Pope shunned ring-kissing because he did not want to spread germs, Vatican says

Fri 29 Mar 2019
By Press Association

Pope Francis has set the record straight about why he pulled his hand away when throngs of people lined up this week to kiss his ring: for fear of spreading germs.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said that Francis was concerned about hygiene when, after greeting throngs of well-wishers in a lengthy receiving queue in Loreto on Monday, he began pulling his hand away to discourage people from kissing his ring and spreading germs to others.

Video of the incident went viral, with conservative critics blasting what they said was Francis' disrespect for the tradition.


Mr Gisotti said it was nothing of the sort.

He noted that Francis is more than happy to receive the greeting in small groups, as he did on Wednesday when plenty of people kissed his ring during his general audience.

Mr Gisotti said he had just spoken to the pope about it.

"The Holy Father told me that the motivation was very simple: hygiene," Mr Gisotti told reporters.

"He wants to avoid the risk of contagion for the people, not for him."

Pope Francis moved his hand away many times as people attempted to kiss his ring.


The tradition of kissing the ring of a bishop or pope goes back centuries, as a sign of respect and obedience.

"You all know that he has a great joy in meeting and embracing people, and being embraced by them," Mr Gisotti said.

Francis is known for gleefully embracing babies given to him to kiss and, germs be damned, sipping from mate gourds offered to him by strangers when he is out and about on his popemobile.

Stay up to date with the latest news stories from a Christian perspective. Sign up to our daily newsletter and receive more stories like this straight to your inbox every morning.

Tell us what you think about our news service, what you want and how Premier fits into your news landscape. Take our quick survey!

Daily news direct to your inbox
Your News Feed

Stay informed and inform others with up to the minute news from a Christian perspective. 

Daily News email

RSS feeds

News Widgets

You may also like...

The Right Reverend Robert Byrne was installed as the fourteenth... More

The Catholic Church in Scotland is concerned its stance on matters... More

Migration has been happening throughout human history. The Bible... More

Biblical manuscripts are going on display in London, one of which... More