World

After dove debacle, Vatican makes balloons new peace symbol

  • Jan. 25, 2015: Pope Francis flanked by children waves to faithful at the end of the noon Angelus prayer from his studio's overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (AP)

    Jan. 25, 2015: Pope Francis flanked by children waves to faithful at the end of the noon Angelus prayer from his studio's overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (AP)

  • Colored balloons released by children fly next to a statue, at the end of the noon Angelus prayer recited by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Colored balloons released by children fly next to a statue, at the end of the noon Angelus prayer recited by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • This two-picture combo shows a Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 file photo, left, in which Pope Francis looks at two children as they free doves during the Angelus prayer he celebrated from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, and a Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 photo, right, showing Pope Francis and two children waving to faithful after releasing balloons from his studio's overlooking St. Peter's Square. Dove lovers can rejoice. Balloons, not doves, were released as peace symbols Sunday in St. Peter's Square, a year after an attack by a seagull and a crow on the symbolic birds sparked protests by animal rights groups. For years, children, flanking the pope at a window of the papal studio overlooking the square, have released a pair of doves on the last Sunday in January, a month the Catholic church traditionally dedicates to peace themes. Last year, the feel-good practice became a public relations disaster. Then, after the children with Pope Francis , tossed a pair of doves from the window, into the air, first a seagull, then a black crow swept down and a grabbed a dove by the tail. Those doves' ultimate fate was unknown. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    This two-picture combo shows a Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 file photo, left, in which Pope Francis looks at two children as they free doves during the Angelus prayer he celebrated from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, and a Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 photo, right, showing Pope Francis and two children waving to faithful after releasing balloons from his studio's overlooking St. Peter's Square. Dove lovers can rejoice. Balloons, not doves, were released as peace symbols Sunday in St. Peter's Square, a year after an attack by a seagull and a crow on the symbolic birds sparked protests by animal rights groups. For years, children, flanking the pope at a window of the papal studio overlooking the square, have released a pair of doves on the last Sunday in January, a month the Catholic church traditionally dedicates to peace themes. Last year, the feel-good practice became a public relations disaster. Then, after the children with Pope Francis , tossed a pair of doves from the window, into the air, first a seagull, then a black crow swept down and a grabbed a dove by the tail. Those doves' ultimate fate was unknown. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

Dove lovers, rejoice.

Balloons, not doves, were released as a gesture of peace Sunday in St. Peter's Square, a year after an attack by a seagull and a crow on the symbolic birds sparked protests by animal protection groups.

For years children, flanking the pope at a window of the papal studio overlooking the square, set free a pair of doves on the last Sunday in January. The Catholic Church traditionally dedicates January to peace themes.

Last year, the feel-good practice became a public relations disaster. After the children with Pope Francis tossed a pair of doves from the window, first a seagull and then a crow swept down and attacked the doves. Those doves' ultimate fate was unknown.

Advocates for animals demanding an end to dove releases swiftly appealed to Francis, the first pontiff to adopt the name of Francis of Assisi, the saint famed for his love for birds and other creatures of the wild.

"Here's the balloons that mean, `peace,"' said Francis when children in the square let go of their balloons.

Gulls nest atop the colonnade of St. Peter's Square, not far from the Tiber River, and scavenge for garbage. One animal advocacy group likened freeing doves in Rome to issuing a death sentence.

Another saint, Pope John Paul II, began the dove release tradition to draw attention to the need to work for peace in the world. Since then, children have been invited to join pontiffs at the window to release a pair of doves.

Until this year.

The Vatican didn't mention last year's flap when it said in a statement Sunday that children would release balloons, including a hot-air balloon containing messages of peace. One of the children at the window read a speech about peace.