Excerpts from the Letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments regarding the Sign of Peace.
From the offices of the Congregation, Rome, 8 June, 2014.
In the Roman liturgical tradition, the exchange of peace is placed before Holy Communion with its own specific theological significance. Its point of reference is found in the Eucharistic contemplation of the Paschal mystery as the “Paschal kiss” of the Risen Christ present on the altar, and not, as some suggest, an action inspired by the Gospel passage from St. Matthew 5: 23
The rites which prepare for Communion constitute a well expressed unity in which each ritual element has its own significance and which contributes to the overall ritual sequence of sacramental participation in the Paschal Mystery being celebrated.
Consideration of this theme is important. Along with previous reflections that form the basis for a suitable catechesis by providing some guidelines, some practical suggestions are offered to the Conferences of Bishops for their prudent consideration:
a) It should be made clear once and for all that the rite of peace already has its own profound meaning of prayer and offering of peace in the context of the Eucharist. It is entirely correct to say that this does not necessarily involve inviting the faithful to exchange the sign of peace “mechanically”. If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly due to specific circumstances or if it is not considered pedagogically wise to carry it out on certain occasions, it can be omitted, and sometimes ought to be omitted. Recall that the rubric in the Missal states: “Then, if appropriate, the Deacon or the Priest, adds: “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”
On the basis of these observations, it may be advisable that Conferences of Bishops should consider whether it might not be fitting to change the manner of giving peace. For example, in those places where familiar and profane gestures of greeting have been used (e.g. a handshake or less appropriate, a wave) , they could be replaced with other more appropriate gestures.
In any case, it will be necessary to avoid abuses such as:
-the introduction of a “song for peace”, which is non-existent in the Roman Rite.
-the movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace amongst themselves.
-the departure of the priest from the altar in order to give the sign of peace to some of the faithful.
-that in certain circumstances, such as at the Solemnity of Easter or of Christmas, or during ritual celebrations such as Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, Sacred Ordinations, Religious Professions, and Funerals, the exchange of peace being the occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences among those present.
Conferences of Bishops are likewise invited to prepare liturgical catecheses on the meaning of the rite of peace in the Roman liturgy and its proper realization in the celebration of the Holy Mass.
The Holy Father Pope Francis, on 7 June, 2014 approved and confirmed the contents of which is contained in this Circular Letter, prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and ordered its publication.
Antonio Card. CANIZARES LLOVERA Prefect