Thousands of animal lovers flock to churches seeking blessings for their pets ahead of feast day of Saint Francis
Pet lovers pose with their pets in Immaculate Conception parish in Jalaan, Misamis Oriental province during a rally for animal rights. (Photo supplied)
Members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and hundreds of pet lovers lobbied on Oct. 2 for animal rights after the blessing of pets in churches across the Philippines.
PETA, the largest animal rights organization in the world with over nine million members, said Catholics must treat their pets as “members of their family,” especially during natural disasters.
The group’s call came after hundreds of dogs and cats were swept away by flash floods during the onslaught of Typhoon Noru in Aurora and Bulacan provinces in Luzon region.
“We are here to remind pet lovers to bring your pets inside your home or make sure they’re in a safe place during typhoons. We need to take care of them even during natural disasters,” PETA member Salvador Quizon told UCA News.
He said their group had noticed many pet dogs and cats drowned in flooding because they were chained up or locked in cages.
“We had an inspection in Aurora and Bulacan provinces. Part of the reason was to give free food to pet owners. We noticed the number of dead animals locked in cages and in chains during the landfall of the typhoon,” Quizon said.
“We want our pets to be baptized”
“We beg the owners of animals to kindly take care of your pets during natural calamities. If you don’t want them inside your house, at least coordinate with your local officials to make a safe place for them during typhoons,” he added.
Pet owners and parishioners of Saint Francis parish in Quezon City also asked clergymen to bless their pets before the actual feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4.
Saint Francis is the patron saint of animal lovers and pet owners.
“We’re here not only for the blessing of pets but also for pet baptismal day. Yes, we want our pets to be baptized even by a mere ceremony to mark their identity as Catholic pets,” dog lover Carol Sebastian told UCA News.
Sebastian and fellow pet lovers had submitted a proposal to their parish priest to allow them to celebrate a “pet wedding” wherein partner dogs and cats may be blessed by a clergyman to simulate the sacrament of marriage.
Churchgoers of Jasaan in Misamis Oriental province in northern Mindanao also paraded with their pets to protest the use of animals for scientific experimentation.
“Sacraments are only for humans”
“Animals languish in pain, ache with loneliness and long to be free from animal testing. Instead, all they can do is sit and wait in fear of the next terrifying and painful procedure that will be performed on them,” the group said in a Facebook post.
While Catholic pet lovers expressed the wish for their pets to participate in various sacraments, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines reminded churchgoers that the sacraments are only for humans.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us the Sacraments were instituted by Our Lord as signs and efficacious channels of the grace of God to all those who receive them with the proper disposition. It is for us humans,” said Father Almerico De Guzman of the prelates’ Congregation on Doctrine of Faith.
Father De Guzman said although one could be an advocate for animal rights, they must not confuse animal rights with Christian sacraments.
“Marriage, for example, according to our faith is established between a man and a woman, for spouses for procreation. It is a covenant, thus only those who understand this as such may be married in the Church. This is not what Saint Francis of Assisi meant by ‘loving’ animals,” the clergyman added.
Francis of Assisi founded in 1209 the Franciscan Order, a group known for embracing poverty, prayer and love for the poor in the Church.
“We get 80-100 reports of animal abuse daily”
Because of St. Francis’ love for animals and the environment, he later became the patron saint of animals and the natural environment.
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote the first ever encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, based on Saint Francis of Assisi’s canticle for the environment.
Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) claimed there was a “dramatic increase” in reports of animal cruelty during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We get 80-100 reports of animal abuse daily compared to 40-50 cases reported abuse before the pandemic. This is double the numbers,” PAWS member Maricel Polido told UCA News.
Polido cited a case their group filed against five Manila veterinarians for alleged violation of the Animal Welfare Act, a law that promotes the welfare of pets, giving domesticated animals a certain standard of living.
“What is sad is that sometimes animal authorities are the ones guilty of violating the law. In 2020, we filed a case against veterinarians in Manila who allowed the cramming of 60 cats into a 2-foot by 3-foot cage, subjecting them to starvation,” Polido added.
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