Campaigners urge end to Pope’s ‘peace doves’ releases

Call comes after doves snatched by predators

While Pope Francis may have chosen the name of the Italian saint famed for his love of animals and nature, two doves weren’t feeling the love in St Peter’s Square at the weekend. Since his election almost 11 months ago, the Argentine Pope has been famed for changing how things are done in the Vatican. However, by sticking to at least one tradition he has provoked the ire of animal rights advocates.

Campaigners in Italy have appealed for the Pontiff to end the practice of symbolically releasing peace doves over St Peter’s Square after two birds were snatched by predators during such an event at the weekend.

Images of the doves being captured by larger, predatory birds, were shown on large screens in the square after the Pope watched a pair of schoolchildren release them from the Apostolic Palace.

In a subsequent open letter, one rights group, ENPA, urged the Pontiff to see that “animals born in captivity, not being wild animals, aren’t able to recognise predators as such and are thus incapable of fleeing from possible dangerous situations”. The continuing release of doves, ENPA warned, is “condemning them to certain death”.

Doves are frequently released at the Vatican to symbolise peace. There was a similar incident during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI when two doves fell prey to larger animals. On one memorable occasion during the Pontificate of John Paul II, two doves, evidently fearful of attack, flew back inside the Apostolic Palace and would not leave.

The doves were released as part of a campaign to highlight the need for a peaceful solution to the current political crisis in Ukraine. Pope Francis appealed for both Government and Opposition sides to avoid the temptation to violence and instead put their trust in dialogue.