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Benedict XVI Continues Tradition of Papal Concern for Animals

Benedict XVI Continues Tradition of Papal Concern for Animals

Just hours after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was named Pope Benedict XVI, PETA offered congratulations and urged His Holiness to include animals in the Catholic Church's areas of concern.

The new Pope has spoken movingly about the exploitation of all beings, particularly of farmed animals. When he was asked about the rights of animals in a 2002 interview, he said, "That is a very serious question. At any rate, we can see that they are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God's creatures . . . Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."

Cardinal Ratzinger was echoing official church teachings, as laid out in the Catholic Catechism, which states clearly that "Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. . . . It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly."

In our letter, we asked His Holiness to bring his own compassionate vision to the public: "We hope that you will continue to speak out for these exploited beings. In recent years, our membership has swelled with [Catholics] who believe that animals, like people, have a sacred right to life and need to be protected from violence. . . . We turn to you now, as you take on your momentous duties, and humbly ask that you lead the way into a new era of compassion and respect for all beings, regardless of species."

Pope John Paul proclaimed that "the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren."

Compassion for animals was also a prominent theme in John Paul II's papacy. Pope John Paul proclaimed that "the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren." He went on to say that all animals are "fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect" and that they are "as near to God as men are." Animal lovers everywhere were overjoyed! He reminded people that all living beings, including animals, came into being because of the "breath" of God. Animals possess the divine spark of life--the living quality that is the soul--and they are not inferior beings, as factory farmers, fur farmers, and others who exploit animals for profit would have us believe. After he became Pope John Paul II, His Holiness went to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, and spoke of the saint's love for animals. He declared, "We, too, are called to a similar attitude."

PETA is hopeful that Pope Benedict XVI will continue to speak out for animals in his papacy as he did as a cardinal and that he will take a stand against the hideous treatment endured by God's creatures. Catholics can honor the teachings of Pope John Paul II and the sentiments of Pope Benedict XVI by incorporating compassion for animals more fully into their own lives.


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