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The reason why the pope refused that people kiss his hand

The reason why the pope refused that people kiss his hand
REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo
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Why did Pope Francis repeatedly refused to be kissed on the right hand by the long line of people who bowed to him? It was for quite a down-to-Earth reason: he did not want germs to spread.

"It was a simple question of hygiene," Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti, who he asked the pope directly, told reporters on Thursday.

Because there were many people in the line and they would have kissed the pope's hand at short intervals, it was safer to remove his hand to prevent spreading germs, Gisotti said

The footage went viral on social media and was featured on late-night comedy shows in the United States.

The pope's refusal quickly turned into an episode of the ongoing "Catholic cultural wars" between conservatives and progressives, as a conservative Catholic website wrote that the episode was "disturbing" and another called for his resignation.

"He likes to embrace people and be embraced by people," Gisotti said.

Gisotti added that the pope does allow people to kiss his hand and ring, but in limited numbers, such as he did with an elderly Italian nun at Wednesday's general audience when Francis award her for decades of service to the poor in Africa.

The Pope was "amused" by all the fuss, Reuters reported, citing a close papal aide as their source.