28 March, 2019
This week, Pope Francis visited a Catholic shrine in Loreto, Italy. He repeatedly withdrew his right hand as a long line of people lowered their heads and tried to kiss his ring. The tradition of kissing the pope's ring is hundreds of years old and is meant to show respect and obedience, the Washington Post explains.
The images of Francis withdrawing his hand spread quickly on social media. The pope's refusal became an issue of debate among Catholics.
LifeSiteNews, a Catholic website that often criticizes the pope, called the event "disturbing" in the headline of an article. That article included a long history of the rings that popes wear and their importance in Catholic history.
Austen Ivereigh has written a book about the current pope and is a supporter of Francis. He answered the social media storm in a Tweet. "He's [Pope Francis] making sure that they engage with him, not treat him like a sacred relic. He's the Vicar of Christ, not a Roman emperor," Ivereigh wrote. Vicar of Christ is a term that refers to the pope.
On Thursday, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti addressed the criticisms aimed at Pope Francis. Gisotti stated the Francis pulled his hand away because he was concerned about hygiene. The pope did not want the long line of well-wishers to spread any sickness by kissing his ring, one after the next.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
John Russell adapted this story based on reports from the Reuters news agency and the Associated Press. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
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Words in This Story
shrine – n. a place connected with a holy person or event where people go to worship
disturb – v. to worry or upset (someone); disturbing – adj.
sacred – adj. worthy of religious worship
relic – n. an object that is conserved holy
vicar – n. a priest in a certain area
hygiene – n. the things that you do to keep yourself and your surroundings clean in order to maintain good health