Before Francis, there was Anthony. He was a Desert Father, and shows the saintly tradition of caring for animals goes back centuries before the simple friar from Assisi. This piece from Zenit yesterday:
Today, the liturgical feast of St. Anthony of Abad, numerous animals were brought to St. Peter’s Square to be blessed by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peters’ Basilica. After Mass the blessing of the livestock took place.
Anthony, aside from being one of the inspirational early leaders of monasticism, has long been associated with the caring for and the healing of animals. CNS covered the event, too:
Amid an occasional chorus of moo, oink, baa and neigh, Cardinal Angelo Comastri blessed several dozen animals (a donkey and her baby, a water buffalo and her calf, a skittish ostrich, a large white boar, rabbits and baby bunnies, hens and geese, milk cows, a horse and a steer, sheep, lambs and goats) peacefully munching their lunch.
Although the Vatican has its own farm at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo south of Rome, the animals who took center stall in St. Peter’s Square belonged to members of an Italian association of farmers and ranchers.
I didn’t know the Vatican has a farm.