Pope Francis suggested recently that even animals have a place in heaven, while trying to soothe a young boy during a public appearance at the Vatican's St. Peter's Square. 

"Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures," he told the boy whose dog died recently.

He made the comment during the weekly general audience at the Vatican, in St. Peter's Square

“One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ,” said the leader of the Catholic Church, according to Italian news sources. 

This is a significant pivot from the position held by Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. In 2008, he said that when an animal dies, it “just means the end of existence on Earth.”

Francis has consistently made headlines with sometimes controversial remarks since assuming the papacy in 2013.

Vatican observers have called him a "radical" because of his open-mindedness and desire to reach out to "the grassroots of Catholic life."

The 77-year-old leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics has adopted more liberal positions than his predecessor, stirring up tensions with conservative Catholics on issues such as homosexuality and single motherhood. 

In one such instance in July 2013, Francis struck a compassionate tone when speaking about homosexuality. 

"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" he said to reporters on a flight returning to the Vatican from Brazil. 

Francis's papal name comes from St. Francis of Assisi, the church's patron saint of animals and the ecology.