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Vatican tradition ended: balloons released in place of doves

January 26, 2015

The Vatican has altered a traditional gesture—the release of doves in St. Peter’s Square—after complaints from animal-rights groups.

For years, on the last Sunday of January, the Pope has been joined by two young members of Italian Catholic Action in releasing a pair of white doves during his regular Angelus audience. But last year the gesture of peace provoked a violent response: the doves were attacked by two larger birds, prompting gasps from the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.

After animal-rights groups complained that small doves were being given an effective death sentence when they were released in the center of Rome, the Vatican chose to alter the ceremony. This year, balloons were released instead.

Even before the mid-air dramatics of 2014, the release of doves had caused some problems. On one occasion, St. John Paul II had to ward off birds who, after being released, tried to fly back into the papal apartment.

 
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