CNS.com is reporting that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has instructed Latin-rite bishops around the world to keep the sign of peace where it is in the Mass.
However, the congregation said, “if it is foreseen that it will not take place properly,” it can be omitted, CNS reports.
“But when it is used, it must be done with dignity and awareness that it is not a liturgical form of ‘good morning,’ but a witness to the Christian belief that true peace is a gift of Christ’s death and resurrection.”
In 2005, members of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist formally questioned whether the current placement of the sign of peace – after the consecration – was disruptive, and suggested that it might be moved to a place at the end of the Prayer of the Faithful or before offering the gifts.
“Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, current prefect of the congregation, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, the congregation’s current secretary, said Pope Benedict XVI had asked the congregation to study the matter and, after doing so, in 2008 it asked bishops’ conferences around the world whether to keep the sign of peace where it is or move it to another moment ‘with a view to improving the understanding and carrying out of this gesture’,” CNS reports.
After further reflection on the issue, “it was considered appropriate to retain the rite of peace in its traditional place in the Roman liturgy and not to introduce structural changes in the Roman Missal,” the letter said.
However, the congregation’s letter specifically cautioned against certain “abuses” of the sign of peace, such as allowing the faithful to leave their pews to exchange the sign among themselves, or for priests to leave the altar to do so. The sign should also not be used on holidays such as Christmas, Easter, or during weddings or funerals to express holiday greetings, congratulations or condolences.
“Christ is our peace, the divine peace, announced by the prophets and by the angels, and which he brought to the world by means of his paschal mystery,” the letter said. “This peace of the risen Lord is invoked, preached and spread in the celebration (of Mass), even by means of a human gesture lifted up to the realm of the sacred.”
Other Catholic rites express a sign of peace before the offering of gifts, but the Latin rite places it after the consecration because it refers to “the ‘paschal kiss’ of the risen Christ present on the altar.”
The congregations letter was approved by Pope Francis and posted in Spanish on the website of the bishop’s conference. On August 1, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed its authenticity.
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