Pope Francis, a man of God, nudged a pair of children to release two white doves into St. Peter's Square following a holy prayer. And then — boom — the pretty birds of peace were attacked by a crow and a gull.
OMG! What could it all mean? Was it the devil's work?
Not at all, the experts say. When the pope released those birds Sunday, he was asking for trouble. In a place filled with pigeons and other fat targets for birds of prey, it was like tossing out sausages with wings.
"Birds are wild animals. Some of them are carnivorous," said Ellen Paul, executive director of the Ornithological Council, based in Washington. "Why does a lion eat another animal? They are not the devil."
Paul has never been to St. Peter's Square, but she has a theory. "My guess is that in a big open plaza like that, there are a lot of pigeons all the time, and I'm thinking that birds hang out there, where there's a good food source."
And doves are yummy. Especially doves bred in captivity with no idea that other winged creatures are waiting to tear them apart.
The attackers — a crow and a gull -— are opportunistic feeders that eat almost anything. But lacking speed and talons, they're not well-equipped to go after flying prey, which is probably why the doves got away.
What gasping onlookers saw in the square was a flying circus: two incompetent predators attacking two clueless doves and coming up short.
On Monday, animal rights groups appealed to Francis to end the practice of releasing doves. Pope John Paul II began the dove releases as a symbol of peace. The release comes on the last Sunday in January.