Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina became the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday, taking the name Francis I. The 76-year-old Pope Francis appeared on the central balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica and waved to the throngs below. “Pray for me,” said the new pontiff.
Although Pope Francis wore a gold ring on the ring finger of his right hand, missing from the third finger of the same hand was the Fisherman’s Ring — also known as the Piscatory Ring. Each new pope gets a new ring, so the traditional papal insignia is currently being customized and crafted from 35 grams of pure gold. It will be presented during his inaugural mass on March 19.
The image carved into the ring has evolved throughout history, but the modern image depicts St. Peter, who was a fisherman, and carries the inscription of the pope’s official title in Latin. The elliptical shape of the ring represents the piazza in front of St Peter’s Basilica. Until 1842, the Fisherman’s Ring was used to seal official documents signed by the Pope.
The Fisherman’s Ring worn by Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned last month, was “scratched” and retired. The ring had been kissed by thousands of the Pope’s devotees during his eight years of service — from heads of state and priests to common people from every walk of life.
Rumors abounded that Benedict’s ring would be smashed by a silver hammer, which was the ancient tradition, but those rumors proved false. Instead, it was defaced with two deep cuts in the design so that it can no longer be used as a seal.
In 2000, Pope John Paul II reinstated the tradition of having the pope wear the Fisherman’s Ring. According to aleteia.org, although Pope John Paul II embraced the return of the Fisherman’s Ring, he didn’t wear one himself. He preferred his personal ring, which had been given to him by Pope Paul VI in 1967.
The Vatican announced that the new pope’s ring would be the same as the previous one — except for the name change.