Circular Letter on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass
by Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
CDW Letter Regarding the Sign of Peace 2014 Description: In a circular letter to the world’s bishops approved by Pope Francis on June 7, 2014, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) issued the protocol for the ritual expression of the exchange of peace at Mass. The circular letter was sent to conference presidents on July 12, 2014. The circular letter makes explicit the meaning of this sign, and that the exchange of this sign of peace will remain between the Lord’s Prayer and the Lamb of God, and will not be moved to an earlier part of the Mass. Vatican, July 12, 2014
Some practical guidelines are offered below to better explain the content of the exchange of peace and to moderate excessive expressions that give rise to disarray in the liturgical assembly before Communion.
6. Consideration of this theme is important. If the faithful through their ritual gestures do not appreciate and do not show themselves to be living the authentic meaning of the rite of peace, the Christian concept of peace is weakened and their fruitful participation at the Eucharist is impaired. Therefore, along with the previous reflections that could 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. An exchange of peace appropriately carried out among the participants at Mass enriches the meaning of the rite itself and gives fuller expression to it. It is entirely correct, therefore, to say that this does not 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. It is worth recalling that the rubric from the Missal states: “Then, if appropriate, the Deacon or the Priest, adds: “Let us offer each other the sign of peace” (emphasis added).
8 b) On the basis of these observations, it may be advisable that, on the occasion of the publication of the translation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal in their own country, or when new editions of the same Missal are undertaken in the future, Conferences of Bishops should consider whether it might not be fitting to change the manner of giving peace which had been established earlier. For example, following these years of experience, in those places where familiar and profane gestures of greeting were previously chosen, they could be replaced with other more appropriate gestures.
c) In any case, it will be necessary, at the time of the exchange of peace, to definitively avoid abuses such as:
• the introduction of a “song for peace”, which is non-existent in the Roman Rite.9
• 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.10
d) 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. In this regard, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments attaches to this Circular Letter, some helpful guidelines.