Mexican church blesses furry friends for World Animal Day

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A catholic faithful receives the Eucharist as she brings her pet to be blessed at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, whose feast marks World Animal Day in Zapopan, Jalisco state in Mexico, on October 4, 2019

A catholic faithful receives the Eucharist as she brings her pet to be blessed at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, whose feast marks World Animal Day in Zapopan, Jalisco state in Mexico, on October 4, 2019 (AFP Photo/ULISES RUIZ)

Zapopan (Mexico) (AFP) - Chihuahuas, parakeets and turtles joined their human companions for services at a Catholic church Friday in the Mexican city of Zapopan, where they got a special blessing for World Animal Day.

Pets joined their owners in the pews of the city's Saint Francis of Assisi church, named for the patron saint of animals, whose feast day is October 4.

Parishioners in the western city could be seen praying with their birds perched on their shoulders, sitting next to plastic receptacles holding their turtles or taking their communion wafers as their dogs keenly watched.

Lucia Rincon, who attended the mass with her German shepherd, said she and her brother try to bring him every year.

"We're big believers in Saint Francis, and we know animals need a guide, too. And what better blessing than that of Saint Francis?" Rincon, 36, told AFP.

Standing in the church's door, priest Juan Jose Leal blessed the animals, then sprinkled them with holy water as the owners each named their pets: "Daisy," "Cinnamon," "Cucho."

"They are part of our lives, part of our homes. May we love them and care for them, and may God help us be responsible in caring for these little animals," said Leal.

Launched in 1925 by German writer, publisher and pet enthusiast Heinrich Zimmermann, World Animal Day seeks to raise awareness about animal welfare and protection.