I was in St Peter’s Square yesterday for the Angelus and witnessed the children releasing doves from the window of the Apostolic Palace with Pope Francis.
Everyone gasped as a crow and a seagull swooped in to attack the pope’s doves. The Guardian has the story here.
Was this an omen? Here is one interpretation: The black crow reminded me of the raven in Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem The Raven. The raven is a symbol of darkness, death and sin. A carrion bird of doom, the black crow represents the attack of Satan, sin and death on the white birds of hope and innocence released by the white clad vicar of Christ and two children.
What about the seagull? Do you remember the seagull that perched ominously on the chimney the day Pope Francis was elected? Seagulls are horrible birds. Scavengers with a loud cry like a crow’s, they are aggressive, territorial and greedy. The seagull reminded me of another poem: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In this poem a sailor kills an albatross and the sailors–lost at sea–hang the albatross around his neck as they are becalmed and one by one descend into starvation and death. The albatross is therefore a symbol of sin and guilt.
So what was the sign in St Peter’s Square yesterday? The Holy Father releasing into the world the symbols of peace and forgiveness–releasing into the world the signs of the gospel of God, the symbol of the Holy Spirit–the white dove. But the dove is attacked by the forces of Satan–the powers of darkness, death and destruction and also attacked by the power of sin and guilt.
I’m happy to say that both doves escaped.