Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Animals blessed in St. Peter’s Square for feast of St. Anthony Abbot

 Farmers and pet owners alike brought out their beloved animals to the Vatican for a special blessing on the feast of St. Anthony Abbot, Jan. 17, 2023. Credit: Alan Koppschall/EWTN

St. Peter’s Square was filled with horses, cows, donkeys, dogs, goats, geese, and rabbits on Tuesday for the feast of St. Anthony Abbot.

Farmers and pet owners alike brought their beloved animals to the Vatican for a special blessing on Jan. 17.

While many American Catholics associate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi with a blessing of animals, in Italy farmers traditionally celebrate the feast of St. Anthony Abbot, the patron saint of domestic animals.

St. Anthony Abbot was a fourth-century hermit known for his asceticism and as a father of monasticism. His holy life in the Egyptian desert was recorded by St. Athanasius in The Life of St. Antony.”

The annual Vatican tradition had been canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the cold and rainy weather, many people showed up to celebrate again with their furry friends.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, greeted many of the animals after offering the blessing.

The cardinal kicked off the day’s celebration with a Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica, where farmers brought up cheese, eggs, and other farm products as part of the offertory.

After Mass, a mounted police band led a parade of horses down the main street leading to Vatican City.

In his homily, Gambetti recalled how St. Anthony was sought after for his wisdom: “He said that in addition to Scripture, his book was Creation in which he read the thoughts of God.”

Acknowledging that farmers have faced difficulties this year with a rise in production costs linked to the energy crisis in Europe, Gambetti said that “the Lord never fails to provide his providential help.”

“The fruit of the earth that turns into good food that nourishes life is the caress of God,” the Italian cardinal said.

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