January 17, 2019 / 4:25 PM / a year ago

Pets, owners flock to Madrid church for blessing of animals

MADRID (Reuters) - Dogs, cats and birds were blessed at a church in Madrid on Thursday on the feast day of St. Anthony, the patron saint of animals, with many of the owners making an annual pilgrimage for their pets.

St Anthony the Abbot’s church priest Angel Garcia expected up to 15,000 pets to be brought in for this year’s ceremony.

“St. Anthony cared a great deal about dogs and abandoned animals, healing and feeding them. That’s where the tradition comes from,” said the priest, who blesses each animal.

“We come here every year since I have her and we come together, right Rita?” Madrid resident Maria Diaz said to her dog as she was hugging it. “St. Anthony is going to bless you. Do not tremble!”

Diana Castillo, another dog owner, said she was keeping up a family tradition, started by her grandparents who would bring their pets to the ceremony, first celebrated 35 years ago.

“We are from Madrid for several generations and St. Anthony has always been a very important church for our family ... I come here since we adopted her seven years ago and we come every year.”

Reporting by Sabela Ojea Guix, editing by Andrei Khalip

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