Bishop Joseph Strickland has issued a liturgical instruction to the clergy and lay faithful of the Diocese of Tyler designed to foster a better understanding of the ritual “Sign of Peace” offered during Holy Mass and to ensure that this rite is carried out in a reverent manner.
The instruction comes after discussions by the Diocesan Liturgical Commission in response to the Circular Letter on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass issued by the Holy See’s Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to the Bishops of the Church in the summer of 2014.
Bishop Strickland’s instruction reinforces the importance of this ritual, the meaning of which is to “express reverently the profound mystery we encounter in the Peace that this world cannot give,” according to the document.
The Roman Missal, the liturgical book that contains the texts and rubrics for the celebration of the Mass, describes the Sign of Peace as a time when the Church “implores peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament.”
In addition, the Diocesan instruction addresses the norms of the Sign of Peace and certain abuses of this rite which have appeared. Specifically, the instruction reminds clergy and liturgical coordinators that there is no “song for peace” played during the rite, and that priests should not leave the altar area to give the sign of peace.
The instruction further clarifies that the purpose of the rite is not to express congratulations, condolences or best wishes, and that it is not appropriate for the faithful to leave their places to exchange peace with others. It also reminds the faithful that there are many reason why someone may not wish to exchange a physical sign of peace during Mass, and that it should not be forced on anyone.