The pelican cutting open its own breast represents Christ's death on the cross, and the shedding of his blood to revive us and therefore adopted as a symbol of the Redeemer and of charity. An explanation of this is that the pelican's bill has a crimson red tip and the contrast of this red tip against the white breast probably gave rise to the tradition that the bird tore her own breast to feed her young with her blood.
Reference to the Pelican in the Bible
The following reference to the pelican is in the Bible:
Pelican: (Heb. kaath , sometimes translated "cormorant," as (Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14) though in the margin correctly referred to as "pelican"
Leviticus 11:13-18: The law avoid "the birds you are to detest and not eat because thy are detestible".
Leviticus 11:17-18 - 'Laws about Animals for Food', the following 'Avoid the Unclean'
: and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl, 18 and the white owl and the pelican and the carrion vulture.
The definition and the meaning of Symbols or Icon in early religious art forms. A Catholic sign or icon, such as the Pelican Christian Symbol, is an object, character, figure, or color used to represent abstract ideas or concepts - a picture that represents an idea. A religious icon, such as the Pelican Christian Symbol, is an image or symbolic representation with sacred significance. The meanings, origins and ancient traditions surrounding Christian symbols date back to early times when the majority of ordinary people were not able to read or write and printing was unknown. Many were 'borrowed' or drawn from early pre-Christian traditions, however the symbol of the pelican, unlike many early Christian symbols, is almost exclusively a Christian icon.