Welcome, Pope Francis, Champion of Animals

By on September 24, 2015 with 16 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Pope Francis’ arrival in the United States – his first-ever visit – has created extraordinary excitement and drawn enormous crowds and round-the-clock coverage. This Pope and his ideas are of enormous interest to the American public, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.

The Pope is of special interest to us at The HSUS because of the ideas he’s championed in his recent encyclical about animals and the environment, and his belief that Christians and others must do good in the world – that all are called to serve.  His encyclical is full of references to animals and calls on all of us to embrace a more humane path. He named his encyclical “Praised Be” (Laudato Si) after St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun, in which the Saint praises God for animals and creation.

New York Times Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist Nicolas Kristof lauded Pope Francis today in a column about the Pope’s compelling call for animal protection.

In the encyclical, the Pope reminds us, “We read in the Gospel that Jesus says of the birds of the air that ‘not one of them is forgotten before God’ ( Lk  12:6). How then can we possibly mistreat them or cause them harm?”

The Pope notes that “[e]ach organism, as a creature of God, is good and admirable in itself.” He condemns the view that humankind has “absolute domination over other creatures” as a misinterpretation of God’s grant of “dominion” over creation. “We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

The Pope notes that “our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity’.”

And the Pope directly addresses animal testing, noting “the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives… human power has limits and that it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”

He adds, creation has “an intrinsic value” which is “independent of [its] usefulness. Each organism, as a creature of God, is good and admirable in itself.”

Francis hasn’t departed from Catholic teaching on animals, as his position is rooted in scripture and a long-standing tradition. But his frankness and his willingness to speak clearly and unmistakably about our calling to be stewards is touching people and elevating the prominence of these issues.  He is an authentic voice and is making Catholicism relevant to a new body of believers who have hearts for animals.

Also, his inclusion of animal issues among other pressing issues like poverty, climate change, immigration, and prison reform, indicates his view that these issues are connected and that they belong among the moral concerns of Christians everywhere.

Welcome to America, Pope Francis. We’ve been anxiously awaiting you. Keep spreading the gospel of compassion for animals.

Animal Research and Testing, Farm Animals

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  1. Amy Halpern Laff says:

    If the pope truly believes “every life is sacred,” he should promote veganism. There is no such thing as compassionately killing animals who want to live.

    • Marty Brandon says:

      Exactly. And wouldn’t eternal life in paradise require at least a modicum of compassion? Causing suffering for the sake of a menu option seems an obvious disqualifier.

    • bettina kat says:

      You are definitly right and to the point!
      On top you cannot talk about climate change and poverty not mentioning a meat and dairy free diet.

    • George Feldman says:

      That’s exactly right.He is just playing the card of increasing the flock for more money for the church which already is reputed to possess two thirds of the worlds wealth. He can do a lot of good by going Vegan. Action counts words cost nothing and are deceitful

  2. Sudhir says:

    This pope is the best thing to have happened to Christianity since Jesus

  3. David Bernazani says:

    Ever since I was old enough to think about it, it seemed strange that, in Catholic dogma anyway, animals “weren’t allowed” in heaven. As I child I accepted this, until I realized, “wait, what kind of a heaven would it be without ANY animals”? What kind of “paradise” has no singing birds, no beautiful woodland creatures, and especially not one dog or cat? A very dreary and boring place, indeed!
    As a child growing up one of my best friends was a dog, a sweet shepherd mix who was always there when I needed him, always ready to play with wagging tail and smiling mouth, or willing to sit quietly with me and comfort me in bad times. If that guy didn’t have a “soul”, then I don’t either.
    Anyway it sounds as though the Church is changing its views on all that. About time.
    Not that it would have made any difference to God. I’m sure all along he planned to let them all in!

  4. Marie says:

    I’m not Catholic but I really like this pope.

  5. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto says:

    Good Job Pope Francis Thank you Ilove animals

  6. Tâm Thuận says:

    It is up to you to go by things based on ethic, that is, be harmless to yourself, be harmless to others, be harmless to all beings through your action, your speech and even your very own thought. It is nothing less than a form of crime to attempt to win people over the FALSE BELIEF!
    “Do not ground your faith on the legend; do not ground your faith on the tradition; do not ground your faith on the hearsay; do not ground your faith on the circulation of the Scriptures; do not ground your faith on the meta-physical reasoning; do not ground your faith on what are only right from one standpoint; do not ground your faith on the cursory consideration of the data; do not ground your faith on what accord with your own pre-conception; do not ground your faith on words from the position of power; do not ground your faith on an Ascetic’s being your Master.
    But when you yourself clearly know: ‘These things are evil; these things are sinful; these things are criticized by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to harm and suffering’, then you should abandon and distrust them!
    But when you yourself clearly know: ‘These things are good, these things are sinless, these things are praised by the wise, these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to happiness and peace’, then you should go by and serenely dwell in them.”
    (From “The Numerical Discourses of Buddha”)

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