The poem Pope Francis never wrote

By Mary Rezac*

Papal Inauguration Mass in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis on March 19, 2013. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Papal Inauguration Mass in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis on March 19, 2013. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

If you’re a Catholic on Facebook, you may have seen this poem on your newsfeed today:

WE NEED SAINTS

We need saints without veil or cassock.
We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers.
We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends.
We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their power.
We need saints who have time everyday to pray and who know how to date in purity and chastity, or who consecrate their chastity.
We need modern saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality that is part of our time.
We need saints committed to the poor and the necessary social changes.
We need saints who live in the world and who are sanctified in the world, who are not afraid to live in the world.
We need saints who drink Coke and eat hot dogs, who wear jeans, who are Internet-savvy, who listen to CDs.
We need saints who passionately love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to drink a soda or eat pizza on weekends with friends.
We need saints who like movies, the theater, music, dance, sports.
We need saints who are social, open, normal, friendly, happy and who are good companions.
We need saints who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world but who aren’t of the world.

Now, I love the sentiment of the poem. I wholeheartedly believe the Church needs lay men and women to become saints “without veil or cassock”, saints who are willing to live in the world but not of the world.

Unfortunately, this poem has been mis-attributed as a direct quote from Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, an event that will continue through this week.

Thus far, the original source of the poem can not be found. The first English version of the poem appeared online as early as 2010.

Most blogs that have posted the poem attributed it Pope John Paul II, but there is no official Vatican copy or any sort of official source.

It seems most likely that this poem was written by someone in Brazil who was inspired by the words of Blessed John Paul II, and it was then translated into English years later.

What’s sad about this mis-attribution is that it means we’re missing all of the great things Pope Francis really did say in his address. A few of my favorite quotes:

“I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ!” (Pope Francis, WYD 2013)

“Christ has confidence in young people and entrusts them with the very future of his mission, ‘Go and make disciples.’ Go beyond the confines of what is humanly possible and create a world of brothers and sisters! And young people have confidence in Christ: they are not afraid to risk for him the only life they have, because they know they will not be disappointed.” (Pope Francis WYD 2013).

Misquotes and mis-attributions on matters of faith is a dangerous trend I’ve seen crop up among many well-meaning Catholics on social media these past few years.

My Catholic friends, I urge you to stop re-posting this quote as attributed to Pope Francis, and all other information lacking proper sources. Please be sure to do some research before hitting the “share” button for anything posted on Facebook, but particularly when it relates to faith and morals.

Here’s why it matters: The world already sees our faith as something that should not be taken seriously. We only feed these flames when we post inaccurate information regarding faith and morals on our social media pages.

Our faith is not a fairy tale, but grounded in truth, reality and historical fact. As Christians, we need to show the world that we don’t believe everything we read or see at face-value, but in fact take the time to research and ask questions.

For our coverage on World Youth Day, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/tags/world-youth-day/

Full transcripts of the Pope’s speeches can be found at:  http://www.ewtn.com/rio2013/index.asp – words

 

*Mary Rezac is an intern with CNA. Next fall, she will be a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she is studying Journalism and Education.