Vatican: avoid ‘excesses’ in Sign of Peace during Mass
Catholic World News – August 01, 2014
The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship has asked the world’s bishops to “moderate excesses” in the Sign of Peace exchanged during Mass.
The Vatican said that some widespread practices—such as lengthy interludes in which the priest leaves the altar and/or the faithful leave their pews; the introduction of a “song of peace;” and the exchange of congratulations or condolences on special occasions—are inappropriate during the Eucharistic liturgy. These practices, the Vatican’s liturgical office said, create confusion in the liturgical assembly just prior to Communion.”
The Vatican instruction was contained in a letter to the world’s episcopal conferences, signed on June 8 by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, the congregation’s secretary. The content of the letter became public on July 31.
The Vatican document said that after some discussion, which began at the 2005 meeting of the Synod of Bishops, the decision was reached to retain the sign of peace in its current place during the Mass. But the document called upon bishops to instruct the faithful in the proper understanding of the rite, saying:
If the faithful do not understand and do not show, in their ritual gestures, the true significance of the rite of peace, they are weakened in the Christian concept of peace, and their fruitful participation in the Eucharist is negatively affected.
Following the 2005 Synod meeting, which was dedicated to discussion of the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis that the bishops had discussed the Sign of Peace, and “the appropriateness of greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly just before the reception of Communion.” The new note from the Congregation for Divine Worship follows up on on that discussion.
The Congregation reminded bishops that the exchange of peace is optional, and at times may be inappropriate; it should not be carried out “mechanistically.” The document recommended that national bishops’ conferences consider different ways of making the Sign of Peace, to avoid “familiar or worldly gestures of greeting.”