After all the pearl-clutching and questions surrounding this video, the Vatican today offered an explanation.
The mystery of why Pope Francis repeatedly withdrew his right hand as a long line of people bowed and tried to kiss it this week has been resolved – he did not want to spread germs.
“It was a simple question of hygiene,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told reporters on Thursday after he asked the pope directly.
Gisotti explained that there were many people in line and the pope did want to spread germs as one person after another repeatedly kissed his hand at short intervals.
Monday’s footage went viral on social media and was featured on late-night comedy shows in the United States.
The pope’s refusal quickly entered what are known as the Catholic cultural wars between conservatives and progressives.
One conservative Catholic website that often criticizes the pope called the episode “disturbing” and another said the pope should resign if he did not like rituals.
“He likes to embrace people and be embraced by people,” Gisotti said.
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