Pet-loving priest blesses dozens of cats in first ever prayer service for stray animals (PHOTOS)

Dozens of cats and their owners flocked to a Moscow area church as a local priest held a unique sermon, asking the heavens to protect animals and to help those left in the street to find themselves a home.

“Having created these creatures, our Lord rejoiced greatly. This sermon is a reminder of that,” arch-priest Pyotr Dynnikov told the congregation of people and cats who had gathered at the Ilyinsky church in the village of Lemeshovo on Sunday.

Some pets were brought in by their owners, but the majority of the cats at the ceremony came from an animal shelter which was established by the priest at the church.

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“Many animals remain homeless, go through hunger and suffering, face torture at the hands of abusers,” Father Pyotr said, as cited by Takie Dela website. The sermon was an attempt to relay their cry for help, which “they are unable to put into words, but we people must feel with our hearts,” he told the flock.

READ MORE: A priest's best friend: Orthodox clerics pose for calendar with their cute cats

Father Pyotr held one of the cats in his arms as he spoke and then placed it on the church’s ambo, where the animal remained till the end of the sermon.

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The ceremony concluded with the priest, who had his whole cassock covered in fur, blessing the cats with holy water.

READ MORE: Baptism of fire: Animals run religious gauntlet to worship Saint

Dynnikov than staged a tour of his animal shelter for the journalists, saying the charity needed support as it was funded only through his own money and donations from the faithful, with not a single ruble coming from the state or the church.

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The animal home currently hosts 57 cats and 55 dogs, with many of them manifesting health problems and injuries.  They have food and a roof over their heads, but still “weren’t in a normal position, as an animal required a home and a master of their own,” the priest said.

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