A new peace symbol has been adopted by Pope Francis after the doves which were used to show the peace symbol were attacked by seagulls last year.

The last Sunday in January is traditionally when the pontiff, along with two children, release doves out of the papal window to mark the symbol of peace.

But after the doves were attacked by seagulls in 2014, pope Francis and the children yesterday, released balloons into St. Peter's Square.

Last year, immediately the young children tossed the doves out of the window, one of them was chased and snapped upon by a seagull.

Photographers captured the larger bird pinning the dove against a windowsill with its tail feathers clutched in its beak.

The second dove was pursued by a crow, and was similarly pinned on a windowsill. The crow pecked the bird mercilessly as thousands of spectators watched below.

The attacks brought criticism from animal rights groups, who condemned the practice of releasing doves.

One advocacy organisation likened tossing doves into the square to a death sentence, as flocks of seagulls nest on the colonnade.

St Peter's Square is near the Tiber River and is often crowded - attracting hundreds of scavenging birds.

The Vatican did not mention last year's incident in their statement regarding Sundays messages of peace.

A hot air balloon containing peace messages was flown over the square, and one of the children read a speech about peace before symbolic balloons were released.

The month of January is traditionally dedicated to calls for world peace by the Vatican.