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Rome Reports

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To kiss or not to kiss the pope's ring? The changing of customs by popes

As time passes customs change. This is also the case in the Vatican. For example, John Paul I stopped using the papal crown previously worn by popes; and Benedict XVI even removed the image of it from his coat of arms, placing a mitre in its place instead.

John Paul II removed the custom of the ceremonial throne carried on shoulders. 

Now, during his pontificate, Pope Francis does not wear the red shoes traditionally used by popes. He has also prevented people from kissing his ring or excessively kneeling before him. This was recently the case during his visit to Loreto. The pope repeated this gesture making it clear that he does not like it.

This is not a “magisterial” or “dogmatic” gesture. Every pope has his own style. For Pope Francis he prefers other kinds of gestures.

The pope's ring, known as the fisherman's ring, had a strong meaning centuries ago. Originally, it was used as a seal for letters to guarantee papal authenticity. Additionally, in the past the figure of the pope was much more distant, solemn and symbolic. Few could have access to him and greeting him was a privilege for the few.

Although Pope Francis does not want to be kissed on the hand, he does accept hugs without problems. He also caresses the sick with tenderness. The pope wants to convey that service is the way to exercise power.