Previous winners of the animal welfare charity's award include Morrissey, Tony Benn and Ricky Gervais

Pope Francis has been named Person of the Year by UK-based animal welfare charity PETA.

According to PETA, Pope Francis was chosen for asking the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and other citizens of the world to respect the environment and treat animals with kindness.

In his encyclical, Laudato Si’, which was released earlier this year, Pope Francis wrote: “Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity’… We are not God. We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the Earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures”.

PETA managing director Ingrid Newkirk said that during 2015 the Pontiff “spread the message of kindness to all, regardless of their religion or species.”

“With more than a billion Catholics worldwide, Pope Francis’ animal-friendly teachings have a massive audience,” she added.

Morrissey, Brian May, Tony Benn, and Ricky Gervais have all previously been named PETA Person of the Year.

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