The Pope’s ring
We are very familiar with people wearing rings on their fingers for various purposes. It could be just for the purpose of fashion, engagement and marriage, a means of identification by different groups, a symbol of power and authority. For whatever reason anyone wears a ring(s), it remains a small round band worn around the finger. They come in different sizes, shapes and colours; though they are mostly in gold or silver.
The Pope, the head of the Catholic Church and the vicar of Christ on earth wears a ring as part of his regalia. This ring, Annulus Piscatoris in Latin is also called the fisherman’s ring. It is called the fisherman’s ring because the Pope seats on the chair of Peter the fisherman turned fisher of men; in other words, the Pope takes the place of Peter, or succeeds him as the leader of the Catholic Church and a fisher of men. This ring is made of pure gold or silver.
Unlike the familiar wearing of rings on the left hand, especially wedding ring; the Pope wears his ring on the right hand. The papal ring or the fisherman’s ring at some point in the history of the Church was used by the Pope as his official seal, but that changed with time. The papal ring may not be the official Papal signet today, but it remains a symbol of his authority and responsibility. It is given to the newly elected Pope during the inauguration mass by the Dean of the College of cardinals who slips the ring through the Pope’s third finger.
Traditionally, at the end of each Papacy the ring was smashed. This was so because the ring was used by that particular Pope as an official seal of his papacy. Today, Papal ring may not be smashed at the end of a papacy. It may be worn by the next Pope or preserved for posterity while a new one is cast for the new Pope. It is no longer smashed because it is no longer used as an official seal.
The ring depicts the image of the bearded Peter holding a pair of keys; one representing the heavenly power and authority while the other stands for the Papal spiritual authority on earth. The kneeling to kiss the fisherman’s ring symbolizes the acknowledgment, respect and acceptance of the authority of the Pope.
The Catholic Church is a very traditional Church, rich in heritage. We are proud of our inheritance.