Canadian priest sorry for giving dog Holy Communion

Priest with Communion wafer biscuits The dog took the biscuit but no wine was offered to the animal

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A priest in Canada has apologised after giving Holy Communion to a dog.

Reverend Marguerite Rea of St Peter's Anglican Church, in Toronto, received complaints from Christians all over Canada after she fed communion bread to a German Shepherd cross named Trapper.

Area Bishop Patrick Yu said the priest had contravened church policy with her "strange and shocking" actions.

Ms Rea said it had been a "simple church act of reaching out" to a new congregation member and his pet.

"If I have hurt, upset or embarrassed anyone, I apologise," she told her congregation on Sunday morning, the Toronto Star reports.

Bone of contention

The canine controversy began last month when four-year-old Trapper and his owner, Donald Keith, 56, attended the church in Toronto's downtown area for the first time.

Start Quote

I don't recall anything from the scripture about Jesus dying for the salvation of our pets”

End Quote Cheryl Chang Anglican Network in Canada

"The minister welcomed me and said come up and take communion, and Trapper came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well," Mr Keith told the Toronto Star.

"I thought it was a nice way to welcome me into the church. I thought it was acceptable. There was an old lady in the front just beaming when she saw this."

But not all parishioners at the service were quite so charmed by the sight of the priest leaning down and placing a wafer on the wagging tongue of Trapper, a German Shepherd-Rhodesian ridgeback cross.

Communion bread is considered by Anglicans to represent the body of Jesus Christ.

One onlooker filed a complaint with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto about the incident and has since left the church.

When news spread of the canine communion, St Peter's Church began receiving e-mails from angry Christians all over the country.

"Communion is a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus' body; he died for all of us. But I don't recall anything from the scripture about Jesus dying for the salvation of our pets," said Cheryl Chang, director of the Anglican Network in Canada, the National Post newspaper reports.

"I can see why people would be offended," said Bishop Yu.

"I have never heard of it happening before. I think the reverend was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming."

'Innocent'

Mr Keith has since been told that he and his dog are most welcome at the church, but Trapper can no longer receive communion.

"This has blown me away. The church is even getting e-mails from Catholics," said the truck driver.

"Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of the people in the church love Trapper and the kids play with him. It was just one person who got his nose out of joint.

"Holy smokes. We are living in the downtown core. This is small stuff. I thought it was innocent and it made me think of the Blessing of the Animals."

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