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February 18, 2011

The Roman Catholic Church

Official statements, contemporary and historical references on animals

  • Baby Jesus is flanked by farm animals and Mary and Joseph. Lisa Thornberg/istock.com

The Roman Catholic Church is the world's largest Christian denomination, representing more than half of all Christians and more than one-sixth of the world's population. Final authority for the Church rests in the Magisterium: the College of Bishops headed by the Pope (currently Pope Benedict XVI).

"Animals are the creatures of God, and, according to the Scriptures, he surrounds them with his providential care (Mt 6:26). Human beings should accept them with gratitude and, even adopting a eucharistic attitude with regard to every element of creation, to give thanks to God for them...

...By their very existence the animals bless God and give him glory: "Bless the Lord, all you birds of the air. All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord" (Dn 3:80-81). In addition, the harmony which man must establish, or restore, in the whole of creation includes his relationship to the animals. When Christ comes in his glory, he will "recapitulate" the whole of creation in an eschatological and definitive moment of harmony." —from International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship, Chapter 3, section 2, paragraph 79.

"Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals….It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly." —from Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article 7, 2:2416, 2418.

For more Roman Catholic religious statements on animals, including links to sources and articles, click on this PDF.

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