Pope urges toning down of peace among congregations

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, led by Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, has sent a letter to the bishops around the world expressing concern about what it considers to be a form of abuse. Turning the sign of peace into a song of peace, the priest leaving the altar during the interlude, and the use of the ritual to offer congratulations at weddings or condolences at funerals is among those abuses, the letter claimed.

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

“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,” Ruff said in a recent posting.

“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,” Thomas Reese stated in his criticism of the letter

Two years later, the document “Sacramentum Caritatis,” written by former Pope Benedict XVI, stressed the need for simplicity and sobriety in the mass rite. The issue was first raised back in 2005 during a synod on the Eucharist.

He wrote in that document that “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.”