Pope resisted ring-kissing for fear of germs
The incident was captured Monday during a visit to the Italian hill town of Loreto where the 82-year-old greeted dozens of parishioners.
While some simply bowed their head and shook his hand, others leaned forward to kiss his ring.
The smiling pope can be seen pulling back his hand repeatedly.
"The pope told me the reason he did not allow people to kiss his ring was because of hygiene... to avoid contagion when there are long queues of people," Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Thursday.
"Personally, he likes to embrace people."
The video was shared online and had gained more than 11 million views on the Twitter social media platform by Thursday afternoon.
The scene in Loreto drew criticism from conservative Catholic observers who also frequently attack the pope over what they consider his too liberal approach to social issues.
However, it has since emerged that the video was only a short version of a longer clip, which shows the pontiff patiently letting people kiss his ring at first before the queues grew longer.
Nonetheless, the incident has sparked a public debate over decorum during a papal meet and greet.
The Vatican advises worshippers not to bend the knee in front of Francis who is said not to appreciate the practice.
Register to advertise your products & services on our classifieds website Digger.co.ke and enjoy one month subscription free of charge and 3 free ads on the Standard newspaper.