A man holds out his hand to his sheep in a temporary stall in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 17. An Italian cardinal blessed a group of farm animals brought to the square by an association of farmers and ranchers.

CNS PHOTO | DARIO PIGNATELLI, REUTERS

A man holds out his hand to his sheep in a temporary stall in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 17. An Italian cardinal blessed a group of farm animals brought to the square by an association of farmers and ranchers.

February 3, 2014

Bleats, barks and honks accompanied the Our Father as Cardinal Angelo Comastri blessed farm animals and pets gathered outside St. Peter’s Square.

Hundreds of local residents and tourists gathered for the Jan. 17 blessing to mark the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot, patron saint of animals and farmers.

Members of an Italian association of farmers and ranchers brought their donkeys, cows, horses, rabbits, hens, geese, sheep, goats and pigs, who munched on hay or feed in their wooden pens.

Many Rome residents brought their pets – ranging from a giant Neapolitan Mastiff to a tiny kitten named Birba, who got a special caress from the cardinal, the papal vicar for Vatican City.

Cats and dogs could enjoy a free veterinary checkup at two tents nearby.