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ROME – March 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The Vatican gave an official explanation today for why Pope Francis repeatedly pulled his hand away from pilgrims who were attempting to kiss his ring at the Marian shrine of Loreto on Monday.

“The Holy Father told me that the motivation was very simple: hygiene,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told reporters on Thursday after speaking directly with Pope Francis about the matter. “He wants to avoid the risk of contagion for the people, not for him.”

The Vatican spokesman explained that there were many people in line and the Pope did want to spread germs as one person after another repeatedly kissed his hand at short intervals, Reuters said.

Gisotti also noted that Pope Francis allows individuals to kiss his ring in limited numbers, as he did with an elderly Italian religious sister at this week’s general audience who was honored for decades of service to the poor in Africa.

“You all know that he has a great joy in meeting and embracing people, and being embraced by them,” Gisotti told journalists gathered at the Vatican press office. 

The full-length video (which LifeSite posted here as the story went viral) shows the Pope for the first ten minutes allowing priests and religious to kiss his ring. He then begins to yank his hand away shortly after Catholic laymen and women begin to greet him.

On Wednesday, Raymond Arroyo discussed the controversy with Laura Ingraham on The Ingraham Angle, dubbing it the “papal ring pullback.”

A bishop’s ring is a sign of his “marriage” to the diocese over which he rules. 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.


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