Italian Catholics clip wings of dove ritual

A 600-year-old Italian religious ritual, in which an entrapped dove is subjected to a barrage of fireworks, took place for the last time on Sunday after a campaign by animal rights protesters demanded changes to the practice.

The Irish Independent reports that as the bells chimed at midday in the city of Orvieto, a dove, sealed in a transparent tube and suspended from a wire, was sent hurtling from the top of the San Francesco church 300 metres across th piazza amid plumes of smoke.

The tradition is the centrepiece of a centuries-old local feast, known as the palombella, that symbolises the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday. If the dove lives, it is said to augur a good harvest.

However, in the face of mounting opposition from within the city, Francesco Venturi, the head of the palombella's organising committee, said discussions had begun with a view to changing the ancient ritual.

"For the first time in 600 years, the Opera del Duomo has decided to open talks with those opposed to the cruelty which will end the tradition as we know it," said Mr Venturi.

The organisers deny that the bird suffers, saying that at the end of its ordeal it appears "perfectly calm".

But Professor Giorgio Vallortigara, an animal psychologist at the University of Trieste, said the dove "may seem tranquil but is in fact frozen with fear, in the same way that a women is after suffering a rape attack".

Church clips wings of dove ritual after protests (Irish Independent/London Telegraph 16/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Festa della Palombella, Orvieto 2005

After four centuries, Orvieto's doves to live in peace (The Guardian 16/5/05)

17 May 2005