John Paul II quoting from several verses of Genesis spoke of the Divine creative action of the Holy Spirit and said: "...in the account of the Creation, the way in which man was created suggests a relationship with the spirit or 'breath' of God. And one reads that after having created man from the dust of the earth, the Lord God "breathed life into his nostrils and man became a living soul".
The Holy Scriptures thereby make clear that God intervened by means of His breath of life or Spirit to make man a living soul. In man there is the "breath of life" which came from the "breath" of God Himself. In him lives breath which is similar to the very breath of God.
Then the Pontiff spoke of the creation of the animals and said: "In Genesis, Chapter 2, where there is reference to the creation of the animals, there is not given a similar account of their relationship with the divine spirit of God as is given of that relationship with man. From the previous chapter we learn that "Man was created in the image and likeness of God".
"However, other texts state that animals have the breath of life and were given it by God. In this respect man, created by the hand of God, is identical with all other living creatures. And so in Psalm 103* there is no distinction between man and beasts when it reads, addressing God: "...These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat** in due course. That thou givest them, they gather: thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good."
The psalmist continues: "Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth." The existence therefore of all living creatures depends on the living spirit/breath of God that not only creates but also sustains and renews the face of the earth."
This affirmation of the Pontiff has aroused enormous interest the world over and has overjoyed many thousands of Catholics who for many years have been deeply concerned that the Church should reiterate and give back to animals the proper respect and moral dignity due to the animal world which is often discriminated against and long been considered inferior to that of men.
"This discourse by Pope Wojtyla is very important and significant" explains the distinguished theologian Carlo Molari who for many years has been Professor of Theology and Dogma at the University of Urbino. "It is a 'sign of the times' because it demonstrates the Church's desire and deep concern to clarify present confused thinking and attitudes towards the animal kingdom. There should be no need, but the Pontiff in reiterating that the animals came into being because of the direct action of the "breath" of God wanted to say that also these creatures as well as man are possessed of the divine spark of life and that living quality that is the soul. And are therefore not inferior beings or only of a purely material reality."
"If one goes on to contemplate that the word "animal" is derived from that of 'anima' or soul, one understands, as the Pope explains, that animals are indeed "touched" by the first principle of life which is the Holy Spirit. But the intention of the Pope when he defines the animals as being composed of both body and soul is not only meant to convey their value in a metaphysical sense, but above all also in a moral sense specifically that we must respect all the creatures of God. Clearly therefore because the animal possesses the same "breath" of life as man, men must demonstrate proper and total solidarity with the creatures that surround him. He must keep in his mind that there is an animal life around him and at the same time must try to love and respect it. And perhaps the profound and true message of the Pontiff is that we must live in close harmony, and with love towards animals and all of nature surrounding us."
June 25, 2009
Pope John Paul II on Animals