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Did Pope Francis tell Catholics to ‘eat whatever you want for Easter’? No evidence the pontiff said so

IN SHORT: A quote posted on social media claims that Pope Francis has told Catholics to “eat whatever you want”. The quote appears to urge Catholics not to abstain from meat during Lent, when they are required to do so. Africa Check contacted the Vatican and checked official records, but found no such quote.

A screengrab circulating on WhatsApp in Kenya attributes a quote to Pope Francis, the world leader of the Roman Catholic church

The quote reads

Eat whatever you want for Easter, the sacrifice is not in the stomach, but in the heart. They refrain from eating meat, but don't talk to their siblings or relatives, don't visit their parents or bother them to attend to them. Don't share food with the needy, forbid children to see their father, forbid grandparents to see their grandchildren, criticize other people's lives, beat their wife, etc.. A good barbeque or beef stew won't make you a bad person, just like a fish fillet won't turn you a saint. Better seek to have a deeper relationship with God through better treatment of others. Let's be less arrogant and more humble at heart. Pope Francis.

The quote started appearing on Facebook in mid-February 2024, just before Lent, the 40 days of fasting before Easter. Lent began on 14 February and will last until 31 March. 

During Lent, Catholics aged 15 and above are required to abstain from eating meat, especially on Fridays, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Catholics don't forego meat on Easter, but rather in the 40 days before Easter. 

The quote attributed to Francis has also been posted here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, and on public Facebook groups with thousands of members here and here

We also found a similar message posted to X on 8 April 2023 and as a thread on 25 February 2024. 

Another version posted on X on 16 February 2024 said “just heard the Pope said we can eat whatever we want during lent because there’s no point abstaining from meat but mistreating people”.

But did Francis really say the words attributed to him in the viral quote? We checked. 


No record of the pope making such statements

Africa Check contacted the Vatican’s communications office. The Vatican is the seat of the Roman Catholic church. It told us to verify the claims with “the official Vatican website and to read the Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office, which publishes the words actually pronounced by the [pope]”.

We searched the Vatican website for the quote, but we did not find it in the pope’s 2024 Lent message

We found a February 2015 document titled “abstaining from injustice”, which quotes Pope Francis condemning the hypocrisy of abstaining from meat on Fridays while “exploiting workers” and being unjust to “neighbours”. 

But we have found no evidence that the pope said the words attributed to him on social media. Other fact-checkers in the Philippines, Australia, the US and the UK have also debunked the claim.

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