VATICAN CITY — "Mamma mia," Pope Benedict said as a dove flew over his head and back into his apartment Jan. 29 after he and two Italian school children released the bird as a symbol of peace.
The pope and representatives of the Italian Catholic Action children's section release doves during the Sunday Angelus address in late January each year. And, almost every year, at least one of the birds flies back into the papal apartment.
Some 2,000 children between the ages of 4 and 14 walked in procession down the boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square carrying homemade banners calling for peace in the world and peace within their families and schools.
During his Angelus address, Pope Benedict also marked World Leprosy Day and the international day of prayer for peace in the Holy Land.
"In deep communion with the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and the (Franciscan) custos of the Holy Land, we invoke the gift of peace for that land blessed by God," the pope said.
In his brief remarks about World Leprosy Day, the pope not only prayed for those with Hansen's disease and their caregivers, but he also called for a greater commitment "to eliminate poverty and marginalization, the true causes" of the disease's continued spread.