St. John Paul II and animal souls

The animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren. All animals are fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect and they are as near to God as men are.

Attr. Pope St. John Paul II

To the extent that this alleged quotation is a real quotation, it comes from the Holy Father’s Jan. 10, 1990 general audience. paragraph 4. Unfortunately, there is no English translation on the Vatican website, only Italian (presumably the original) and Spanish. Fortunately, I have a friend, Fr. Bryan Jerabek, who knows Italian.

If you know Italian too, you can translate this for yourself:

Altri testi, tuttavia, ammettono che anche gli animali hanno un alito o soffio vitale e che l’hanno ricevuto da Dio. Sotto questo aspetto l’uomo, uscito dalle mani di Dio, appare solidale con tutti gli esseri viventi. Così il Salmo 104 non pone distinzione tra gli uomini e gli animali quando dice, rivolgendosi a Dio creatore: “Tutti da te aspettano che tu dia loro il cibo in tempo opportuno. Tu lo provvedi, essi lo raccolgono” (Sal 104, 27-28). Poi il Salmista aggiunge: “Se togli loro il soffio, muoiono e ritornano nella polvere. Mandi il tuo soffio, sono creati e rinnovati la faccia della terra” (Sal 104, 29-30). L’esistenza delle creature dipende dunque dall’azione del soffio-spirito di Dio, che non solo crea, ma anche conserva e rinnova continuamente la faccia della terra.

And if you need an English translation better than Google Translate can provide, here’s what my friend provided:

Nevertheless, other texts admit that even animals have a breath of life, received from God. Under this aspect, man, having come forth from the hands of God, appears in solidarity with all living beings. Thus Psalm 104 does not make distinctions between men and animals when it says, addressing God the Creator, “They all look to you to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” (Psalm 104:27-28). Then the psalmist adds, “when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:29-30). The existence of creatures thus depends upon the action of the breath-spirit of God, which not only creates, but even conserves and continually renews the face of the earth.


Accurately translated, then, and in context. the Holy Father was making the point that animals too have the breath of life, which can come only from God, and that God sustains all life in existence. But he never said that we must love animals and feel solidarity with them; he said nothing about having respect for them; and above all, he never said anything at all about animals being as close to God as men are.

If you’re thinking, “Well, maybe the Spanish version is different,” well, I do know Spanish, sort of, enough to tell that it’s not significantly different from the Italian text as translated above.

So the alleged quotation started from something that Pope St. John Paul II did say, but it adds to it many things he never said.



St. John Paul II and children as a gift

I’m working on a presentation and want to use this alleged quotation from St. John Paul II:

And what is the best gift you can give your children? I say to you: Give them brothers and sisters.

It also comes in a variant form:

The greatest gift you can give your child is another sibling.

But did he actually say either one?

One place that gave the quotation claimed that it’s from his visit to Washington D.C. in 1979, so I scurried over to the Holy See’s website and looked at everything they had there from that visit. The closest thing was from his homily for the Mass on the Mall:

Decisions about the number of children and the sacrifices to be made for them must not be taken only with a view to adding to comfort and preserving a peaceful existence. Reflecting upon this matter before God, with the graces drawn from the Sacrament, and guided by the teaching of the Church, parents will remind themselves that it is certainly less serious to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety.

I know of several other places where he talked about children as a gift (e.g., his Letter to Families), but none of them are phrased in the way the first two quotations are.

I did Google searches of the Vatican website for both of the first two alleged sayings and found nothing. (Well, thanks to Google’s penchant for searching for related words, I found lots of things, but none of them was one of the quotations in question.) Google Books was not helpful. I even tried Bing (the web search, not the singer).

My last hope is that what he actually said in DC varied from the prepared version on the Vatican website, but I can’t find a recording of that homily on YouTube.

I really don’t want this to be a fauxtation, but I’m afraid it is.