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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. What can you tell me about the Papal ring that makes it so unique?

A. 1. The Papal ring is called "The Ring of the Fisherman." It is also known as the Piscatory Ring, Annulus Piscatoris (in Latin) and the Anello Piscatorio (in Italian). The Papal ring is an official part of the regalia worn by the Pope, who is head of the Catholic Church and successor of Saint Peter, who was a fisherman by trade.

A new ring is cast in gold for each Pope. Pope Benedict XVI's ring was designed by the Rome Association of Goldsmiths.

Around the relief image is the reigning Pope's Latin name in raised lettering. During the ceremony of a Papal coronation or Papal inauguration, the Dean of the College of Cardinals slips the ring on the third finger of the new Pope's right hand.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the earliest mention of the fisherman's ring worn by popes is in a letter that Pope Clement IV wrote in 1265 to his nephew, stating that popes were to seal their private letters with "the seal of the fisherman."

Upon the death of the pope, the ring is ceremonially destroyed using a papal silver hammer in the presence of other Cardinals by the Camerlengo, in order to prevent the sealing of backdated, forged documents during the interregnum, or sede vacante. In regards to Pope Benedict XVI's ring, it is said that it was not smashed or destroyed completely. Instead, two deep cuts were made in its face so that it could no longer be used as a seal.

When visiting the Pope, many Catholics show their respect to his divinely appointed authority by kneeling and kissing his ring. This tradition has been going on for centuries.

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