“It was a simple question of hygiene…”
This was explained by Alessandro Gisotto, Director of the Holy See Press Office, who after receiving an avalanche of inquiries about the Pope withdrawing his hand repeatedly from a long queue of individuals who bowed and tried to kiss the ring on Monday, May 25, in the Italian town of Loreto on the Adriatic Sea, decided to ask the Pontiff himself his reasoning behind it.
Preventing the spread of germs, Pope Francis clarified to Gisotti, especially when there are so many people, arriving one right after the other, is the Pontiff’s goal. He noted how the Pope normally allows the kissing of the ring when we are speaking about single individuals or smaller groups.
Alessandro Gisotti added: “He likes to embrace people and be embraced by people.”
Vatican observers have noted that neither Francis’ predecessor Benedict or John Paul II, were not overly enthusiastic either about the kissing of the ring.
This explanation was what the Vatican spokesman used to lead into his briefing on the Pope’s imminent visit to Morocco, where Gisotti noted the first day will be focused on interreligious dialogue and the second to the local Catholic community, which makes up less than .1 percent of the population. He noted the Pope’s homily and Mass will be in Spanish.
The Vatican on February 26, 2019, released the updated program below for the Holy Father’s March 30-31, 2019 apostolic journey to Morocco.
|Saturday 30 March 2019
|10.45||Departure by air from Rome-Fiumicino Airport for Rabat|
|14.00||Arrival at Rabat-Salé International Airport|
|14.30||WELCOME CEREMONY in the square in front of the Royal Palace|
|14.50||COURTESY VISIT TO KING MOHAMMED VI in the Royal Palace|
|15.30||MEETING with the MOROCCAN PEOPLE, the AUTHORITIES, with CIVIL SOCIETY and with the DIPLOMATIC CORPS on the Esplanade of the Mosquée Hassan II||Address of the Holy Father|
|16.30||VISIT TO THE MAUSOLEUM OF MOHAMMED V|
|17.00||VISIT TO THE MOHAMMED VI INSTITUTE FOR THE TRAINING OF IMAMS, MORCHIDINES AND MORCHIDATES||Greeting of the Holy Father|
|18.00||MEETING WITH MIGRANTS at the premises of diocesan Caritas||Greeting of the Holy Father|
|Sunday 31 March 2019
|9.30||VISIT TO THE CENTRE RURAL DES SERVICES SOCIAUX of Témara|
|10.35||MEETING WITH PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS, CONSECRATED PERSONS and the ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES in the Cathedral of Rabat||Address of the Holy Father
Angelus of the Holy Father
|12.00||Lunch with the Papal Entourage|
|14.45||HOLY MASS||Homily of the Holy Father|
|17.00||FAREWELL CEREMONY at Rabat-Salé International Airport|
|17:15||Departure by air for Rome|
|21:30||Arrival at Rome-Ciampino International Airport|