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Indonesian priest criticized for 'blessing' dog wedding

Capuchin Father Lorenzo Heli clarifies he had done just a 'pet blessing' at the US$13,350 celebration that outraged netizens
A dog marriage in Jakarta sparked a social media outrage

A dog marriage in Jakarta sparked a social media outrage. (Photo: Instagram)

Published: July 21, 2023 11:25 AM GMT
Updated: July 21, 2023 12:34 PM GMT

An Indonesian Catholic priest and two Catholic women came under social media backlash after allegedly arranging a ‘wedding ceremony’ for dogs.

The netizens also criticized them for wasting money with the reported 200-million-rupiah (US$13,350) wedding for the two Alaskan Malamutes at a mall in Jakarta on July 14. The celebration included a procession that befits a human wedding.

They were also accused of insulting the culture by using Javanese dress for the dogs. 

The uproar on social media forced Capuchin Father Lorenzo Heli, who is said to have blessed the dogs during the ceremony, to issue a statement of clarification on July 20.

The priest from the St. Francis of Assisi Tebet Parish in South Jakarta said what he did during the ceremony was just a "pet blessing." He refuted rumors that officiated an 'animal wedding.'

He said that pet blessing is a practice that "is very much in line with the spirituality of the Franciscan Order as taught and always lived by Saint Francis of Assisi."

"We Franciscans are used to doing the pet blessing. It is usually done to coincide with the commemoration of Saint Francis of Assisi, which is every October 4," he explained in a statement published on Catholic news portal Sesawi.net.

The priest also said he "used a special prayer formula that Franciscan priests usually say when giving a pet blessing" and blessed not only the two dogs but also 10 other dogs present at the ceremony.

He also said that he only attended the event for five minutes during the pet blessing session and did not participate in the next session.

Pastor Heli refused UCA News' request for an interview, stating that the clarification he issued was “sufficient.”

During the blessing ceremony, the male dog Jojo wore a tuxedo and the female dog Luna a white dress.

However, during the reception program, the dogs wore traditional Javanese clothes specially designed for dogs. The two owners also wore green Javanese uniforms.

Several groups demanded an apology from the two dog owners and threatened to sue them for insulting Javanese culture if failed to apologize.

The ceremony was also criticized as a waste of money as many Indonesians live below the poverty line.

The criticism prompted the two dog owners to apologize publicly at a press conference on July 19.

"We are very sorry and apologize profusely to activists of Javanese culture and all Indonesian people who are hurt by this event," said Indira Ratnasari, the owner of the female dog.

She also said she had no intention of insulting the Indonesian culture, especially Javanese culture.

Valentina Chandra, the male dog's owner, also apologized to the Archdiocese of Jakarta and Catholics "for the misinterpreted news of the blessing of animals."

Franciscan Father Andreas Bernadinus Atawolo, a professor of dogmatic theology, said pet blessings are normal in the Catholic Church.

"The goal is to respect the dignity of all creatures, even if it's a pair of animals, male and female," he told UCA News.

"But animals are not humans, they cannot be compared with humans. So, there is no need to exaggerate in treating animals, let alone exceeding our affection for others," he added.

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1 Comments on this Story
The priest got what, About $1000??? Why didn't you say the dog was catholic
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