Farmers from across Italy traveled to the Vatican on Jan. 17 to have their livestock blessed by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica.
The cardinal blessed chickens, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, cows, rabbits and pigs just outside St. Peter's Square Thursday to celebrate the feast of Saint Anthony Abbot.
The world's largest breed of cattle was also present – a huge porcelain-white Chianina bull.
After Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, a parade of drummers on horses marched down the main road that leads to St. Peter's Square where locals gathered with their dogs to watch. Cardinal Comastri then gave the blessing and concluded by releasing a white dove.
“St. Anthony is the protector of animals and so Italian breeders are very happy with this tradition,” said Mauro Fioretti, who works for the Association for Italian Breeders.
According to Fioretti, the Association began organizing this event four years ago to be held every Jan. 17. “Breeders just want to show with this that they're grateful to St. Anthony for protecting animals,” he told EWTN News.
“This is a Catholic tradition and Italy is a country in which tradition is very important,” he added. “But this is also an opportunity to use this as a meeting point for all Italian breeders to come together.”
During his blessing, Cardinal Angelo Comastri spoke of “the beauty of creation” and of Isaac Newton.
He told how Newton said once “when at night I lift my eyes and look at the sky and think of the beauty that's before me and how many stars are above us, I think of the immensity of the galaxy.”
“When I look at creation like flowers, animals and plants, I think one must be blind to not see the author and crazy to not adore him,” Cardinal Comastri quoted.
“We're here today because we want to be people who see and recognize this beauty,” he added. “We invoke his blessing to be worthy to live with this creation by respecting it.”
St. Anthony Abbot, who lived from 251 to 356 A.D. in Egypt, was involved in miraculous healings during his lifetime attracting disciples including two Greek philosophers to meet him. He was the first known ascetic to go into the wilderness. Apart from being the patron saint of animals, he is also prayed to for intercession against infectious diseases.