Though it's debatable as to whether he does believe in an afterlife for dogs and cats, Francis - who adopted his papal name in honor of the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi - has spoken out on behalf of nonhumans before. In his first homily as pope, Francis articulated mankind's role in serving not only the divine, but in all creatures born from it:
"The vocation of being a 'protector,' however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live."
Pope Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, despite being a cat lover, said that animals' existence was limited to their time on Earth. But if Francis does believe that animals follow you to the afterlife, he may not be the first. As newspaper Divisione la Repubblica notes, Pope John Paul II may have thought so, too, saying animals had a "divine breath."