"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."—Francis of Assisi
Did the priests of St. James and St. Joseph's Parish in New York's Chinatown miss that lesson from the patron saint of animals?
Perhaps. Surely, they must have.
How else then to explain their decision to shut out the caretakers of eight feral cats on the church grounds about two weeks ago.
The situation grew tense recently, with a groundskeeping suggesting the cats would be poisoned and another threatening rescuers with arrest, according to the New York Daily News. A member of the Feral Cat Initiative, a program of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals sent a letter to Cardinal Dolan pleading with him to intervene and pointing out that the church grounds are rodent free thanks to the cats.
Rev. Lino Gonsalves, the pastor, told the Daily News the cat food was making a mess and said rescuers could take the cats.
But the rescuers explained that relocation of territorial ferals is difficult and that it is tough to find a safe place for them to go.
The rescuers urged the church to heed the sentiments of Pope Benedict who has shown kindness to the famous stray cats of Rome.
Meanwhile, the cats appeared to get a reprieve last night when the Archdiocese of New York agreed to meet with on Tuesday the Mayor's Alliance to discuss the issue after the archdiocese received one thousand calls and emails, according to news posted on the alliance's website. The website also reported that some food is getting to the cats.
"We are not putting the cats’ health in jeopardy, and we would not use them as bargaining chips," said Mike Phillips, head of community outreach for the alliance's Feral Cat Initiative. "That said, our primary goal is to keep them where they are and restore daily care as quickly as possible."