Rivers Do Not Drink Their Own Water Pope Francis

image of the pope
Pope Francis' supposedly famous quote which begins "Rivers do not drink their own water", is one of the more famous lines in recent history to come from a pope (or anyone). However, as we'll discuss, the pope does not appear to have ever said such a thing and, if he did, it was before he was elected as prime minister.

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As is tradition, we’ll give the first two sentences of the poem from which the claimed quote is derived. Remember that it does not appear that Pope Francis ever made such a proclamation.

The rivers don’t drink their own water,

Trees don’t eat their own fruits.

Not Pope Francis

Who Actually Said It?

Some good detective work comes from a blog post in December of 2020 that noticed the proliferation of people citing the quote (in seemingly legitimate sources) to the vicar of Christ on earth. There’s no doubting that the words are moving, but the author was able to track down information published in 2009 (Pope Francis only became the pope on March 13, 2013) which contains the exact words.

The internet is a terrific source for verifying or falsifying at least new quotes thanks to tools like Google Search and Google books. Combining these tools with quotes attributed to a Pope makes the task much easier because a) the Head of the Catholic Church serves well-publicized time frames (and their words are more important while they are actually pope) and b) the Church itself keeps a log of all decrees from the pope to general audiences.

As the debunker of the quote notes, the date given for the quote by sources who have attributed the quote to the pope put the date as June 5th, 2017. However, the author states “the Vatican website for a General Audience dated June 5, 2017, it does not exist.”

The original post appears to come from a source that was originally written in the ancient, now defunct language of Sanskrit. Therefore making the likely origin of the quote a Sanskrit proverb (which is among the most common ways the language is referenced in contemporary life).

Why Do People Say Pope Francis Said It?

Obviously, we cannot verify whether Pope Francis said it or not (though, we can verify that it was said before he was pope and therefore is not the original author of the quote). Nevertheless, we are more interested in the reason why Pope Francis would be attributed to the quote.

If you look at the other fake quotes we’ve analyzed on this site (however few there are), note the authors verse the actual authors. It was believed that Einstein said “Insanity is Doing The Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”, which of course he didn’t. That actual quote came from a little-known mystery author named Rita Mae Brown.

In the case of the fake quote attributed to George Washington who supposedly said “Impossible to Run a Country Without God and the Bible“, one begins to see a trend line emerging. Yes, of the three quotes referenced, religion is a central theme. However, a more encompassing theme might be the emphasis on attributing a fake quote to someone of high moral status. This is a feature of quotes in general, society seems all too willing to default to one sentence in order to justify the beliefs they wish were truths.

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