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Pope must speak out against bullfighting

When he became pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio chose the name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Yet Pope Francis has been unresponsive to animal protection groups and Catholic clergy who want the Vatican to condemn bullfighting – a popular “sport” in some predominantly Catholic countries that involves smearing petroleum jelly in bulls’ eyes, stabbing them and, when they have fallen but are still conscious, cutting off their ears, hooves and tails – and patron saints’ celebrations that include setting live bulls’ horns on fire and throwing live goats from high towers.

In the 16th century, Pope Pius V threatened ex-communication for those who participated in or supported bullfighting or religious celebrations involving animal abuse. In the 1930s, Pope Pius XII forbade priests from attending bullfights. He refused a gift from a bullfighters’ organization.

I believe Saint Francis would also have been disappointed that any mention of humane treatment of animals was absent in the pope’s Christmas Day message to the world.

I commend the pope for his concern about unnecessary human suffering in today’s world. He admires Saint Francis for establishing an order of non-materialistic friars who ministered to poor and downtrodden people.

However, Saint Francis regarded animals, too, as “our brethren.” He said, not to hurt animals “is our first duty to them, but to stop here is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it.”

The pope should, as should all people, practice such a kind approach to the protection of animals.

Joel D. Freedman

Chairman, Public Education Committee

Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York, Canandaigua