Two doves released by children taking part in a ceremony with Pope Francis were attacked by a gull and crow shortly after they were set free from a window of the Apostolic Palace. The gesture was meant as a sign of peace.
Immediately after being released the doves were pecked at by a pair of birds outside the Apostolic Palace, reports Associated Press. One gull pulled feathers off one of the doves before the dove was able to break free. The crow repeatedly pecked at the other dove.
Reports say the doves did finally break free from the two offending birds, but their ultimate fate is unknown.
The incident took place in front of tens of thousands of spectators at St Peter’s Square for Francis’ weekly Angelus prayer. Pope Francis went on to encourage peace in Ukraine, where political unrest has spurred violent protests. At least four people have been killed and hundreds injured in the clashes over the course of the protests.
The dove holding an olive branch in its mouth is a long-established international symbol of peace. It originates in the flood narrative of the Old Testament when Noah repeatedly released a dove from the Ark during the Great Flood in an attempt to find land. The dove eventually came back with an olive branch in its mouth, showing Noah that the waters were drying up.
Online commenters were quick to interpret the incident as a bad omen, but the attack is likely just the result of fiercely territorial birds protecting their ground.