It was a lovely idea, redolent of symbolism.
Last Sunday, as thousands watched from St. Peter’s Square, the Pope appeared at his window with two children who then released two white doves of peace.
A crow attacked one of the doves and a seagull attacked the other. The Pope must have felt like the driver who ran into a deer and then heard his children bawling, “Daddy killed Bambi!”
His Holiness spread his arms, looked skyward, and cried out, “Very funny, big guy!”
Actually that last part is apocryphal, but the Pontiff should have consulted his raven before staging such an event. It’s been an odd season for birds, as endangered Spotted Owls are crowded out of their shrinking habitat by barn owls in the northwest U.S. and Snowy Owls have moved south in great numbers from the Arctic Circle, first to Boston, then the Chesapeake, Washington D.C., Louisiana, Florida, even Bermuda.
As for the dove (usually a domesticated pigeon), it’s a symbol of peace and also of love because that’s what it rhymes with — “On the wings of a snow white dove, He sends his pure, sweet love…”
In the Old Testament, Noah confuses the issue by sending a dove out from the ark to look around for some dry land. The dove returns with a sprig from an olive tree in its beak, which for some reason makes both the dove and the olive branch symbols of peace instead of hope, rescue, flood relief, or olive oil.
The owl, of course, is a symbol of wisdom – spotted, snowy, or barn wisdom –although it’s also a ferocious predator.
It may be this ambivalence that induces the owl suddenly to turn its head 180 degrees.
The Crow (like Poe’s Raven) is a symbol of prophecy, and both it and the gull are symbols of scavenging – of eating damn near anything, including the handkerchiefs women pin to their hair when they’re not wearing a hat but have to cover their heads to go into St. Peter’s Basilica.
There’s a deeper meaning in all of this, and we expect to discover it any minute.