Pope Francis did not say the words about the animals going to heaven; but Pope Paul perhaps did. I though I would add a reflection or two.
Firstly, it is clear that pets cannot be saved, or damned. Only a soul (I mean of a human; animals don’t have “souls”, merely an animal spirit) can be saved, or damned. The resurrection of the bodies certainly does not extend to the resurrection of the carcasses of animals. It would be absurd to believe anything of the sort.
Still, it does not seem credible to me that Paradise will be deprived of plants and animals. The Old Testament mentions a state in which animals live in peace with each other, in a kind of modified version of their earthly relatives: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”
Clearly, the Garden of Eden ( that is: the original plan) was physical all right; the plants therein contained did not enjoy the beatific vision, but they were certainly there. The resurrection of the body itself does not necessarily imply, but it certainly indicates an environment fit for these bodies, made in such a way that the body has a natural function, a purpose in harmony with its environment.
Then there is the matter of the souls living in paradise. Such souls cannot, as they are in heaven, have desires contrary to God’s will. Their will is perfectly aligned with the Will of their Creator. At the same time, it seems difficult to think that these souls would not have any legitimate desire of them (and we have just said these are the only desires they would be able to have) gladly fulfilled. Whilst I have never been there and so I cannot report on the matter, it seems to this limited intelligence that either the desire for animals, trees, lakes, sunsets, or bumblebees is not legitimate, or it would be readily fulfilled as necessary part of a beatitude that can have no lack, that can leave no desires unfulfilled.
Certainly, the happiness of heaven consists of the Beatific Vision. But one wonders why this beatific vision would exclude any other ever so subordinate or secondary desire; and if this is so – and mind: it might well be so – why Isaiah would have been inspired by the Lord to something so wildly allegoric as to deny the very substance of the so inspired words.
It seems to me obvious, therefore, that animals don’t “go” to heaven or hell, in the same way as trees don’t; but at the same time, I consider it indisputable that we are told heaven will have animals living in a perfectly peaceful, perfectly harmonious environment and, by logical extension, a physical environment that is in keeping with what would make – and no matter how trivial, and how less important than the beatific vision – this environment complete, and a soul in heaven perfectly happy. And if God can put plants in the garden of eden, creating them from an ideal pattern that is not the one of deceased plants on earth; and wolves and leopards that are an enhanced version of the earthly ones, but not any one of them; so it is well thinkable that he might recreate your favourite puppy (say: without the infection and disease risk) in heaven, and the like.
But again, I don’t know, because I wasn’t there. And again, this does not mean that an animal is saved or redeemed, or else – necessarily – damned. It can’t be! An animal has no soul, therefore it cannot choose between good and evil, therefore it cannot be rewarded or punished for them.
Pope Paul’s talk, if it ever existed, would be dangerous because it would lead the brainless, emoting masses to believe that “pets go to heaven”, which is in contradiction with the entire edifice of Redemption. It would lead to a stupid parody of Christianity, well exemplified in the scenes of “A Fish Called Wanda” about the “dog funerals”, (” miserere Dominus, canis mortuus est!”…).
But we do not know that either. In the latest weeks, the US press has uncritically published every piece of rubbish from false rapes to young thugs depicted as “gentle giants”, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised it this of Paul VI turned out to be a complete invention, too…
There’s no “Saint Fido” in heaven. It is good to say it even to distraught children. Because if you don’t, you put them on the way to a dangerous new age religion that is not recognisable as Christianity anymore.