The Pope’s ring

The Pope's ring is also called the Piscatory Ring or Annulus Piscatoris. The ring is part of the Pope's regalia.The Pope’s ring is also commonly referred to as the Ring of the Fisherman. The Pope is the leader of the Catholic Church and the successor of Saint Peter who used to be a fisherman before he became Christ's disciple. The ring used to depict a bas-relief of Peter fishing on a boat It is a special ring that is worn by the pope who is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, Saint Peter was a fisherman but later became a “fisher of Men” bringing the word of Christ to the people. All the apostles were named “fishers of men"(Mark 1:17).

Originally, the Fisherman’s Ring was a signet which was used to seal official documents signed by the pope. The private correspondences of the pope were sealed by the use of the Fisherman’s Ring while the public documents were sealed by stamping a different papal seal onto the lead that was attached to the respective document. During the 15th century, the use of the Fisherman’s Ring changed and it started to be used for sealing official documents referred to as papal briefs. This practice ended in 1842, when the lead sealing was replaced with wax.

The Pope’s ring is normally given to the newly elected pope during the inauguration mass. It is the Dean of the College of Cardinals who slips the ring on the third finger of the newly elected Pope’s right hand. The newly elected pope chooses which design of the Fisherman's ring to wear. Mostly, the Fisherman’s Ring is made of silver or gold. The ring is worn on the right hand of the pope and it depicts a bearded St. Peter holding a pair of keys. One key is a representation of the power in heaven while the other key shows the spiritual authority of the papacy on earth. The Pope’s ring indicates the role of the pope as a “fisher of men”.

According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, the pope’s ring is supposed to be smashed with a specially designed silver hammer once the pope leaves office. This is because the Vatican states that “Objects strictly tied to the ministry of St. Peter must be destroyed”. However, this is no longer enacted and most of the Pope’s rings are either kept in the Vatican museum for posterity or they are worn by the pope’s successors. The ring was used in the past as a seal for the pope’s private documents, yet currently it remains a symbol of the papal authority and responsibility. Since it is no longer used as a seal there is no longer a need to have it destroyed upon the pope’s resignation or death.

The Pope’s ring symbolizes the pope’s authority over the Catholic Church's community. Also it represents the shepherd’s mission of placing the lost, sick or weak sheep on his shoulder. When a pope is elected, a new ring is cast for him. However, some popes have defied using the new ring designed specifically for them and instead opted to use the ring used by their predecessor.

Through the centuries it has become traditional to kneel in front of the Pope and kiss his ring thus showing respect and acknowledging him as the successor of St. Peter. What do you think about this tradition? Would you like to kiss the Pope's ring?