Pope Francis repeatedly pulled his hand away from his greeting faithful and refused to allow people to kiss his papal ring, drawing criticism from some conservative traditionalists.
On Monday, the pope visited a Catholic shrine in Loreto, Italy, where he greeted a long line of well-wishers and followers. Video showing the pope pulling his hand away from those who bowed and tried to kiss his ring went viral.
Some conservative critics of the pope feel Francis was abandoning church doctrine and tradition, and seized on his hand withdrawal as evidence of him shunning age-old traditions.
However, the short viral clip doesn’t show the whole picture. The Vatican News broadcasted the Holy Mass in its entirety, including the long line of faithful following the service. The pontiff did allow for some to kiss his hand, before he began to pull away from others.
“Sometimes he likes it, sometimes he does not. It’s really as simple as that,” a close aid to the pope told Reuters. The aide added he was “amused” by all the reaction.
“Can you imagine the bewilderment and void he leaves on these people with that as the encounter?” reads a comment on social media. “It’s not just kissing of the ring he recoils, but also the bowing and kneeling that he rejects.”
“Can you imagine giving one man enough power to leave a void in you from a second’s interaction?” reads another.
“I’d be CRUSHED if the Holy Father ripped his hands away like that. Papa Benedict smiled and made eye contact with me when I was a University student in Rome. It was so special and I treasure that memory,” another chimed in. “The memory of this will cause heartache for those Catholics forever.”
“It looks like a SNL skit,” another said.
Some Vatican watchers noted that even former Pope Benedict and his predecessor John Paul did not like having their hands or rings kissed – at least not by long lines of people for the sake of expediency.
As the Associated Press noted, Pope Francis allowed nuns and priests to kiss his hand during his general audience on Wednesday.
–with files from Reuters