Pope Francis, on Sunday, 26th Jan 2014, released two white doves with children standing alongside Pope Francis as a peace gesture. But soon after the release the doves were attacked by other birds, mocking the symbolism of the Pope. As tens of thousands of people watched in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, two birds swept down on the doves right after they were set free from an open window of the Apostolic Palace. One dove lost some feathers but the the other dove was pecked repeatedly by the attaking birds. It was not clear what happened to the doves as they flew off.
What were the birds that attacked the peace doves? The one which was pecking was a hooded crow, and the other was a yellow-legged gull. Both are very common birds in Europe. The former is related to the American crow, while the latter is related to the herring gull that’s so familiar on seashores and at garbage dumps. The crow and the gull are both omnivorous, which means they eat anything from discarded French fries on a parking lot to nestlings stolen from other birds’ nests and carrion on a roadside. And both are bold birds well adapted to surviving around people—like, say, in Rome.
Animal rights activists have urged Francis end the tradition, saying domesticated doves can’t survive in the wild. Tens of thousands of Tweets and Facebook posts were launched, some of which used words such as “demonic,” “omen,” and “apocalypse”—and inevitably, of course, referring to “angry birds.”
The practice of the Church to emply pure white birds and releasing them as a gesture of freedom is full of contradictions and is unnatural. Based on biblical references, Christianity has chosen white doves as a symbol of peace and religion. Thousands of pigeons (relatives of doves) live in Rome, as in most cities. They range in color from grayish to brownish to blackish and everything in between. Many other species of birds live in Rome as well, but none are pure white.
Are doves really peaceful? Not particularly. They have weak feet and small bills and mostly mind their own business, walking around eating seeds and the occasional tiny bug. But they’re just as likely to fight each other over territory (with lots of wing-slapping) as any other species. I once saw a mourning dove chase a blue jay away from a bird feeder. No wimpy bird gets the best of a blue jay.
Why were these doves white? There are no pure-white doves in the natural world. The ones that were released were the result of hundreds of years of domestication and breeding, creating these freakishly white birds for use as pets, and for release at weddings and other ceremonies. Because white symbolizes peace, purity, serenity, and other good stuff – according to Christian beliefs.
Why did the crow and the gull attack the doves? Because the doves were white and not strictly a natural creation. What this episode means to Christian theology and religion? It reminds Church to end unnatural practices of breeding pure white doves to promote its notions and symbol of peace. It reminds the Pope to stop promoting his concept of peace through proselytizing Indians, Chinese, Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews and breeding artifical Christians.