"Pope Francis Links"
C.S. Lewis On Animal Immortality"
Animals, too, go to heaven. That, at least, was one interpretation of remarks made by Pope Francis in his weekly general audience in the Vatican.
The endlessly controversial 77-year-old pontiff said: “The holy scripture teaches us that the fulfilment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.”
The pope went on to quote from St Paul, St Peter and the Book of Revelation in support of the view that “what lies ahead … is therefore a new creation”.
He added: “It is not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us. Rather it brings everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty.”
Italian daily Corriere della Sera was in no doubt about his meaning. “It broadens the hope of salvation and eschatological beatitude to animals and the whole of creation,” wrote the paper’s Vatican specialist in an article published on Thursday.
Others were not convinced.
“We all say that there will be a continuity between this world and the joyful one of the future, [but also] a transformation,” said Gianni Colzani, an emeritus professor of theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.
“It is the balance between the two things that we are not in a position to determine. For that reason, I think we shouldn’t make [Pope Francis] say more than he says.”
Though a noted cat-lover, Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, seemed to close the doors of heaven firmly to pets and other animals in a sermon he gave in 2008. “For other creatures, who are not called to eternity, death just means the end of existence on Earth,” he said.
Certainly, the Catholic catechism holds out little hope for the animal kingdom in the next life – and not much for it in this life either. The keynote is the absolute primacy of mankind as the species which, according to Christian doctrine, was created in God’s image.
“Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity,” it says, while cautioning that “animals are God’s creatures”, and therefore “men owe them kindness”.
But it is clear in its view that it is “legitimate to use animals for food and clothing”. And it backs scientific experimentation on animals “if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives”.
Pope Francis is known to be writing an encyclical that will deal with environmental issues. But it is unclear whether it will decide for once and all whether those who get to meet St Peter can expect to find a dog nearby lifting its leg on the pearly gates.
Other Guardian articles about Pope Francis: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/27/pope-francis-hints-animals-heaven