Why we kiss the ring of a Bishop

The traditional way whereby one greets a bishop, is by kneeling in front of him and kissing his ecclesiastical ring…

Symbolism & indulgences

This ring symbolizes the authority entrusted by the Vicar of Christ. Rings are a symbol of fidelity (e.g. wedding bands) and authority (e.g. signet rings). Kissing the ecclesiastical ring of the Pope, Bishop or Cardinal is an act of veneration for the sacred ministry entrusted to them.

What very few know is that the Church has blessed this act of humility with the forgiveness of venial sins (under the usual conditions that apply to the forgiveness of the Church).

History

Since episcopal rings had to be worn on ceremonial occasions on the outside of the pontifical glove and prelates’ gloves, it is common to find medieval specimens extremely large in size and disproportionately heavy. The inconvenience of the looseness was corrected by placing another smaller ring just above it as a ring guard.

It was also quite common for bishops and popes to wear additional rings along with the episcopal ring; the 1882 edition of ‘Caeremoniale Episcoporum’ (Book II, viii, nn. 10-11) still assumed that this was likely to be the case. Today this action is nearly always forbidden, since the hierarchy is privileged to wear only one ring at a time.

What about priests?

When a priest is not a bishop and thus does not have a ring, commonly his hand is kissed. To find out why, read our other article: Why we kiss the hand of a priest.

Semper Excelsius is a website for the defense of the Catholic faith through instruction and informative articles. Its focus is on explaining the rich history and traditions of the holy Roman Catholic Church, while defending her teachings against false assumptions and doctrinal errors.

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