Tuesday, April 05, 2005

a closer look at the pope's ring--The Fisherman's Ring

The pope officially makes use of only one ring, the Ring of the Fisherman, so called because it shows an image of St. Peter casting a net into the sea. St. Peter as you know was a fisherman before he was called by Jesus to follow him as a disciple.

The ring is made of gold and has the pope's official name. When going about his daily duties, the pope actually wears a simplified version of this ring, while the actual Fisherman's Ring is kept in his apartment and when necessary is brought out to be used to seal papal decrees. John Paul for his ring chose a simple band of hammered gold made into the form of the crucifix.

Other popes, such as Pope Pius IX, had elaborate rings. Pius' was an inch in diameter and had more than one hundred diamonds that formed his image. How about that. Pope John XXIII however had a simple cameo for his ring. But this ring too was about an inch in length.

Pope Clement IV first mentioned something about this Fisherman's Ring in 1265 when he wrote to his nephew about its use. Basically its use is as a seal for papal documents, giving it the pope's "stamp" or "seal" of approval.

As I have written previously, this ring is ceremoniously destroyed at the end of the pope's reign by the cardinal camerlengo (chamberlain) at the presence of the members of the Sacred College of Cardinals. The manner in which it is destroyed is described here. The destruction of this ring symbolically ends the power that was vested on the pope.

And at the beginning of the new reign, a new ring will be made with the design chosen by the new pope.

[I have used as reference James-Charles Noonan, Jr's "The Church Visible."]

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