Facing increasing pressure from demoralized clergy, Pope Francis announced on April 1, 2019, that he would allow emotional support animals in the Sanctuary during Mass.
The Motu Proprio, Animalium Viventem, will be binding on the universal Church. Emotional support animals will be allowed to accompany priests, deacons, extraordinary ministers, musicians, and others during the Mass at all times.
“This is just an extension of an already common practice,” said Fr. Sy Kadalic, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in New Kennelsburg. “Parishioners have been bringing their animal friends to Mass for some time now. It’s a beautiful sign of the love of all things when these non-human animals process up the communion line with their human companions.”
Priests around the country hailed the move as the Church’s growing understanding and embrace of a shifting culture.
“The respect, compassion, and empathy we need afford these irreplaceable animals cannot be overstated,” said Fr. Maje Sirtnam, the well-known author. “While I will never contradict official Church teaching, I do think it necessary that we contemplate the privileged place of animals in the Liturgy.”
Though specific directions are not the purview of a Motu Proprio, Pope Francis will probably provide some basic norms.
“There was an incident,” Fr. Sy admits. “An extraordinary minister’s tomcat, Fluffy, sidled over to the Tabernacle during distribution of the Sacrament. Finding it empty, he, uh, just kind of jumped in and settled down for a nap. It wasn’t that easy to get him out. We should probably make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
The Motu Proprio is expected to be released on October 4th.
NOTA BENE: We published this article on April 1, 2019.