04 April 2019, The Tablet

Word from the Cloisters: In the bishop’s back pocket

Word from the Cloisters: In the bishop’s back pocket

THE disconcerting images of an exhausted-looking Pope Francis snatching his hand away from the lips of the faithful bowing to kiss his ring caused a predictable stir. The nearest I’ve ever got to serious kowtowing was when I was lined up to be introduced to the Obong of Calabar, a former dentist who had risen to become one of Nigeria’s traditional rulers. By the time I’d got to the head of the queue, several flunkies had instructed me in the right protocol, and after I gave a little bow, the Obong and I shook hands like old friends. If someone had been whispering the correct drill in the ears of those waiting to meet the Holy Father in Loreto last week, he wouldn’t have been left marooned between humility and rudeness.

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