figure, even among
Indeed, here's the delicious irony: Pope Francis is revered even by many
"We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God's image and
given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other
creatures," he declared in his encyclical on the environment. "The Bible has no
place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism."
There are many such passages, including a warning against unnecessary
experiments on animals.
It would be a mistake to say, as one animal rights group did, that the pope's
message is "go vegan,"
and it's unclear what the practical implications are. Bruce Friedrich of Farm
Sanctuary has called on the pope to match his words by making the Vatican
cafeteria vegetarian — but I wouldn't bet on that happening soon.
Still, Francis is relentlessly shining his spotlight on the voiceless, whether
two-legged or four-legged, and that is new.
Pope Paul VI is said to have
once comforted a boy by saying that he could see his dog again in heaven,
but Pope Benedict XVI contradicted that.
Charles Camosy, a Catholic theologian at Fordham University who has written a
book about the theology of animal protection, says that Francis' carefully
reviewed encyclical this year constitutes the first authoritative Catholic
statements that animals enjoy eternal life. Camosy says this is a milestone,
although he says he would have also welcomed Francis' clarifying our moral
obligations to, say,
pigs versus mosquitoes.
The pope's sweeping empathy will benefit the poor, the refugees and, perhaps
gradually, animals we abuse in factory farms. But it does more; his humility and
compassion also benefit the reputation of Christianity itself, by helping to
recast it from pointing fingers to helping hands.