VATICAN CITY (RNS) In an effort to insure a more sober ritual, the Vatican has urged bishops to clamp down on singing, moving around and other casual expressions of affection when the sign of peace is exchanged during Mass.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments led by Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, has sent a letter to bishops around the world expressing concern about what it considers to be ritual abuses.

The sign of peace is exchanged at a Mass celebrated at Holywell, Wales, on July 6, 2014.

The sign of peace is exchanged at a Mass celebrated at Holywell, Wales, on July 6, 2014. Creative Commons image by Joseph Shaw

Among them, he said, were turning the sign of peace into a “song of peace,” the priest leaving the altar during the interlude, or use of the ritual to offer congratulations at weddings or condolences at funerals.

Pope Francis reportedly approved the letter, which confirmed the importance of the rite, before it was distributed to bishops’ conferences.

The Rev. Anthony Ruff, a theology professor at St. John’s School of Theology-Seminary in Minnesota and editor of the blog Pray Tell, believes the Vatican letter will have little impact on Catholics.

“I suspect such local practices will continue and the Vatican letter won’t change much, since most people don’t find it irreverent to reach out in friendliness even if it’s beyond what the rules allow,” said Ruff.

Vatican expert Thomas Reese, criticized the letter.

“It ignores the most ancient tradition where the kiss of peace occurred at the end of the liturgy of the word,” Reese, a commentator for National Catholic Reporter, told Religion News Service. “I pity the poor priest who has to tell his congregation not to smile during the kiss of peace.”

In the letter, Cardinal Canizares Llovera and the congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche, said the issue was raised during a synod on the Eucharist in 2005.

Two years later in an exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis,” former Pope Benedict XVI stressed the need for simplicity and sobriety.

He wrote: “Nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety which preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example, when it is restricted to one’s immediate neighbors.”

YS/AMB END MCKENNA

22 Comments

  1. BIG SURPRISE Ruff and Reese come out against ANYTHING that criticizes their absurd generation that has decimated the Church.

    Fr. Reese, I recommend rereading the Fathers of the Church. The Sign of Peace or Kiss of Peace was always a very reverent and sober affair, and not abusive expression we see in many parishes today that resembles a hootenanny. The Patristic Era was very aware of the power of the Eucharistic Sacrifice as well as its implications. I can recommend some books, Father dear, should you wish to read, before shooting your mouth off, as is your custom.

    • Why give the Kiss of Peace. There is no peace when the bishops live in multi-million dollar homes while being no shows at the parishes. http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/08/us/american-archbishops-lavish-homes/?hpt=hp_t1

    • Since when must everything be distorted with sobriety just because it is part of a religious ritual? Evolution must influence even those practices. People change. Cultures change. It would be madness to presume that people today respond the same way they did 2,000 years ago. Besides, why should the part of the people in the pews be nothing but the source of automatic responses to automatic acts and declarations of the clergy in the sanctuary? What’s human about that?

      It is madness to presume that religious ritual should be without natural expressions of human thought and feeling. It is inhumane to think that which is perfectly human, perfectly good, should be smothered when it becomes part of religious ritual.

      Are we going from the extreme of participating in a noisy, meaningless, Latin liturgy, where people only filled the pews and dumped their money in the baskets to one in which they act like tin soldiers, wound up with a key, and awkwardly bumping about in response to bells and vernacular noises from the holy of holies?

      This Vatican edict is one more example of a false church attempting to force people to act falsely. That has been the historic problem with liturgy. Some pedophile pastors returned to the ancient pretense of ordaining “boy bishops.” They loved the part where it came of “laying on their hands.” And let’s not forget that medieval practice of Masses of the Asses when priests actually brayed “Ite missa est” at the congregation and the dummies in the pews brayed back! It really happened.

      Above all, people in their local parishes and diocese are fully competent to determine that forms of their liturgies and other religious practices. That includes the people in the pews. After all, the liturgy is for them. It should be their expression.

  2. Notice the picture selected by the editor is one of an old pre-Vatican II mass. Obviously it will take some time for old fuddy-duddies to regain their dry, sober, misogenistic ways. Let them try. In the meantime, Society of St. Pius X anyone? We are still looking for a few good stubborn, far from Christian, men only. Still proselytizing…

  3. Oh, please …. tell the parishioners not to smile at each other during the sign of peace?! No one said that! All this is asking for is some respect and decorum (and no, that’s not a word having to do with decorating one’s home) during the SACRIFICE OF THE MASS. I applaud this letter (but not in church, that’s another abuse common in modern masses), but as indicated in the article, unlikely changes will be seen in the parish churches as the majority running the “show” there are still entrenched in the kumbayah feel good hoo haw of the 1960’s and 70’s! But as time passes, we may see a return to the reverence and sobriety …and hopefully this will be facilitated by a return to the traditional mass.

  4. The so-called “Vatican Expert” Thomas Reese quoted in this article makes an argument that falls apart on his misinterpretation of one word:
    http://magnaliadei.blogspot.com/2014/08/why-vatican-is-right-about-kiss-of-peace.html

  5. To many Clergy will take advantage of this by reducing any type of singing the majority of clergy don’t like singing to begin with and now they will react in a negative way in their parish. What happened to that teaching that signing to GOD in prayer is more effective that silence? I pray that some sound judgment is used as this process begins to be put in place. Personally, there are many more serious issue’s that need to be addressed by the Pope and bishops. Stop and think about those

  6. The sign of peace is just a fancy handshake for a self- selected social club.

    It is also the one thing everyone can mostly agree on
    since every other moment in church is filled with idiotic claims
    that leave the people in the pews wondering what they don’t know
    about their bibles that will burn them later:

    “bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and EXECUTE THEM IN FRONT OF ME.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

  7. We Episcopalians, of course, always keep a close eye on what is happening in Rome. The rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer (1979) provide that, after the verbal exchange between the priest and people, “the People may greet one another in the name of the Lord.” It has been said that three distinct types of people can be seen in many Episcopal parishes: those who leave their pews and enthusiastically greet all around, those who politely turn to their neighbor and offer a brief greeting or handshake, and those who stand straight, look at the altar, and think of England. I wish more in my new parish were of the latter two, but these things take time, education, example, and maybe a change in the culture of the parish. They will not be accomplished, at least not without much wailing and gnashing of teeth, by fiat from above.

  8. Oh Please, let’s lighten up people! If they succeed in shutting off touching in the congregation, smiling, giving someone a hug, an embrace, then what will be next:
    a return to not holding the eucharist in the hand, not letting the host touch the teeth, fasting for 12 hours prior to receiving, kneeling to receive! The list can go on and on. Jesus gave us the command “to Love one another”, but didn’t suggest that we love each other with some heavy, sober, non-joyful salutation of ” Sir, peace unto you”. This type of approach will only draw more Catholics away to more energizing, pentecostal style of ministry, which I would feel very saddened by more departures from our Catholic community! A Catholic church that I have embraced as a child, a seminarian, a husband, a father and as a teacher for my first 65 years.

  9. I think that the Exchange of Peace has its roots in Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.…”

    If the Peace were really exchanged between people who need to reconcile, and not a display of just-us bonhomie, the Church would be a lot better off.

  10. To BCF: I think the Episcopal peace has largely become “those who leave their pews and enthusiastically greet all around” in most of the parishes I have served. But it has gone even further for many of our nave roamers, making it seem like half time at a football game, or the seventh inning stretch in baseball. There is lots of chatter and a little business and post service scheduling done as well. My preference is to greet those in my immediate vicinity, and then sit down until everyone else gets tired of walking around. BTW, I never think of England at any time that I am worshiping God.

    To me the Peace occurring just before the Offertory has become a pleasant interlude in the Eucharist, reinforcing congregational friendliness, but not doing much in the reconciliation of sinners department.

  11. This move saddens me very much as a Priest. I understand the need for
    sobriety and seriousness…but my experience in many Roman Catholic Churches is that they are moving away from any human contact and interractions. The masses are more and more Ritualistic..void of any human emotion and the preaching is dry and speaks very little to every day experience. If this is the trend…and if it continues….more and more churches will be closing in the future….Christ was made “Human” to share out humanity..our love..our affectoin…this is the Christ we share together in church.

    • @Fr. Vincent,

      “… to share our humanity..our love..our affection…this is the _______ we share together _______ .”

      We don’t need to fill those blanks with ‘Christ’ or ‘Jesus’.
      And the world would be better if we didn’t.

  12. I don’t think Jesus was concerned with sobriety in showing love to neighbors, which he certainly did not define as those close to you. If the Church has nothing better to do than criticize friendliness, it should close up shop.

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