Feast of Francis of Assisi 2019: What is St Francis Day, also known as World Animal Day?

Many churches across the UK will observe the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on Friday, October 4. The annual celebration commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century. In the Catholic Church’s Francis is patron saint of animals and the environment.

What is St Francis Day and who was Francis?
The Feast of St Francis of Assisi is a day when special church services are held to bless pets in the UK.
St Francis founded the Catholic Church’s Franciscan order.
He lived in Italy during the late 12th and 13th centuries.

The saint is remembered for his love for animals and nature.
He died at Portiuncula, Italy on October 4, 1226.
Two years after his death Pope Gregory IX pronounced Francis a saint in 1228.
The pope also laid the foundation stone for the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Italy.
The church, also known as Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Why is it also called World Animal Day?
On St Francis Day church services are held to bless pets.
Pets of all kinds, including dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, and even a 100-year-old tortoise, have been blessed in churches in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the past.
World Animal Day is today considered an international day of action for animal rights and welfare.

The first World Animal Day was organised on March 24, 1925 in Berlin, Germany.
The event was originally scheduled for October 4, to align with the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology, however the venue was not available on that day.
The event was moved to October 4 for the first time in 1929.
World Animal Day is growing into a global event that unites the animal protection movement, led by UK-based animal welfare charity, Naturewatch Foundation since 2003.
The mission of World Animal Day, is “To raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe.
“Building the celebration of World Animal Day unites the animal welfare movement, mobilising it into a global force to make the world a better place for all animals.
“It’s celebrated in different ways in every country, irrespective of nationality, religion, faith or political ideology.
“Through increased awareness and education we can create a world where animals are always recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.”