Pope Francis angers animal rights groups by inviting refugees to special circus

Pope Francis is a big fan of circuses, saying previously that ‘they nourish the soul’

Pope Francis has fallen foul of animal rights campaigners after he invited more than 2,000 migrants and homeless people to a specially staged circus. The campaigners said that by promoting a circus and the abuse of animals that entails, the Pope was ignoring the call he himself made in his recent environmental encyclical to end animal cruelty.

The show at the Rony Roller Circus in Rome opened with a song dedicated to the pontiff, written by a Spanish homeless man, before the parade of clown, acrobats and animals.

The National Network for the Protection of Animals expressed its “profound disappointment and concern” about the show. “It’s an initiative that completely contradicts the spirit and the letter of the encyclical on the environment,” a spokesman said, adding that circus entertainment was “ever further away from contemporary ethics”.

During a general audience last year, Francis hailed the entertainment provided by circus performers. He said that “the people who put on a show at the circus create a beauty that nourishes the soul. We need this beauty”.

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