Meeting the Pope

Help me understand the act of kissing the ring.

It’s a sign of respect.


Have you ever seen anyone salute a flag? Why do they do it? The answer is “because it is a symbol of a country; you honor the country through a gesture shown to its flag.”

Have you ever seen anyone kiss a bible, either after reading aloud from it, or taking an oath on it? Why do they do that? The answer is that they are showing respect for the sacredness of the written word of God, and in the case of those who have just sworn something, are showing that they understood they took an oath on something holy.

The ring is the symbol of a bishop’s office as a successor of the apostles, and of his authority. The long-standing custom of kissing a bishop’s ring (and it isn’t just the Pope, who is of course a bishop, whose ring gets kissed…) shows respect for the apostolic office and authority of the man wearing the ring.

Why is kissing the ring a sign of respect? I understand that it is, but why that exact act? Why not a bow, or a handshake, or a kiss on the hand? Why a ring? I’m curious as well.

Why is saluting a flag a sign of respect? Why that exact act? Why not wiggle your ears, or bang a tambourine, or shout “Woogawoogawowza!!” three times? The answer is “this is the long established and universally understood cutomary act.” You might note that in historically Catholic lands (and I don’t mean the cold and Protestant United States), kisses are traditional signs of respect – people kiss crosses, rosaries, icons, and bibles. It is a Jewish custom to touch your tallit, or prayer shawl, to the Torah, and then to kiss the tallit or its fringes. Priests kiss the altar at the start of mass, and the faithful often kiss reliquaries. In a world that has so much kissing going on, the idea of kissing a ring is not remotely odd.

I think kissing the ring is an old custom.

Anyway…in some part of the world, a form of kissing the hand is a sign of respect…the manner of kissing of the hand is…take the hand and touch your forehead with it.

The ring is a symbol of office, therefore the kissing of the ring is a sign of respect to the office and the institution, not just the individual Pope. Such acts of respect acknowledge the validity of the institution as a whole.

This practice goes back long before the Church, and is hardly restricted to the Pope.

In olden times, lords (dukes, etc) wore signet rings. These were how they “signed” official documents - not with a written signature, but by impressing the ring into clay, or melted wax or lead. The ring was a symbol of the authority of the lord. This is a very old practice, going back even to the ancient Egyptians.

When a subject was visiting a lord, s/he would kiss the ring as a symbol of respect and acceptance of authority.

To this day, the Pope’s ring bears his seal (there are no jewels, etc on the Pope’s ring). All Papal bulls and other official documents are accompanied by a lead disk with this symbol (though it is not currently made by the Pope’s actual ring).

Cardinals also wear signet rings, which are also kissed. Other Bishops also wear rings, which are usually not signet rings and feature a purple or red center stone. These rings may be kissed, but most people don’t know to do this (and the Bishop doesn’t mind).

Can I just present a scripture to show some more light on the act of kissing an image. Although here it speaks about something different. But the Word worship in greek is:

From G4314 and probably a derivative of G2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): - worship.

Rev. 13:15 …and cause that as many as would not worship (kiss) the image of the beast should be killed.

So you see that the Word worship actually means kiss, especially to kiss an image.

If we look at the 10 commandments, in Exodus 20:4
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

It explicidly says that we shall not make image whatsoever!!
Please correct me if I am wrong!

The commandment was not that images should not be made but that images should not be worshiped.

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16)

The Second Person of the Trinity is the perfect image of the First Person of the Trinity. God reserved the worship of images until the perfect image of himself became man.

He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3)

In the Old Testament the images they worshiped were not gods. The perfect image we worship - Jesus - is God.


You’re thinking like a 21st. century American. The custom is an ancient one that spans millennia along with other cultural forms of respect that would appear strange if not alien to us today.


Here it says clearly that we shall not MAKE ANY graven image OR any likeness of ANY THING that is in HEAVEN ABOVE or that is in the EARTH BENEATH…

Jesus is in heaven and we should not make any image of Him, or any likeness. It goes for all heavenly beings.

Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

The believers burnt their books and curious arts. This is a result of them becoming believers.

Act_19:19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Firstly about worship, I give two other occasions, where we read that worship men or angels are forbidden:

  1. Act 10:25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
    Act 10:26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
  2. Rev_22:9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

Worship is only to Jesus:
Php_2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;:slight_smile:

I Believe that it means submitting to the authority of the IMAGE. And it is not recommended to kiss any image on Earth or in Heaven or under the Earth.
It is breaking the 10 commandments.
Exodus 20:4-5
Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Exo 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

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