Holy camel! Parade of pets blessed at New York cathedral
New York, New York - New York worshippers celebrated mass at St. John the Divine Cathedral on Sunday alongside hundreds of animals – including a camel, a pony, snakes, ostriches, geese, cats, and dogs – which all queued up for blessings of their own.
The Manhattan Episcopal church invited its four-legged guests – or no-legged, in the case of the snakes – to mark the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of pets and animals.
Sunday's ceremony was a special milestone for the parish, which has not held a traditional first-weekend-of-October animal blessing since 2018, due to a fire and then the Covid-19 pandemic.
Animal-lovers of many faiths brought their furry friends to receive a little extra grace, including Jon Shweky, who is Jewish, and Christine Cookman, who is Catholic. They brought their black labrador, who is training to become a guide for the blind starting in November.
"We wanted to bring him for a blessing before he went in (to become a guide dog), for a good health and good luck," Cookman told AFP.
"It's such a spiritual (and) amazing thing to be involved with a church that recognizes the soul of animals," she added.
Animals of all shapes and sizes flock to St. John the Divine Cathedral
The cavernous interior of the neogothic cathedral – whose construction began in 1892 – allowed space for around 1,500 human attendees to join in on the $15 service, which was presided over by New York Episcopal Bishop Andrew Dietsche.
Most of the critters – the majority of them dogs – did their best to quietly endure the Mass, though some did become agitated when the camel processed down the aisle.
One creature did cause a small incident when it urinated on one of the stone columns helping to hold the weight of the building, whose dome was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino.
Kristin Portecella (62) and her mother Dagmar brought in their dog Sadie for a blessing, happy to catch the one day a year when pets are permitted in church.
"They are part of our... unconditional love," she said of her pup.
Also filling the pews at St. John's were an alligator, an owl, bunnies, goats, a lemur, and a duck, along with several other species.
Cover photo: Leonardo Munoz / AFP