Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A youth kisses the ring of Pope Francis during a meeting at the municipal theater in Rio de Janeiro. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pope Francis and the video (gone “viral”) where he seems unwilling to allow his papal ring to be kissed

Pope Francis sparked global controversy on Monday, March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, when he repeatedly pulled back his hand from faithful who were bending down trying to kiss his papal ring.

Millions clicked on a brief video of 57 seconds which some called “disturbing.”

LifeSiteNews headlined: “Disturbing video: Pope Francis refuses to let Catholic faithful kiss his papal ring.”

Their story continued:

ROME, March 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis today made it clear that he doesn’t want the faithful to kiss his papal ring, as he repeatedly pulled his hand away from pilgrims who were lined up to greet him reverently during his one-day visit to the Holy House of Loreto.

A disturbing video from the Italian news site TGCOM 24 captured the Pope’s insistence that the laity not show him such reverence.

Francis was making a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, near the coast of the Adriatic Sea across Italy from Rome.

After celebrating Mass, he greeted more than 100 people, and toward the end of the 13-minute receiving line, he spent nearly a minute pulling his ring hand away from several people in a row.

But there is the problem with this story: it extrapolates a conclusion about the Pope’s intentions from a very brief portion of a much-longer receiving line.

In short, Francis did pull back his hand from several people, but only during 53 seconds of the 13 minutes of receiving, greeting and embracing people. During the other 12 minutes, he made no objection to the attempts of dozens of faithful to kiss his ring.

Moreover, the shortest of the excerpted videos cuts out 10 seconds inside of the 53-second “no ring-kissing” period.

In the portion cut out, the Pope greets two people warmly and allows them to bow and (seemingly) kiss his hand and ring.

So this very short edited video makes the Pope seem even more unwilling to allow his ring to be kissed than he was in reality. This is somewhat deceptive film editing.

So, this brief letter today is an attempt to bring the matter into better focus.

#1. Complete video: This is the complete video of the Pope’s visit to Loreto on Monday, March 25, 2019. The video of when the Pope is drawing back his hand comes at minutes 1:00:55 to 1:01:50, that is, about 55 seconds. The full period of greetings lasts from 50:50 to 103:45, just about 13 minutes. NOTE: The video’s beginning point is set at 1:02:41.

#2. 56-second version: This is the shortened version which contains only 56 seconds of the video above. This brief excerpt is what went viral. It occurs exactly 10 minutes into receiving the faithful, and shows the Pope drawing back his hand when people bowed to kiss it. Almost 10 million people have clicked on this video.

#3. 46-second version: This is a still further edited version of the 57-second video above. It cuts out the second and third people the Pope greets. He greeted both warmly, and they seem to kiss his ring, but they are not in this video. The effect is powerful; the Pope seems cold, almost robotic. But this seems to be somewhat deceptive video editing. The video was prepared by the Italian website TGCOM24, then used also by LifeSiteNews.

First, here is the complete Vatican video of the entire visit, lasting 2 hours.

The video of the moments when the Pope is drawing back his hand comes at minutes 1:00:55 to 1:01:50, that is, during just about 55 seconds.

The full period of greetings lasts from 50:50 to 1:03:45, just about 13 minutes.

So the Pope greets people without withdrawing his hand for 10 minutes, then withdraws his hand for most of 55 seconds, then again does not withdraw his hand for 2 minutes.

The 55-second period when the Pope withdraws his hand does seem awkward and even impolite on the Pope’s part, and this has led to thousands of comments that Pope Francis in Loreto “really did not like having his ring kissed.” One posting of the video, by the Guardian newspaper, had received almost 10 million views by this morning.

Yet the Guardian’s video is only 56 seconds long.

That is, it is only a brief portion of the full 13-minutes when the Pope was greeting people in the receiving line at Loreto, after celebrating Mass, and before delivering a talk on the recent Youth Synod’s post-Synodal document “Christ Our Hope Lives,” which was released Monday.

During 12 of these 13 minutes, the Pope allows the faithful who wish to kiss his ring to kiss his ring.

Then, after 10 minutes of greeting people, for 55 seconds, the Pope begins to withdraw his ring hand each time a person bends down and tries to kiss his ring.

But this 55-second period (less than 1 minute out of 13 minutes) was followed by another 2 minutes when the Pope again allows his hand and ring to be kissed.

So: the incident did indeed occur, but it has been presented in a tendentious way, making it appear more awkward and “impolite” on the part of the Pope than it was.

No official explanation has been given for why the Pope acted in this way,

However, if one studies the complete video, one sees that for about 40 seconds before he begins to draw back his hand, from 1:00:15 to 1:00:55, several of the faithful grasp the Pope’s right hand (his ring hand) and kiss the hand or the ring, holding the hand tightly with both of their hands.

This series of “graspings” may have led the Pope (even, perhaps, only subconsciously) to feel he needed a bit of “space” in order not to be “captured” by these grasping hands.

So, in the succeeding 55 seconds, every time someone began to reach for his right hand, he drew it back. That is the part of the video that has “gone viral.”

Indeed, the Pope in these moments did something he did not do during the rest of the video: he lifts his right hand and grasps each person on their upper left arm, guiding each person to the side so that he can receive the next person.

Finally, the Pope speaks to two young men in sports shirts for about 20 seconds, and after that conversation, for about 2 minutes more, the Pope continues to receive greetings, and to allow his hand and ring to be kissed.

So what we have in the 56-second “viral video” is, at least to some degree, an anomaly. It does not represent a constant principle of his papacy.

To sum up: Clearly, Francis was tired.

It does seem true that he is impatient with the tradition of the kissing of the papal ring.

Evidently he conceives the “ritualized” aspects of religious behavior to be in tension with the “personal” and (hopefully) more “authentic” gestures and actions of a sincere believer, or a sincere Pope. And for this reason, he seems to accept more contentedly an embrace, a hug, than the kissing of his hand or papal ring. And yet, he also accepts — most of the time — the kissing of the papal ring. He seems to understand that such a kiss can represent an affection for him, and all he represents, and not be a merely external gesture. And 12 out the 13 minutes in the reception line on Monday showed this attitude.

After the reception line ended, the Pope spent time with physically handicapped people, and with a group of deaf people. You can see these meetings in the complete video.

Below, three articles by other writers on this matter.






Here is a Guardian article via Reuters which briefly summarizes the reactions to the event (link):

(1) Video of Pope Francis trying to avoid having his ring kissed goes viral
Footage from visit to Loreto fuels Catholic cultural wars between conservatives and progressives

Reuters in Vatican City

Tue 26 Mar 2019 12.46 EDT

Last modified on Tue 26 Mar 2019 13.23 EDT

Footage of Pope Francis repeatedly pulling his hand away from being kissed by a long line of people has gone viral, becoming part of the Catholic cultural wars between conservatives and progressives.

The video, from the pontiff’s visit to a Catholic shrine in Loreto on Monday, drew reaction from both his critics and supporters.

LifeSiteNews, a conservative Catholic website that often criticizes the pope, called the episode “disturbing” in the headline of an article that included a long history of the rings popes wear and their significance.

The war against Pope Francis
Rorate Caeli, a website read by Catholic traditionalists, tweeted: “Francis, If you don’t want to be the Vicar of Christ, then get out of there!”

The papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, a supporter of Francis, countered by tweeting: “He’s making sure that they engage with him, not treat him like a sacred relic. He’s the Vicar of Christ, not a Roman emperor.”

“It’s high time kissing bishops’ rings disappears altogether. It’s just ridiculous and has nothing to do with tradition. It’s an import from monarchies. Much of the pomp around bishops should be ditched,” tweeted Russell Pollitt, a Jesuit priest.

Some Vatican watchers noted that even Francis’s predecessors Benedict, a hero to nostalgic conservatives, and John Paul II did not like having their hands kissed — at least not by long lines of people, for the sake of expediency.

One Twitter user recalled that when he visited John Paul with a group of 50 people they were told specifically not to kneel or kiss the papal hand.

The Vatican did not say why Francis was so insistent on not having the ring — a simple silver one with a cross — kissed in the long receiving line.

“Sometimes he likes it, sometimes he does not. It’s really as simple as that,” said a close aide to the pope who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The aide added he was “amused” by all the reaction.


Here is an article from the BBC which sets the event in perspective.

(2) Pope’s ring-kissing controversy not what it seems (link)

By James Reynolds

BBC News, Rome

How should you greet a pope? For centuries, it was Catholic tradition to kiss the papal foot. Nowadays, many faithful choose to bow and kiss the papal ring.

Conservative Catholics, who routinely accuse the current Pope of straying from church doctrine and tradition, now suspect that he has an end to ring-kissing in his sights.

They point to video taken on Monday in the Italian town of Loreto, which shows the Pope withdrawing his hand from Catholics trying to kiss his ring.

But the fuller picture is quite different.

The Pope’s actions in the video are a short section of a much longer sequence.

Official Vatican TV footage shows that Francis stood in a receiving line for around 13 minutes and received (by my count) at least 113 monks, nuns, and parishioners — either individually or in pairs.

No one appeared to offer any instruction on how to greet him. During the first 10 minutes, 14 people shook Francis’s hand without bowing down to kiss his ring.

In this time, 41 people bowed down towards Francis’ hands, either making the symbolic gesture of kissing his ring, or actually kissing the ring itself.

The Pope did not protest.

Nine went even further. They bowed and kissed his ring, and then embraced him as well (one particularly devout monk outmatched everyone else by kissing both of the Pope’s hands.)

After the first 10 minutes, the Pope’s behaviour changed. The greeting line appeared to speed up.

During a 53-second period, Francis snapped his hand away from 19 people trying to bow and kiss his ring. One particularly unfortunate man ended up kissing his own hand after the pope suddenly withdrew from the greeting.

And this is the section which has been widely shared online.

It may be that the Pope was in a hurry to get to the end of the receiving line – and it’s notable that, afterwards, he went on to spend more time greeting people, many in wheelchairs, at the front of the church.

Francis may not enjoy his ring being kissed, but it’s inaccurate to say that he rejected all those that day who attempted the gesture.

The papal ring, worn on the third finger of the right hand, may be the most powerful symbol of a pontiff’s authority.

As soon as a pope dies, the ring is immediately destroyed in order to indicate the end of his reign.

Kissing a papal ring is often freighted with centuries worth of political and religious significance.

In 1963, US President John F Kennedy, a Catholic, deliberately chose not to kiss the ring of Pope Paul VI when they met in the Vatican – for fear of giving ammunition to critics who said that a Catholic president would always be subservient to Rome.

The current Pope is extremely aware of the significance of the gesture.

It may be that he prefers to deploy it the other way round.

During a joint visit to Jerusalem in May 2014, Francis made great efforts to kiss the hand of the leader of the Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, as a sign of reconciliation between their branches of Christianity.

The patriarch tried to resist, ending in a friendly tussle won by the Pope.

On the same trip, at Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Francis was invited to shake hands with Holocaust survivors.

To their surprise, he bowed down and kissed their hands — a gesture which is remembered years later.


Here is the LifeSiteNews story.

Mon Mar 25, 2019 – 2:59 pm EST

(3) Disturbing video: Pope Francis refuses to let Catholic faithful kiss his papal ring (link)

By Diane Montagna

UPDATE (March 26, 2019 – 2:15 pm): The entire video of Pope Francis’s one-day visit to Loreto may be viewed below (scroll down to the bottom). At the 50:50-mark, Pope Francis can be seen greeting priests and men and women religious, whom he allows to kiss his papal ring. The Holy Father then begins to greet Catholic laity and begins pulling his hand away at 1:00:57.

ROME, March 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis today made it clear that he doesn’t want the faithful to kiss his papal ring, as he repeatedly pulled his hand away from pilgrims who were lined up to greet him reverently during his one-day visit to the Holy House of Loreto.

A disturbing video from the Italian news site TGCOM 24 captured the Pope’s insistence that the laity not show him such reverence.

It’s not known why Pope Francis objects to this.

The meaning of the ring

A bishop’s ring is a sign of his “marriage” to the diocese over which he rules. Conferred during the rite of consecration, the episcopal ring was historically regarded as emblematic of the mystical betrothal of the bishop to his church.

The formula used in the rite of consecration of a bishop when he is invested with his ring is laden with such symbolism. According to the rite, the principal consecrator places the ring on the ring finger of the new bishop’s right hand, saying: “Take this ring, the seal of your fidelity. With faith and love protect the bride of God, his holy Church.” The formula dates back to the first millennium.

According to the Council of Nicaea, a bishop was not to be moved from his diocese due to the nuptial meaning of the episcopacy. Deserting the church to which he was consecrated and transferring himself to another diocese was regarded as tantamount to “adultery.”

St. John Fisher (1469-1535), the only cardinal to ever die for the faith, repeatedly refused to be translated to another diocese, even though he had been entrusted with the diocese of Rochester, one of the poorest in England. He said he “would not leave his poor old wife,” (the Rochester diocese) “for the richest widow (other diocese) in England.” Fisher in fact refused to abandon his diocese and was imprisoned and martyred for refusing to accept the king’s abandonment of his wife.

The gesture of kissing the episcopal ring (called the baciamano in Italian) is a way of reminding the bishop of his promises to his people and their loyalty to him. It is a reminder of the unbreakable nuptial bond between him and his people, and the affection and loyalty for each other. Clergy and laity who kiss a bishop’s ring therefore remind him of his undertakings when he was consecrated to the episcopate.

The Bishop of Rome’s ring — the “Ring of the Fisherman” — is a sign of his husband-father relation to the Church as a whole and is smashed upon the death of a pope. It is also the symbol of the Pope’s investiture of his office. To kiss the “Ring of the Fisherman” therefore alludes to the dignity and office and is an expression of loyalty to him as the Successor of St. Peter.

When Pope Francis received the fisherman’s ring at his installation on March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary and patron of the universal Church, the ring was borne in procession from the tomb of St. Peter where it had been laid.

As he received it, the following prayer was said:

Most Holy Father, may Christ, the Son of the living God, the shepherd and guardian of our souls, who built his Church upon rock, grant you the ring, the seal of Peter the Fisherman, who put his hope in him on the sea of Galilea, and to whom the Lord Jesus entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.

Today you succeed the Blessed Apostle Peter as the Bishop of this Church which presides over the unity of charity, as the Blessed Apostle has taught. May the Spirit of charity, poured into our hearts, grant you the gentleness and strength to preserve, through your ministry, all those who believe in Christ in unity and fellowship.

Why the unease?

The episcopal ring symbolizes the unbreakable unity between the bishop and his spouse, the local Church. Pope Francis has shown himself to be uncomfortable with such traditional concepts in the past.

The Pope has also shown himself to be uncomfortable with other traditional gestures of reverence.

Shortly after his installation as Pope, he asked a young altar boy piously standing with hands joined if they were “bound together.” Attempting to pull the boy’s hands apart, Pope Francis said to him: “It seems like they’re stuck” (watch video here).

The reason for his aversion to the laity kissing his ring is unclear.

On Twitter, The World Over host Raymond Arroyo commented: “I think the Pope sees the ring kissing as an aggrandizement of his person and feels personally uncomfortable with the gesture.”

But in comments to LifeSite after seeing the video, a source close to the Vatican said: “He doesn’t get that it’s not about him. It’s about the office.”

Pope Francis does seem comfortable with personal expressions of loyalty to his person rather than his office. Another observer noted that while Pope Francis is uncomfortable with the faithful kissing his ring, he has repeatedly welcomed expressions of personal esteem and affection though selfies and hugs.

LifeSite asked Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, why the Pope did not want the faithful to kiss his ring during his visit to the Holy House of Loreto but has not yet received a response.

The Pope’s visit to the Holy House of Loreto — which is believed to be part of the home in Nazareth where the Blessed Virgin Mary lived when she received the message of the Archangel Gabriel and conceived the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:26-38), coincided with the March 25 liturgical feast of the Annunciation. Inside the Holy House of Loreto a Latin inscription reads: Hic verbum caro factum est — Here the Word was made flesh.

Celebrate the Feast Day of St. Thomas More, June 22, 2019, by visiting his prison cell in the Tower of London

An invitation to walk down the Appian Way outside of Rome, where Peter met Christ and said to him, “Quo vadis, Domine?”…


Visit our new pilgrimage website for a complete list of our pilgrimages:


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