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No more lord of the ring?

HONG KONG (SE): There has been much angst and hand-wringing in the media and the Internet over a short video clip showing Pope Francis withdrawing his hand as people tried to kiss the papal ring on March 25, during a trip to Loreto, Italy.
 
The video, which went viral, did not present the whole picture. The pope spent 30 minutes greeting a long line of faithful, some of whom shook his hand, while others kissed his hand or bowed down in a gesture of reverence, but mostly without pomp and circumstance, Catholic News Service reported. 
 
He only began pulling his hand away after having greeted a large number of people. 
 
Media and various so-called conservative commentators were quick to pounce, calling it brusque, controversial, an outright refusal, bizzare and even a straying from tradition.
 
Yet as The Tablet weekly pointed out on March 27, “There is no mention of it (kissing the papal ring) in the gospels, nor is it a matter of Church doctrine or apostolic tradition.”
 
The Tablet went on to note, “There is always a danger, however, of mixing up the essentials of faith with the accruements of the past, and in this case, the focus is over a ritual attached to a time when popes operated as quasi-monarchs exercising secular power.”
 
Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office told reporters on March 28 that the avoidance at Loreto “was a simple question of hygiene,” explaining that the pope didn’t want to spread any germs to the large number of people in line.
 
Indeed, Pope Francis would later go on to greet a number of sick people and lead a prayer. On March 27, he would also meet with a group of religious sisters and priests during his general audience, all of whom kissed his hand.
 
Gisotti said that while the pope wants to help other people avoid getting sick, it’s not a priority for himself, as the pope still prefers “to embrace people and be embraced by people.”
 
Catholic News Service noted on March 28 that this has been a pope who prefers warm embraces, the European “air” kiss, solemn blessings and holding a person’s two hands like two friends would. It also noted his willingness to pose for selfies.
 
Other media pointed out that previous popes had also done away with human traditions that became attached to the office of Peter. 
 
It should be remembered that Pope St. Paul VI, in his own break with tradition, gave up his papal tiara in 1964 and donated it to the poor.
 
Romereports.com noted that his successor Pope John Paul I eschewed a papal tiara and that Pope Benedict XVI even removed the image of it from his coat of arms, placing a mitre in its place instead, while Pope St. John Paul II did away with the sedia gestatoria, the papal version of the sedan chair. 
 
The article in The Tablet noted, “What the Pope is continuing is a reform of the papal office which moves it once and for all from a European monarchical model to that of pastoral leader and global statesman. Each Successor of St. Peter since Paul VI has made their contribution to this shift.”
 
It concluded that, “For Francis, the authority of the papacy does not rest on whether people kiss his ring but on faithfulness to the carpenter from Nazareth who called a simple fisherman to be the rock on which he would build his Church.”

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