On Tuesday morning, the Vatican became a mini zoo as farmers rushed to St. Peter's Square with their animals, both large and small, to receive a special blessing on the feast day of St. Anthony the Abbott, the patron saint of farmers and the protector of animals.
A variety of animals, including cows, donkeys, horses, rabbits, and chickens were present as well as various Italian families who raise the animals on farms near Rome.
"Today we have brought this mule, a donkey and a horse. We came here today for the blessing of the animals. This here is a mule and it would be a cross between a horse and a donkey.”
The Italian Farmers' Association (A.I.A.) also provides veterinarians, who offer free check-ups for the animals present.
"I come as a veterinarian, and this is the tenth year we have done this event. It has been an established event for many years. Many people have come for the last 10 years and they come from every region in Italy. Fifteen are present from the 21 regions in Italy, representing more than 6,000 people."
In addition to the Italians farmers, there are many visitors who have come to the Vatican to receive the blessing alongside the animals, which this year was completed by Cardinal Angelo Comastri.
"I like animals a lot. Every year I come to receive the blessing because I hope that the blessing for the animals can also come to me.”
Thus, pilgrims and Vatican staff alike participated in a prayer and demonstration, complete with white horses, music and a statue of St. Anthony representing his presence and his patronage at the event.
After the blessing, the animals seemed to be even better behaved as none tried to escape in St. Peter's Square.