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So About That Hawk The Vatican Hired To Protect Those Doves...

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VATICAN DOVE
Pope Francis grabs a dove as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square on May 15, 2013 at the Vatican. | TIZIANA FABI via Getty Images

Has the Vatican enlisted the help of a hawk to protect the pope’s cherished doves?

After two of its peace doves were fatally attacked by a seagull and a crow above St. Peter's square on Jan. 26, the Vatican apparently decided it was time to enlist the help of a bird of prey. Officials reportedly said they hope the hawk, named Sylvia, will stave off other predatory birds and help the doves avoid any future attacks, according to the Agence France-Presse. Sylvia, who has a 47-inch wingspan, was trained for her new duties in northern Italy, the report notes.

vatican dove attack

One of the peace doves is attacked by a crow on Jan. 26

Think the news sounds a little strange? Well, you're definitely onto something.

"That was a made up piece; it was a big joke," Monsignor Paul Tighe, the Vatican's secretary of social communication, told The Huffington Post. "It's a tradition around here for people to run hoax stories in the paper the first week of April."

It's understandable why some news outlets fell for the joke; a made-up statement published in the Independent Catholic News does seem pretty convincing:

"[The hawk's] mere presence should act as a deterrent to any more attacks such as the one which took place in January," a Vatican spokesman "told" the outlet. "In addition however, she will act as an escort and protector to the peace doves after the ceremonies, accompanying the birds when they fly home from Saint Peter's to their aviary, which is about one and a half a kilometers from the Vatican."

Doves are often considered a symbol of peace because of the biblical story of Noah. A dove brings an olive branch to Noah to show that there is dry land nearby -- a sign that the great flood was letting up, National Geographic notes.

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