Even the Pope reveals concerns about hygiene

15th of April 2019
Even the Pope reveals concerns about hygiene

Videos of Pope Francis withdrawing his hand from worshippers' kisses have gone viral on social media.

And when asked about his reaction to the centuries-old hand-kissing tradition, His Holiness explained that it was a "simple question of hygiene".

The incident occurred during a meet-and-greet session in the Italian town of Loreto, which is a popular Catholic pilgrimage site. The Pope was seen to withdraw his hand abruptly from around 19 people when they tried to bow and kiss his ring. One man apparently ending up kissing his own hand after the Pope suddenly snatched his own away.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti explained later that the Pope had been worried about germs when meeting followers. "The Holy Father told me that the motivation was very simple: hygiene," said Gisotti. "He wants to avoid the risk of contagion - for the people, not for him."

He added that the Pope "likes to embrace people and be embraced by people", and was happy to allow smaller groups to kiss the papal ring.

Traditionally the serving Pope wears the Ring of the Fisherman - a tribute to the occupation of Saint Peter - and the custom of kissing it is believed to have begun in the late Middle Ages.

The papal ring is personal to each pope and is destroyed on his death to indicate the end of his reign.


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