Sunday 20 October 2019

Pope Francis allows traditional ring-kissing greeting at Vatican audience

The pontiff had been criticised for appearing to withdraw his hand from well-wishers during an event in Loreto earlier this week.

Sister Maria Concetta Esu, 85, kisses the hand of Pope Francis (Andrew Medichini/AP)
Sister Maria Concetta Esu, 85, kisses the hand of Pope Francis (Andrew Medichini/AP)

By Vanessa Gera, Associated Press

Pope Francis has allowed nuns and priests to kiss his papal ring during his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square, two days after a video showing him pulling his hand away from several faithful drew criticism.

Some conservative critics of the pope feel Francis was abandoning church doctrine and tradition, and seized on him withdrawing his hand as evidence of him shunning age-old traditions.

But many said the video clip did not give the full picture.

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Pope Francis kisses a child as he arrives for his weekly general audience (Andrew Medichini/AP)

During a visit on Monday to Loreto, a major Italian pilgrimage site, Francis received a long line of faithful, some of whom kissed his hand.

He only began withdrawing his hand after having greeted many people.

Francis on Wednesday allowed nuns and priests to kiss his hand during his general audience.

One of them was Sister Maria Concetta Esu, an 85-year-old nun and obstetrician who has delivered around 3,000 babies as part of her missionary work over 60 years in the Central African Republic.

With Sister Maria Concetta standing at his side, and gently helping the pontiff with his papers that were blowing in the wind, Pope Francis told of how he met her in Bangui in 2015, where she arrived in a canoe.

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Sister Maria Concetta, seen meeting the pope, has delivered thousands of babies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Andrew Medichini/AP)

“This is a sign of our affection and thanks for all the work you have done among our African sisters and brothers in the service of life, of children, of women and of families,” Francis said, presenting her with a medal.

She then bowed and kissed his hand.

Among those watching how Francis would act was Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, who tweeted: “She kissed his ring!”

Known as the fisherman’s ring from the apostle Peter, who was a fisherman and the first pope, Francis’s version is gold-plated silver and depicts St Peter holding the keys of the Holy See.

Each pope picks his own ring, which will be destroyed at the end of his papacy, a formality that signifies the conclusion of a pontiff’s reign.

PA Media

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