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No evidence Pope Francis has approved animal baptism, ignore viral claim

IN SHORT: A series of photos have been posted on Facebook claiming that Pope Francis, the world leader of the Roman Catholic church, has approved the baptism of animals. But this is false.

A series of photos posted on Facebook show Pope Francis, the world leader of the Roman Catholic church, and other priests interacting with animals.

One image shows the pope giving sacramental bread to a dog. This is a type of bread given to the congregation during religious ceremonies in the Catholic church.

Those who posted the photos claimed that the pope had authorised the baptism of animals.

In December 2023, Francis approved the blessing of same-sex couples under certain conditions. The directive has been met with opposition from some Catholic church leaders, including in Kenya.

But is the claim about animal baptism true? We checked.


No evidence

News of the pope's blessing of same-sex couples was widely covered by major outlets around the world.

It was also reported by Vatican News, the official news portal of the Holy See, the leadership of the Roman Catholic church. 

But the news that the pope has allowed pets to be baptised has not been reported anywhere. This is suspicious, as such news would also have made international headlines.

The claim is accompanied by several photos. We checked each of them to see if they showed the baptism of the pets in progress.

A reverse image search of the first photo shows that it was published back in June 2016. It was captioned: “Pope Francis greets members of a lifeguard association with their dogs during the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on June 8, 2016.” 

The second photo was first published in October 2021. It shows worshippers taking their pets to a Catholic church in France to be blessed. 

The third photo also shows pets and their owners being blessed in a church in France.

We discovered that the fourth image was photoshopped. The original photo shows a child receiving sacramental bread from the pope in Bulgaria.

The fifth photo shows a priest blessing a dog in Madrid, Spain.

The sixth photo, posted separately by other users, also shows a priest blessing pets in a church in France.

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