A Belgian bishop has defended a priest who held a prayer service for the grieving owners of a pet dog.
Bishop Rémy Vancottem of Namur insisted the ceremony was not a Catholic funeral, but apologised to those who were troubled by the event.
Bishop Vancottem said the priest had simply wanted “to be close to people who were sad to have lost a pet to which they were emotionally attached”.
Fr Francis Lallemand presided at the ceremony in the church of St-Victor d’Auvelais in Sambreville, a Walloon area south of Brussels.
The body of Miss Chiwa, an 11-year-old chihuahua, rested on a bier before the altar of the church.
A video of the event showed Fr Lallemand speaking to a packed congregation, many of whom carried their own pet dogs.
“We are not here to celebrate a funeral but to show our support during the loss of a loved one,” Fr Lallemand said, according to La Vie. “We want to share our sympathy and compassion with [owners] Sylvana and Josse.”
Miss Chiwa and her owners made numerous television appearances in Belgium and helped to raise funds for the animal charity Gamelles du Coeur.