"They will always be able to enter, sleep, eat, drink their water and find shelter and protection, for this house is of God and they are of God."
Father João Paulo Araujo Gomes, from the city of Gravatá in Brazil, is an inspiring example of compassion and kindness. The priest, who is the head of the parish of Santana, has made a huge difference for the forgotten dogs of the locality over the past several years. Taking strays off the streets and bringing them into his church, he dedicates time and effort to find them loving forever homes. Father Gomes does this by bringing the canines to his church services once the vet gives the all-clear so that families coming in for mass will have the opportunity to fall in love with the pups and feel inclined to adopt them.
Speaking to The Dodo, Gomes revealed that although he has loved animals all his life, he recognized it as his true calling when he arrived at Paróquia de Sant'Ana Gravatá as a priest in 2013. "Some volunteers came to me selling cookies to help a project with stray animals," he said. "I gave them time during masses for the advertising of the cookies and then I started to participate in the projects of this NGO." When Gomes learned about all the abandoned animals living in difficult situations around the city, he decided to welcome them into the church and make them part of his services.
The compassionate priest also goes a step further to lead by example and welcomes stray dogs into his own home to help nurse critically ill animals himself. "I began to adopt some animals who had been mistreated... always with the support of volunteers," Gomes said. "I helped several dogs with serious health problems. Some of them I brought to the parish house and they were later adopted. Three of them stayed with me. Today, they are my children and sleep in my bed," he told Bored Panda.
Gomes also revealed that in addition to placing feeders outside the church for stray pups to eat and drink fresh water when needed, the doors of his church are always kept open for dogs who want a safe space to rest. "What I do is just a drop of water in the face of the magnitude of the problem," the kind priest said. "I wish I could welcome all the animals, but we work with many limitations. Everything I do depends on volunteers and volunteers who help me, so it's not my merits but those people's, too."
The inspiring priest's heartfelt deeds gained international attention after a photo of him conducting mass with a dog on his side went viral on Facebook. "Priest Juan Pablo from Brazil captures stray dogs, bathes and supplies them, then recommends them to the parish for adoption. The dogs are presented to visitors at every holy mass. [Each] of these street dogs has found such a loving home," wrote Winfried Niederer who uploaded the photo.
"Caring for animals and nature as a whole is a great gesture of love for God, humanity, and the planet," said Gomes. "We need to develop the perspective of compassion. Too much violence, too much aggression and accusation, diversity becomes the scene of war and struggle, and compassion is the only remedy." In a Facebook post of his own, the good priest reportedly vowed to protect his furry friends as long as he is around. "They will always be able to enter, sleep, eat, drink their water and find shelter and protection, for this house is of God and they are of God," he wrote. "If I'm the greatest sinner I can enter — imagine these four-legged angels. Nobody touches my protected."