No evidence Pope Francis told people to ‘eat whatever you want’ during Lent

22 February 2024
What was claimed

Pope Francis said people should “eat whatever you want” during Lent in a passage he shared about the period.

Our verdict

There is no evidence the Pope said this. The passage does not appear in any of his annual messages for Lent, or in transcripts of his speeches.

Posts circulating online attribute a passage about Lent to Pope Francis, but there’s no evidence he actually said this. 

According to the posts, Pope Francis told people to “eat whatever you want” during the period of Lent, because “the sacrifice is not in the mouth nor the stomach, but in the heart!”

The Pope’s alleged message supposedly goes on to say: “A good barbeque or beef stew won’t make you a bad person, just like a fish fillet won’t turn you a saint [sic]. Better seek to have a deeper relationship with God through better treatment of others.”

Lent in the Christian church is the 40-day period of fasting or abstinence in the run up to Easter. This is intended to represent Jesus Christ’s time spent in the desert without food where he was tempted by the devil. 

One post sharing the passage says: “WOW!!!. WHAT A PROFOUND MESSAGE! [sic]”, while another says: “This……well said Pope Francis! Have a blessed lent!”

However, Full Fact could find no evidence Pope Francis actually said this. 

The passage does not appear in his annual message for Lent in 2024, or any of his previous messages since he became Pope in 2013

An article published by Vatican News summarises his 2024 message as an invitation for “the faithful to ‘pause’ for prayer and to assist our brothers and sisters in need, in order to change our own lives and the lives of our communities”, with no reference to what people should eat. 

Similarly, the passage does not appear in any of the English transcripts of speeches he’s made during his papal tenure. These are published by the Holy See, which is the government of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It is not clear where the passage being shared on social media has come from. 

Full Fact has contacted the Dicastery for Communication, which oversees communication for the Holy See, for comment and will update this article if we receive a response. 

This is not the first time Pope Francis has been the subject of misinformation. We’ve previously written about false claims that he called for “urgent depopulation” and said disabled people should be “euthanized” to fight climate change, as well as viral images supposedly showing him wearing a puffer jacket and addressing crowds in Lisbon, but that were actually generated using Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

Image courtesy of Long Thiên

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