Pope Francis chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, celebrated for his humility towards nature. So, perhaps it should come as no surprise then that when celebrating his first birthday as Pope, there were more dogs than dignitaries.
This morning, for his 77th birthday, Pope Francis invited four homeless men -- and a homeless dog -- to share breakfast with him on the grounds of the Vatican as "family". A preference for intimate settings and simple acts of charity have earned Pope Francis a reputation as "the People's Pope" among both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
But he's quickly shaping up to be "the Animal's Pope" too. Pope Francis has been among the most vocal proponents of mankind's moral responsibility to care for all living things. From his first homily as pope:
"The vocation of being a ‘protector,' however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live."