Recently, a little boy met Pope Francis and told him that he was sad over his dog dying. The father of the Roman Catholic Church reportedly told the boy that his companion will be waiting for him in heaven.
According to Italian news sources, the pontiff said, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” While the Pope was speaking pastorally and not trying to dictate a new doctrine, his remarks made the news worldwide.
Do good dogs go to heaven? Heaven knows. I don’t.
But the question does remind me of a church sign debate a few years back between Our Lady of Martyrs Catholic Church and Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which were located across the street from one another in a small town in Missouri. Now, I don’t know whether this was a tongue-in-cheek or serious debate, or even if it ever really existed, but the pictures of the signs provide humor and even a few good religious questions to consider.
Here is the series of church signs:
Our Lady of Martyrs: “All dogs go to heaven.”
Cumberland Church: “Only humans go to heaven. Read the Bible.”
Our Lady of Martyrs: “God loves all creation, dogs included.”
Cumberland Church: “Dogs don’t have souls. This is not open for debate.”
Our Lady of Martyrs: “Catholic dogs go to heaven. Presbyterian dogs can talk to their pastor.”
Cumberland Church: “Converting to catholicism does not magically grant your dog a soul.”
Our Lady of Martyrs: “Free dog souls with conversion.”
Cumberland Church: “Dogs are animals. There aren’t any rocks in heaven, either.”
Our Lady of Martyrs: “All rocks go to heaven.”
None of us knows exactly what we will find in heaven. But for those of us who love animals, I can only say that the God who loves us so much that He gave His only Son for our redemption is the same God who would also ensure that we lack or grieve nothing in the Kingdom of Heaven. I feel sure that our beloved animals will, in some way, be reconnected to us. After all, as far as the Bible is concerned, God only threw humans out of Paradise.
As Billy Graham said, “God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there.”
Or as Mark Twain said, “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out, and your dog would go in.”
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.