Thursday, December 10, 2020

Another Fake Quote Attributed to the Pope


The rivers dont drink their own water,
Trees dont eat their own fruits,
The sun does not shine for itself,
And flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves.
Living for others is a rule of nature.
Life is good when you’re happy,
But it is much better when others are happy because of you.

A beautiful saying, but it doesn’t come from Papa Francesco.

Principal Findings

1.   The alleged quote predates the election of Papa Francesco.

The appearance of the quote on the Internet predates Pope Francis’ election as pope on March 13, 2013.

See this information dated September 21, 2009:


Sabemos que los àrboles no comen sus propias frutas
Las vacas no bebeen su propia leche
Los rios no beben su propia agua
Tenemos que aprender el servicio hacia nuestros hermanos y hermanas
Y todos los objectos de la naturaleza
Para asugurar el presente y el porvenir de la humanidad


The source attributes the text to the Vedas.

Seva,” meditation-relaxation-sans-stress

2.   The original source of the quote is probably a Sanskrit proverb.

This information dated November 9, 2013 identifies the quote as a Sanskrit proverb (subhashitam) and also supplies the original Sanskrit text:


pibanti nadya svayameva nāmbha
svaya na khādanti phalāni vkā
nādanti sasya khalu vārivāhā
paropakārāya satā vibhūtaya

Just as the rivers do not drink their own water but flow for others’ benefit, just as fruit-bearing trees do not eat their own fruit but bear it for others, and just as clouds do not drink their own rain but shower it down for others, so saintly devotees live simply for others.


The Best Mode of Worship - Part 5,” H H Mahavishnu Goswami Amrtavani

Other sources identify the original source of the text as a Sanskrit or Hindu proverb.

—“The Art of Giving - Sanskriti - Indian Culture,”

—“What great ones have, is always for the benefit of others,” Hindu Proverb Poster, Redbubble

Note – Definition of subhashitam:

—“Subhashita,” Wikipedia

3.   The attribution of the quote in Spanish to Papa Francesco dates from the beginning of 2017.

Attribution of the Spanish version of the quote to the pope appears to date from the first half of 2017.

This webpage dated June 5, 2017 is a major culprit:

“Nada en la naturaleza vive para sí mismo. Los ríos no beben de su propia agua; los árboles no comen su propia fruta. El sol no brilla para sí mismo; y las flores no extienden su fragancia para sí mismas. Jesús no se sacrifica para sí mismo, sino para nosotros. Vivir para los demás es una regla de la naturaleza. Todos hemos nacido para ayudarnos mutuamente.”

—Pbro. Abelardo Aviña Reyes, “Con El Santo Padre, En La Audiencia General,” June 5, 2017, Pontificio Colegio Mexicano Roma

The source is very reputable, Pontificio Colegio Romano, Roma. Yet if you search the Vatican website for a General Audience dated June 5, 2017, it does not exist.

Moreover, the text does not exist in any of the General Audiences proximate to the above date. For your information, I checked the following General Audience 2017 dates:

May 24
May 31
June 7
June 14

—“Audiences 2017,” The Holy See

Soon after the June 5, 2017 post by Pontificio Colegio Romano, Roma, the alleged papal quote begins to proliferate in Spanish language sites.

See, for example, the following:

—Juanra Etxebarria Borobia, “Los Ríos No Beben Su Propia Agua - Desde Anda,” July 30, 2017, El Blog de JuanRa Etxebarria

—Armando Regil Velasco, “La Naturaleza Nos Une,” September 12, 2017, El Economista

September 29, 2017:

—“Palabras de la Dra. Stella Bolaños Varela al Recibir el Premio Ops a la Gestión y al Literazgo en los Servicios de Salud (2017),” September 29, 2017, Organización Panamericana de la Salud

The above source, an international conference, looks very convincing.

This May 26-28, 2017 source predates the Pontificio Colegio Romano, Roma source:

—“Los Mandalas Florecen en Primavera,” May 26-28, 2017, Fraternidades de la Encarnacion

Look at the June 16, 2020 visitor comment at the link below:

“How are we sure that this was really written by Pope Francis? Did he send the message to you by himself? Where was his signature? People used his name to write something before. That’s why we can’t tell if it is really from him or not. Thank you for your reply.”

—Alfred de Zayas, “Pope Francis,” June 12, 2017, Alfred de Zayas’ Human Rights Corner

You get the idea.

4.   The attribution of the quote in English to Papa Francesco follows upon the attribution of the quote in Spanish in 2017.

English versions of the alleged papal quote begin to appear around March 2017. This source dates the quote to March 25, 2017:

25-Mar-2017, Pope Francis said: “Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature.  We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is… Life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you.”

—Gerard Conlan, OMI, “It Is the Law of Nature, That Creation Does Not Live for Itself, but for Other Creatures,” OMI Lacombe Canada

—Catholic Business Network Singapore, Facebook Post, March 19, 2017

Principal Conclusions

There’s very strong evidence Pope Francis did not say it, at least not when he was pope, because the quote predates his election in 2013 by about four years.

The original source of the quote appears to be a Sanskrit proverb.

When the Spanish version of the quote appears in the Internet in 2009, it is not attributed to the pope.

Attribution of the quote to the pope appears to start in the first half of 2017, first in Spanish and then in English.

The quote should not be attributed to Pope Francis because it cannot be traced to him as a source and the available evidence indicates that he isn’t the source.

Based on the available information, the most accurate attribution of the quote is that it is adapted from a Sanskrit proverb. 

Papa Francesco


  1. Public domain photo

    Photo link:


  2. Mass spreading of fake quotes is a symptom of a bigger, deeper, and very serious problem with dangerous and corrosive effects for democracies—fostering fake news, ignorance, lack of critical thinking, mob action and rule, propaganda, political manipulation, demagoguery, and authoritarian populism, among others.