Viciously by a gull and a crow. This must be some sort of a sign.
The two doves were set upon straight after being released by children standing next to Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Two white doves released by children as a peace gesture from a window of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope’s official residence in the Vatican, have been attacked by other birds – for the second year running.
With tens of thousands of people watching on Sunday the boy and girl, standing alongside Pope Francis, let the doves go over St Peter’s Square to conclude the Vatican’s annual “Caravan of Peace” event.
But straight after they were release, a seagull and a large black crow swept down and set upon the doves.
One dove managed to break free from the gull, losing feathers in the process, while the crow repeatedly pecked at the other dove.
It was not clear how badly injured the doves were as the birds eventually flew off.
The almost exact same thing happened last year at the same event, which is always held on the last Sunday of January, when a single gull attacked the released birds. Then, after being released, the two doves turned round and flew back at the palace.
UPDATE I: National Geographic has a look at what could have prompted the attack.
UPDATE II: Fr Dwight Longenecker who was there writes:
was in St Peter’s Square yesterday for the Angelus and witnessed the children releasing doves from the window of the Apostolic Palace with Pope Francis.
Everyone gasped as a crow and a seagull swooped in to attack the pope’s doves. The Guardian has the story here.
Was this an omen? Here is one interpretation: The black crow reminded me of the raven in Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem The Raven. The raven is a symbol of darkness, death and sin. A carrion bird of doom, the black crow represents the attack of Satan, sin and death on the white birds of hope and innocence released by the white clad vicar of Christ and two children.
What about the seagull? Do you remember the seagull that perched ominously on the chimney the day Pope Francis was elected? Seagulls are horrible birds. Scavengers with a loud cry like a crow’s, they are aggressive, territorial and greedy. The seagull reminded me of another poem: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In this poem a sailor kills an albatross and the sailors–lost at sea–hang the albatross around his neck as they are becalmed and one by one descend into starvation and death. The albatross is therefore a symbol of sin and guilt.
So what was the sign in St Peter’s Square yesterday? The Holy Father releasing into the world the symbols of peace and forgiveness–releasing into the world the signs of the gospel of God, the symbol of the Holy Spirit–the white dove. But the dove is attacked by the forces of Satan–the powers of darkness, death and destruction and also attacked by the power of sin and guilt.
I’m happy to say that both doves escaped.