Animals Blessed at St. Peter's

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Crowds in St. Peter's Square were surprised to see a different kind of blessing being given: Beasts of various breeds were herded into the plaza to receive a blessing on the feast of the patron of the animal kingdom.



Today, the liturgical feast of St. Anthony of Abad, numerous animals were brought to St. Peter's Square to be blessed by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peters' Basilica.

After Mass the blessing of the livestock took place. There were dairy and beef cattle, draft horses, donkeys and other animals, which drew attention (and photos) from tourists and pilgrims who were passing by.

On Wednesday, Benedict XVI greeted ranchers during the general audience, emphasizing that they are "an important reality for the economy."

The Pope exhorted them "to work increasingly on respect for the environment and in favor of securing food for citizens."

"May the liturgical feast of your patron, St. Anthony of Egypt," he added, "stir up in you the desire to love Christ with greater generosity and to give joyful witness to his Gospel."

St. Anthony, Abbot, also known as "the hermit" or "the great," lived in Egypt between the 3rd and 4th century. Tradition says that he was a good friend of animals and cured beasts of their injuries.