Pope Bows to Pay Respect to Israeli President’s Ultra-Orthodox Bureau Chief
Pope Francis has become something of a media darling since entering the Vatican in 2013, and now the pontiff has drawn the attention of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, after bowing to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s bureau chief.
Various Orthodox blogs released an image of the papal bow on Sunday, from Rivlin’s trip to Rome last week. According to the reports, when it came time for Rivlin’s trusted assistant, Rivkah Ravitz, to meet the Pope, she declined the traditional handshake, explaining that for religious reasons (adhering to strict codes according to which men and women who are not married to each other may not touch), she would not be able to reciprocate.
Nor, she said, could she bow to the pontiff, because he was adorned with a cross.
Pope Francis immediately recognized the situation and, diffusing all awkwardness with deft extemporization, covered his cross and bowed to Ravitz instead.
Ravitz is Rivlin’s longtime assistant, having served as his executive assistant while he was a Knesset lawmaker, and then as his bureau chief when he was Knesset speaker. She became the first ultra-Orthodox bureau chief at the President’s Residence, when Rivlin assumed the office last year.
While in Rome, Rivlin also met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and other Italian officials.