A BISHOP has admitted he was "embarrassed" to have to stoop to kiss the Pope's ring during the visit of the Irish bishops to the Vatican.
Bishop of Kerry Dr Bill Murphy said he was surprised with the protocol when he arrived at the Vatican, but he followed his fellow bishops who bowed to kiss the papal ring.
"When it came to my turn, the person before me did it and I kissed his [the Pope's] ring as well -- even though I was rather embarrassed by it," Bishop Murphy said.
He said when he previously met Pope Benedict -- and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II -- he was greeted with a handshake.
Bishop Murphy said he was sure the Pope would also have preferred to avoid the ancient kissing of the ring custom when he met the bishops in Rome.
"Some people still try to kiss a bishop's ring but, obviously, it's out of touch with modern thinking," he added.
Traditionally, the kissing of the papal ring is a sign of respect for the office.
Director of Catholic Communications Martin Long said last night that the bishop's comments were made "in a personal capacity" and would not comment further.
Also known as the Ring of the Fisherman, a new band is cast in gold for each pontiff. It features an image of Saint Peter fishing from a boat. Raised lettering around the image presents the current Pope's Latin name.
The ring is an official part of the regalia worn by the pope, who is described by the Catholic Church as the successor of Saint Peter, who was a fisherman by trade.
During the rite of papal inauguration, an official of the papal court ceremonially slips the ring on the left fourth finger of the new pope.
Upon a papal death, the Ring of the Fisherman is ceremonially crushed in the presence of other cardinals using a silver hammer.
Meanwhile, Bishop Murphy rejected claims from abuse survivors that the meeting in Rome was nothing more than a charade. He said the gathering was "very serious and significant" and he conceded the Catholic Church might have been at fault for not lowering the "exaggerated and unrealistic expectations" of the public in advance.