For this church mass, bring your pets along

October 4, celebrated globally as World Animal Day, is the day of the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, who is regarded as the patron saint of animals.

India (UCAN). The Sunday mass on October 4 at St Thomas Basilica in Santhome, Chennai, will be extra special. For, it will be attended not just by people but their companion animals, who will also be blessed in a special ceremony.

October 4, celebrated globally as World Animal Day, is the day of the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, who is regarded as the patron saint of animals.

"He was a lover of nature and so we will have a special blessing for animals between 11am and 11.30am," says Fr Louis Mathias, parish priest of St Thomas Basilica, adding that the only other day when they have a similar ceremony is on Maatu Pongal, when animals that are helpful to farmers are blessed.

St Thomas Basilica in southern India is one of the three basilicas in the world which were built over the tomb of an apostle. St Peter's in Rome and St James' in Spain are the other two. It is built over the tomb of St Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ who came to India in 52 AD.

"A similar ceremony was held six years ago at St Thomas Basilica," says Chinny Krishna, chairman emeritus, Blue Cross of India, which is organizing the event. "We usually try and conduct the ceremony when October 4 falls on a Sunday. Incidentally, it was on October 4, 1968, that we got the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals to gazette their first set of rules on animal experimentation in India."

According to Krishna, the day has even more significance as the present Pope, when ordained, changed his name to Francis in honour of St Francis of Assisi.

"It is a beautiful idea to have a ceremony to bless the animal companions in your life," says Catherine Fatima Yourey, 61, who along with her two friends, care for a seven-year-old stray mongrel in their area. "And it will enthuse all animal lovers."

A few churches and temples across the city are planning to conduct similar ceremonies. Every year, special prayers are held at the Ganesha idol located under the peepal tree at the C P Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation. "Animals are a part of our culture and tradition. We worship Ganesha and Hanuman, and nearly every god has an animal as the vahana (vehicle)," says Nanditha Krishna, director of the foundation. "We even draw the kolam every morning with rice flour so that ants can feed on it."

Source: Times of India

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