Understanding kissing custom in the church


By Leonard Akida Kamugisha

News of Pope Francis I bowing on his knees and kissed the feet of South Sudanese leaders H.E Salva Kiir, Riek Machar and the wife to late John Garanga flashed the world entirely the Catholic community, and non- catholics, an act that is being heralded as a blue print for a new era of peace in the war affected South Sudan.

Despite suffering from chronic leg pains, the 82- year old pontiff with the support of his aide un expectedly kissed the feet ( or if I am to be completely accurate, the shoes) of the once rivarly leadersbon Thursday 11th April, 2019, at the end of their 2- days retreat  in the Roman holy city Vatican.

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The Holy Father called upon the two leaders to work together in causing peace in their country. To believers, this signifies respect, peace, love. But to others, there are oceanic doubts about kissing activities in most churches today.

Pope Francis’s kissing the feet of South Sudanese Salva Kiir and Risk Machar

In this article, The Parrots features on the act of kissing – a common practice in both ancient and modern Churches. Our staff writers bring to you insights on holy kissing in the mediaeval church, religious denominations using holy kiss, literature review on the act, Biblical teaching on kissing, other forms used in churches to symbolize kissing, parts commonly kissed, believer’s and non believer’s perceptions on kissing and so much more.

Kissing in church can be understood as the sign of peace, love and respect. The “kiss of peace,” is an ancient traditional Christian greetings sometimes also called; holy kiss, brother’s kiss ( among men) or sister’s kiss ( among women).

Kissing is a powerful tool in the church that signifies a wish and blessing to the recipient. The act has certain liturgical rituals and formal uses.

Religious denominations use other forms of greeting (beside literal kisses) to serve equivalent purposes such as hand shakes, gestures and hugs as signs of peace.

The post independence born may say kissing is a newly born baby in the church world as potrayed on the internet often times, but no! It’s as old as ancient age. The custom widespread in the ancient Western Mediterranean. Here, men greeted fellow men with a kiss. It also became a custom in the ancient Judea and was christians practiced it.

According to St. Augustine (Sermon:  227), the first Christian primary source of textual and iconographic ( in art work); the saint provides clear evidence that the kiss of peace as practiced in the Christian liturgy was customarily exchanged for first several centuries.

The sumon further asserts that men the kiss was usually not a mouth to cheek, BUT, mouth- mouth ( lip- lip) kiss. The saint says that as a way of safe guarding any abuses that would result out of this, men were separated from women during liturgy. This shows how early Christians believed Christ and his followers exchanged their own kisses.

Mac Diana Sele con, a Haitian American poet and author of the ‘A memoir kindle’ has a different understanding of kissing in church. Mac Diana defines kissing in church as a same way to create awareness to an issue that is far reaching and determined in every aspect of life if not identified and addressed approximately.

There’s a lot to write about kissing in church but its important to note that most of the literature defines the act as a holy kissing symbolizing peace, love, hope and respect.

Holy kiss remains a part of the worshiping in both traditional and modern churches including Episcopal churches, that is to say; Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Church. Liturgical protestant denominations and spiritual Christians practice this custom. They refer to it as; the kiss of peace, holy kiss or pax. The Anabaptist heritage groups such as Old German Baptist Brethren and Apostolic Christians have this custom.

Kissing and the biblical teaching are synonymous. It has its deep roots in the bible both the new and old testaments. In both testaments; the practice has been used to show both bad and good sides of the coin.

The New Testament for instance refers to a head kiss, ( en philemati lagio) and kiss of love, ( end philemati agape) in Greek, transformed the character of the act beyond a greeting. Such a kiss is mentioned five times in the concluding section of letters in the New Testament. For example:
Romans 16:16, 1Cor 16:20 and 2Cor 13:12; Apostle Paul writes, “Great one another with a kiss,”
1Thessalonians 5:6; “Greet all brothers with a holy kiss,”
1Peter 5:14; ” Greet one another with a kiss of love.” The scriptures signify love, peace that Paul asked believers spread in the world.

Christ is the good master of kissing, for example; He encouraged his followers to love one another. Jn 13:34-35. This explains the instruction to greet brethrens in Christ with a holy kiss.

It should be noted that it is a ‘holy’ kiss guards it against erotic ( sexual) associations. It’s a token of love of Christ mutually shared, peace and harmony he brought into the world.

The act of kissing has for several times been misinterpreted, wrongly used both by the leaders – who either have dense understanding of the custom or do it for their personal gains and by the congregation. False gigs such as miracles, divine powers, financial breakthroughs among other posh promises have been made to congregations to extort money, cars, land, from them by self centred “prophets” pastors and other clergy men. The world is failing to differentiate between visiting witch shrines and going to the worship centres.

In St. Augustine’s paschale Carmen (can 425-50), Latin Priest – poet Sedalius condemns Juda Iscariot and his betrayal of Christ with a kiss; ” And leading that sacrilegious mob with its menacing swords and spikes you press your mouth against his and infuse your poison into his honey?” Juda wrongly used a kiss to betray Jesus.

Juda Iscariot is not the only man who has used a kiss, the custom has been wrongly not only in biblical perspective but also in human practice and interpretation.

Media and the Internet have become a centre of evil holy kissing, video and photo footages alleging clergymen performing “false” miracles have hit media platforms every now and then.

On 21st November, 2014, a photo shot during a service showed a pastor sucking / licking with his tongue the asses of naked women in his church promising them marriage miracles: ” Pastor orders women to strip and kisses their butts to attract marriage. ” The source of the the photo remains in known, though some people claimed it was a South African pastor while others say, its from Nigeria. The fact stands that the two countries are popularly known of their fake pastors/ prophets.

As if that’s not enough, on 25th May, 2017, a Nigerian television, Legit TV covered a story of Ghana’s Pr. Nana Poku alleging him for kissing a female church member in the name of healing her: ” Ghanaian Pastor kisses church member to heal her,” the news lead read.

The most recent is an online publisher ; Face to Face Africa which on 26th February, 2018, reported a South African Pastor facing charges for healing a dead man. Pr. Alpha Lukau of Alleluia International church in Sandton Johannesburg was charged with lawsuits and social media ridicules for raising the man from the dead in his room.

Zimbabwean Mboro in a coffin was
from the dead by South Africa’s Pr. Alpha Lukau
of South Africa.

“At the bewilderment of the congregation which was looking on, the man rose from the coffin gasping for breath after pastor touched his stomach while speaking in tongues, $ excerpts of the story read.

Also, Uganda’s prophet Elvis Mbonye is known of laying his feet for the congregation to kiss in order to receive miracles. Mbonye has oftenly claim that he once went to heaven saying that the heaven is a wonderful place, therefore, he could not live a miserable life on earth but rather a heavenly one.

These and more signs are performed in churches, but to many, they are termed as false acts meant to blackmail the folks as pastors accumulate wealth from the congregation.

But, didn’t such miracles happen in the ancient church? Has the world forgotten that God made miracles, healed the sick and made the impotent pregnant? Was Christ not miraculous? Any way, do these miracles still exist?

According to a catholic paper our staff writers landed on, the writer claims there is a sad confusion among the world men. The writer admits that the world has misinterpreted the holy kiss and other miracles being performed in church today. We take you through.

A Sad Confusion.

It is so very sad that nowadays any demonstration of love — and here we speak of holy love, the love that is the communication of God’s own love between His people — is often subject to suspicion, to prurient criticism, a criticism that speaks far more of what festers in the heart of the critic than what obtains between the holy love binding two people together in God. This is so sad. The sinful heart can no longer distinguish between sin and sanctity but views everything through the miasma of sin. It is blind to the possibility, let alone the reality, of a  genuine, holy, sincere, deep and authentic  love between two women, or two men, between friends, between a man and a woman, even between an adult and a child …  a love that does not implicate sex, that is not rooted in, or expressed through, the flesh. It is cognizant only of love as sensual … which is to say, it is not cognizant of love at all. There is no mutual love, only mutual gratification. We are not to scold such souls, but to pity them. It is the perception of love as a commodity traded in pounds of flesh. This is not sad. It is deeply tragic.
A  love that seeks fulfillment through chastity and purity is painfully beautiful — and it is already a foretaste of Heaven! And both are unseen by the world, cannot be comprehended by the world any more than the God Who Is Love is comprehended by the world! It truly is a deep share in the Divine Love, a pure love uncorrupted by license and sensuality.
For those who experience it, chastity is a blinding beauty, a beauty that can consume the soul totally … for it comes from God and returns to Him.

As its written in the Bible, give to Ceaser ceasers and to God what belongs to him, it is difficult for the world to tell whether or not the holy kissing customs practiced and miracles being performed are as Holly as the one the Bible teaches. What’s important is to keep the faith and walk the walk as regards your religious teaching. 


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