During a visit to the Holy House in Loreto, Pope Francis was filmed repeatedly withdrawing his hand from pilgrims who kneeled to kiss his ring. The video, a minute in length, went viral with people all over the world wondering, perhaps, why Catholics persisted in a practice which was so obviously displeasing to the Pontiff. Although a longer film revealed that the Holy Father has allowed some people, without protest, to kiss his ring, one might think that he is not fond of the practice. (An official said the Pope was anxious not to spread germs.)
The tradition of baciamano, or “hand-kissing”, is thought to date from the Middle Ages. It involves honouring the papal office, and thereby expressing fidelity to the Church, with a kiss upon the “Ring of the Fisherman”. In harmony with his predecessors, St John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who both disliked, and even, in the case of the latter, tried to suppress baciamano, Pope Francis may believe that the tradition is unnecessary or antiquated.
This leaves Catholics with the question of how to greet the Pope. All that is surely required is warmth, humility and politeness, and perhaps a bow of the head, before looking the Pontiff in the eye and firmly and sincerely shaking his hand.
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