25 January 2024, The Tablet

All God’s creatures

Padre Ángel García: messenger of peace

All God’s creatures

The annual blessing of pets is hugely popular at St Antón’s Church in Madrid, where a cut-out of Pope Francis presides.
Joanna Moorhead


A Spanish priest has created a space in the centre of Madrid that brings alive Pope Francis’ dream of the Church as a field hospital.

It’s not often you shake a paw at the sign of peace, but that’s what I found myself doing at a midweek Mass in Madrid on 17 January.  Standing beside me in the church was an elderly man holding a perfectly-coiffed white terrier. When the priest invited us to greet our neighbour, mine proffered his dog’s paw: I shook it gently, and patted his head. 


All around, other worshippers were doing the same: because this was no ordinary Mass, it was a Mass with as many animal attendees as humans. Most of the latter participants were holding dogs or clutching leads for dogs sitting patiently on the floor. One woman had a huge, marmalade-coloured fluffy cat in her handbag; another had two rabbits in a box. 

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