An awkward moment in Pope Francis’s Monday visit to Loreto, Italy, turned into a viral video in which the pope repeatedly pulls his hand away when churchgoers try to kiss his papal ring.
Shown on Italian news site TGCOM 24, the video prompted many to wonder why the head of the Catholic Church is not comfortable with something customary to his office.
Traditionally, churchgoers or pilgrims will kiss the pope’s ring as a sign of respect for his office. Called The Fisherman’s Ring, this papal ring is exclusive to that pope and is made when he is elected to the office. The ring also represents a sign of the pope’s “marriage” to the church. When the pope passes away or resigns, so does his ring, usually by being smashed with a hammer.
According to LifeSite News, a source close to the Vatican said: “He doesn’t get that it’s not about him. It’s about the office.” (RELATED: Pope Francis Deletes Tweet Claiming Christians Aren’t ‘Selling A Product’ But ‘Communicating A Lifestyle’)
Some praise Francis for choosing to live a simpler lifestyle, as reflected in many of his stances and choices. Others criticize him for his seeming inability to accept the veneration his office demands.
Father Dwight Longenecker, a Catholic priest and author, said that Francis’s inability to allow the faithful to kiss his papal ring is troubling. “It would seem that he had not yet figured out that being the pope is not about him,” Longenecker wrote on his blog.
“This tendency to impose his personality and opinions on the papacy was there from the beginning in his refusal to wear the mozzetta and papal stole when he appeared on the balcony,” he added. “Then it continued when he decided not to live in the apostolic palace.” (RELATED: Former Vatican Diplomat Accuses Pope Francis Of Complicity In Covering Up McCarrick’s Abuses, Calls For His Resignation)
Similarly, Catholic Priest Kevin Cusack tweeted, “It’s a grace for the faithful to be able to show respect for the office of the pope by kissing the papal ring. It’s not about the pope, it’s about the faithful.”
It’s a grace for the faithful to be able to show respect for the office of the pope by kissing the papal ring. It’s not about the pope, it’s about the faithful.
Loreto, il Papa non vuole che gli si baci l’anello e sfila la mano – Tgcom24 Video | https://t.co/idmggOiC9P
— Fr. Kevin M. Cusick, LCDR (Ret.) (@MCITLFrAphorism) March 25, 2019
“The World Over” host Raymond Arroyo found the action less worrisome. “I think the Pope sees the ring kissing as an aggrandizement of his person and feels personally uncomfortable with the gesture,” he wrote on Twitter.
I think the Pope sees the ring kissing as an aggrandizement of his person and feels personally uncomfortable with the gesture. https://t.co/ayDrCaZWJf
— Raymond Arroyo (@RaymondArroyo) March 26, 2019
Francis has drawn recent criticism from Catholics and non-Catholics alike for his mishandling of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church as well as his attitude toward traditional Catholic teaching. A top Vatican official, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accused Francis of complicity in covering up sexual abuse. Francis dismissed these accusations.
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