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Animal protection group asks pope to stop releasing doves

Vicious attack on Vatican birds of peace raises concerns

27 January, 20:28
Animal protection group asks pope to stop releasing doves (ANSA) - Rome, January 27 - An animal welfare group on Monday urged Pope Francis to refrain from releasing helpless doves in future, after two of the birds freed from the Apostolic Palace during the pope's weekly Angelus prayer were attacked in mid-air.

The snowy white doves, set free Sunday by children with the pope during the service, were immediately set upon in mid-flight - one by a brazen crow and the other by a vicious seagull.

Before an audience of thousands visiting the Vatican, including children, the papal birds were attacked and vanished.

Some observers say this has happened during similar Vatican ceremonies in the past and the Italian animal protection agency ENPA - Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali - warned that the pope is sending the birds to their deaths.

"Do not use more animals and sacrifice their lives to outmoded traditions," the group said in a statement.

It noted that seagulls and crows "are predators" to doves, birds representing peace in Christian tradition.

As well, the doves used in these ceremonies are born in captivity and can't cope with predators in the same way as more wild creatures, said ENPA.

"They cannot even use camouflage: their white color (is) very eye-catching in nature".

The group said it was aware that this pope, who took his name from St. Francis of Assisi, a noted lover of animals who once preached to the wild birds, is sensitive to issues of protecting nature and its creatures.