Sometimes it’s nice to briefly indulge in a Catholic Church scandal which doesn’t relate to the industrial-scale systematic concealment of child abuse. Pope Francis is currently embroiled in what seems like an incredibly low-stakes controversy: he really doesn’t seem to like people kissing his papal ring.
Behold, one of the weirdest videos you are likely to see this week:
Pope Francis really doesn't want anyone kissing his ring.— Catholic Sat (@CatholicSat) March 25, 2019
This from today, after Mass … pic.twitter.com/CZUO8ppNfo
Yes, that’s the Holy Father seemingly jerking his hand violently away every time one of the faithful tries to plant their lips on his big beautiful ring. A quick look at the replies to the viral video show that there are a lot of Catholics quite affronted by this.
I’d be CRUSHED if the Holy Father ripped his hands away like that.
Papa Benedict smiled and made eye contact with me when I was a University student is Rome. It was so special and I treasure that memory.
Th memory of this will cause heartache for those Catholics forever.
— Katherine Letellier (@KatLetellier) March 25, 2019
The Pope cannot understand that it is NOT he whom the faithful offer reverence; It is the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ on Earth; As usual, the pope destroying traditions.
— Marco A. García (@marco_entuiter) March 25, 2019
Right-wing Catholic website Lifesite called it a “disturbing video” and, quoting a bunch of theological justifications, said that Pope Francis appears to be “uncomfortable with… traditional concepts.”
Many conservative Catholics don’t like Pope Francis for a variety of reasons, including his fixation on environmental issues and a perceived disrespect for Church tradition. Like, for example, kissing the damn ring! He’s gotta kiss it!
The Washington Post quotes medieval church history scholar Christopher Bellitt, who says that the practice of papal ring-kissing is a holdover from old protocols around greeting kings and emperors, and probably isn’t that relevant to a modern papacy.
“When one greeted Ramses or Nebuchadnezzar, I’m sure it was common practice to bow and kiss one’s ring,” said Bellitt.
“It’s a leftover that is best left over.”
The Guardian, in a report which also confirmed that the last two popes were also at times not particularly fond of having their hands and rings kissed, quotes an anonymous Vatican insider who gave an incredibly simple explanation for Francis’ behaviour.
“Sometimes he likes it, sometimes he does not,” the close aide to the Pope said. “It’s really as simple as that.”
Gotta say… I feel you, Francis. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to having the faithful kiss your hand!