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During a Sunday morning service at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Pope Francis and two children released white doves as a peace gesture for Ukraine, which is currently beset by violence and civil unrest. The doves were immediately attacked by two other birds.

"As tens of thousands of people watched in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, a seagull and a large black crow swept down on the doves right after they were set free from an open window of the Apostolic Palace."

The incident not only underscored the peril of symbolic gestures (Is Russian President Vladimir Putin the crow and Ukrainian President Yanukovych the seagull?), but also the plight of the papal doves themselves, which have increasingly faced attack on their flight toward tranquil metaphor. 

While the outcome of Sunday's dove attack remains unknown, last year, Pope Benedict XVI's ceremonial dove release for victims of the Holocaust was marred when a seagull also attacked a dove and pinned it against a windowpane. 

The year before, two doves were released in another ceremonial flourish for World Leprosy Day. One bird perched on the railing beside the Pope and refused to move. When a second dove was released, it immediately flew back into the Pope's apartment.

To his credit, Pope Benedict seemed to shout "Mamma Mia" in surprise.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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