The Slatest

After Dove Attack Last Year, Pope Francis Releases Balloons to Represent Peace

Pope Francis waves with two kids from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking Saint Peter’s square during his Sunday Angelus prayer on Jan. 25, 2015 at the Vatican.  

Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Remember last year when two children standing alongside Pope Francis released two white doves as a peace gesture, and they were promptly attacked by a seagull and a large black crow? The shocking images of the doves that had been released as the pontiff called for peace in Ukraine being viciously attacked were seen around the world and led to protests by animal rights activists. Now it seems the Vatican does not want to risk the same thing happening again.

Young people release white doves next to Pope Francis from the window of his private apartments during his sunday’s Angelus prayer at St Peter’s square on Jan. 26, 2014 at the Vatican.  

Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

On Sunday, children released balloons instead of doves. “Here’s the balloons that mean, ‘peace,’ ” said Francis as children in St. Peter’s square let go of their balloons, reports the Associated Press. Pope John Paul II was the one who began the tradition of having children release doves. The Vatican has not said whether Sunday’s actions should be read as an end to that tradition.