VATICAN CITY, Mar 18 – Pope Francis has eschewed tradition and chosen a silver Fisherman’s Ring rather than a gold one – and one designed decades ago rather than created specifically for him, the Vatican said on Monday.
The gold-plated silver ring, one of the papal symbols that the new pope will receive during the inauguration mass on Tuesday, is modelled on a ring designed by Italian sculptor Enrico Manfrini, who died in 2004, for Paul VI.
“The ring is designed by Manfrini, who created several religious works and it was presented to the pope by the master of ceremonies who had received the model from one of Paul VI’s secretaries,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.
Nicknamed “the popes’ sculptor”, Manfrini designed religious objects for several pontiffs, including Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul II.
The simple ring, customarily worn on the pontiff’s right hand, depicts a bearded and haloed St Peter holding a pair of keys – an emblem of the papacy which captures the moment Peter was given the keys to heaven.
It was chosen by Francis out of three ring models presented to him, Lombardi said.
“I don’t know if the ring was used by Paul VI. The design stems from that period but it is not physically the same ring. The original ring was melted down but this a ring based on the same design,” he added.
The Fisherman’s Ring originally served as both a symbol of the papacy and a seal, but these days the pope has a separate seal with which to mark documents.
There had been a lot of speculation over what sort of ring Francis would choose, following his decision to reject the papal gold cross necklace for his own simpler one at his first appearance after his election.
“It is not the first time that a pope has chosen to have a ring made of silver,” Claudio Franchi, the Roman goldsmith who crafted the elaborate ring worn by Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI, told AFP.
“It is quite unusual, however, to use a ring which already exists or has been made based on a design which already exists,” he said.
The Vatican also unveiled the coat of arms and motto Francis will use – which remain the same as those he used as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The coat of arms shows three symbols on a blue background: at the top, a sun with the letters IHS in the middle – the logo of the Jesuit Society – and underneath a five-point star and a lily, symbolising the Virgin Mary and St Joseph.
The Latin motto beneath the crest is “miserando atque eligendo” – which refers to a Bible passage showing Jesus Christ’s “mercy” in choosing Matthew, a tax collector, to be one of his disciples.
“The motto recalls Pope Francis’s personal vocation and he wanted to keep it,” Lombardi said.