Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Also the Animals Possess a Soul"

"When Pope John Paul II declared in a public audience in 1990 that 'also the

animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren'

some people must have thought this was a new teaching, unaware of the Holy Father's

scholarly familiarity with the authentic Hebrew texts. When he went on to state that all

animals are 'fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect' and that

they are 'as near to God as men are', animal lovers in the audience were ecstatic! The

Pope mentions the special relationship of mankind with God as being created in His image

and likeness. 'However,' he goes on 'other texts state that animals have the breath of

life and were given it by God. In this respect, man, created by the hand of God, is

identical with all other living creatures. And so in Psalm 104 there is no distinction

between man and beasts when it reads, addressing God: " … Thou hidest thy face,

they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou

sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth."

The existence therefore,' the Holy Father reminds us, 'of all living creatures depends on

the living spirit/breath of God that not only creates but also sustains and renews the

face of the earth.'

This discourse caused a stir around the world, and was especially encouraging to

Catholic animal welfare groups which had begun to despair that anything 'animal friendly'

would ever be heard in Rome. The then professor of theology and dogma at the University of

Urbino, Carlo Molari, called it 'very important and significant. It is a "sign of the

times" because it demonstrates the Church's desire and deep concern to clarify

present confused thinking and attitudes towards the animal kingdom. There should be no

need, but the Pontiff, in reiterating that animals came into being because of the direct

action of the "breath" of God, wanted to say that also these creatures, as well

as man, are possessed of the divine spark of life and that living quality that is the

soul. And are therefore not inferior beings or only of a purely material reality.' "

I would like to discover which audience this is from, as the topic is of lively interest to me.

I am delighted to find all-creatures.org, a Catholic pro-animal website and resource.

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