Vatican tells priests to stay at altar for Sign of Peace

The Vatican’s congregation for worship has ruled that priests are not to leave the altar to make the Sign of Peace with the faithful at Mass.

In a recent circular, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments listed several “abuses” of the Sign of Peace that are to be stopped.

These are:

  • the introduction of a “song of peace,” which does not exist in the Roman rite.
  • the faithful moving from their place to exchange the sign.
  • the priest leaving the altar to exchange the sign with the faithful.
  • at occasions such as holidays, weddings or funerals, people offering greetings, congratulations or condolences.

The circular was approved by Pope Francis.

Bishops’ conferences were asked to consider “changing the way in which the exchange of peace is made”.

In particular, “familiar and worldly gestures of greeting” should be substituted with “other, more appropriate gestures”.

“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,” the circular stated.

But the congregation rejected a move to shift the Sign of Peace to before the Offertory in Mass.

In a July 28 memo, Fr Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, secretary general of the Spanish bishops’ conference, said this was done out of consideration of the placement of the rite of peace as “a characteristic of the Roman rite”.

Fr Gil added it was held not to be “suitable for the faithful to introduce structural changes in the Eucharistic Celebration, at this time.”

But the congregation said, “if it is foreseen that [the Sign of Peace] will not take place properly”, it can be omitted.

At the 2005 synod of bishops on the Eucharist, the possibility of moving the rite was discussed.

There has been dialogue with the world’s bishops, in consultation with both popes, on the matter.

Benedict XVI wrote of concerns about exaggerated gestures and distractions before Communion in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum caritatis”.

Placing the Sign of Peace before the Offertory would have brought the Roman Rite in line with the Ambrosian Rite, celebrated in Milan.


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News category: World.

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