Friday, August 1, 2014

BOMBSHELL! POPE FRANCIS APPROVES OF THE ELIMINATION OF LITURGICAL ABUSES AT THE OPTIONAL SIGN OF PEACE AT MASS

Pray Tell and other blogs are reporting on a copy of the newly issued (July 12th) Circular Letter on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass. After the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in 2005, the question was raised about whether the sign of peace should be maintained “in its present form” and location. Pope Benedict at the time requested that the “pertinent Congregations” study the question. The Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments studied the question and consulted Episcopal Conferences from around the world. According to Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera in his introduction to the Circular Letter, the results of the consultation were as follows:
A great majority of them [Episcopal Conferences] pronounced favorably in maintaining the “rite” and the “sign” of peace in its present form and time, as it is presently found in the Ordinary of the Mass, considering it as a characteristic of the Roman rite and therefore not convenient for the faithful, at this time, to introduce structural changes during the Eucharistic celebration.
After consultations with “both Supreme Pontiffs, Benedict XVI and Francis” a Circular Letter was issued. According to Cardinal Cañizares, it is hoped that this Circular Letter
will become an opportunity for all the Episcopal Conferences to reflect on this question and to present and study the proposed adaptations for the “sign of peace” in respect of the different cultures and sensibilities of the different peoples around the world.
The Circular Letter makes it clear what this means:
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.
The following section discusses liturgical abuses to be avoided. The Circular Letter mentions four specifically:
- The introduction of a “song for peace”, which is non-existent in the Roman Rite.
- The movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace amongst themselves.
- The departure of the priest form 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.

My comments: At our school Masses I catechize our children about purpose of the Sign of Peace, that it is a symbol (meaning not a literal time to glad hand people) of the Peace that is present when the Kingdom of God is fully established at the Second Coming and the Resurrection of the Body. It is eschatological (although I don't use that word with little children). The Mass is a foretaste of the Peace of Christ when all are gathered around Christ's throne in heaven.

Then I ask the children to turn to one person and quietly say "peace be with you." This captures the purpose of this symbol. Usually children at school Masses turn the Sign of Peace into an uproar and a distraction, but not when I remind them what to do.

A similar catechesis could be undertaken with the laity at normal Sunday Masses.

The other point of the circular letter is that the Sign of Peace is optional. And certainly the laity need not, even if invited to do so, extend or receive any Sign of Peace they find offensive, especially a stranger trying to hug or kiss you literally.

The writer of the Praytell blog which reported the circular letter is in disbelief that Pope Francis would allow this letter to be published. But yes, the letter's release is from Pope Francis approval.

As I mentioned before, Pope Francis hides his personality during Mass and become very ad orientem even when celebrating the Mass facing the congregation. He doesn't like antics or abuse during Mass and applause for him as pope has ceased during his Masses. For example even during Pope Benedict's time, there was all kind of applause as the pope entered for Mass at St. Peter's and Pope Benedict would gesture and acknowledge those doing so thus encouraging it. Pope Francis is self-enclosed as he enters for Mass and the applause has ceased!

So I suspect we will see more from Pope Francis as he strives to clean up liturgical abuses. I think we will also see in the future a revised Roman Missal allowing what the Anglican Use Mass has recently incorporated in its liturgical options in the appendix: The restoration of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Offertory Prayers of the EF Mass and the Last Gospel as well as revised rubrics for the Roman Canon similar to the EF's rubrics. These options were approved by Pope Francis too!

21 comments:

JBS said...

It's striking how careful they are not to make even small changes too quickly, lest they disturb the liturgical sensibilities of faithful. What an improvement from 40+ years ago.

Wipo of Mainz said...

In the Roman Rite, and only in the Solemn Mass, the celebrant kisses the altar and gives the stylized Kiss of Peace (which does not involve any osculation) to the deacon and subdeacon. It is then passed on. The 'holy handshake' of the Novus Ordo is an innovation and an irritating one. Apart from anything else, shaking hands is not a liturgical gesture.

No bombshells here, I am afraid. The priest or deacon leaving the altar to glad-hand the congregation was reprobated years ago. And the idea that National Episcopal Conferences will pay any attention to dicasterial pronouncements is laughable.

Who am I to judge?! said...

I always look forward to the sign of peace, as it's the one part of the Mass where it doesn't matter if my daughters (one is two, the other is six months) start crying or making a noise. It really is hard work keeping them quiet the rest of the time, particularly if the Eucharistic Prayer is being chanted, as Lucy likes singing and sometimes tries to join in!

Joe Potillor said...

The USCCB ending Liturgical Abuses, LOL! there are still parishes that allow EMHC's to purify the vessels when that indult was revoked by Pope Benedict XVI

Cameron said...

I will admit that Francis is an exemplar of liturgical sobriety, yes.

rcg said...

Wipo, it *IS* a big deal in North America. Not because it was technically wrong, but because it was not enforced and people have been taught, just like the 'right' to have Communion in both Species, that it is part of Mass. Think of it like a stretch of pastoral road where the limit is 30 mph and everyone has been driving 70. The Governor says stop that and enforce the law. Get a lawn chair and a cold one and enjoy the lights and wailing.

Henry said...

The traditional rite of peace consists of passing on the peace of Christ--from Christ Himself on the altar via the celebrant to the other ministers, and then (in some versions) from the ministers on to the people.

It was never an exchange of best wishes and human good will, nor even of peace and reconciliation, back and forth be individuals. For instance in the Maronite rite, each person who receives the "pax" turns and passes it on to the next person in the pew. There is never any reciprocation or "back and forth".

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Henry in the 1970's I attended on Sundays as a lay person the downtown parish in Augusta, Most Holy Trinity, that I eventually pastored from 1991 to 2004. In the 70's the celebrant offered the sign of peace to the altar boys who then went down the aisle offering it to the first person on the end of each pew who then sent it down that pew. No one went back and forth, it was simply passed.

I had never seen this anywhere but there but it sounds like the description of the Maronite Rite's version which I think isn't bad at all.

George said...

There is a certain awkwardness to the way the "sign of peace" is practiced. You worry that you might have offended someone two pews in front or back by not looking over and gesturing in their direction.

Katalina said...

Just because the Pope Emeritus made a hand gesture to those applauding him does NOT mean he was encouraging it, FYI. He said time and again that applause during Mass was not appropriate. Did you ever read Spirit of the Liturgy? Please stop making Francis look good at Benedict's expense. At least Benedict did not confuse people all the time.

rcg said...

I have a problem with it as it is practiced. It feels like recess and the bored students get to stretch and talk out loud.

Joe Potillor said...

Katalina, I agree, the one thing about Pope Benedict XVI is that he had a servant's heart, often he resigned himself to the situation at hand, even if he personally was displeased by the various things that happened around him (note: Austria, DC)...

Me said...

Richard Stilgoe and Peter Skellern's video on "The Sign of Peace".

Gene said...

Does this mean that couples will stop French kissing and patting each other on the butt during Mass?

Joseph Johnson said...

The one thing that I don't like about having the altar servers leave the sanctuary and give the sign of peace in the nave is that they will still insist that you shake their hands (they are still walking down the side aisles extending their hands) when the Agnus Dei has already commenced. By that time (which is short) I want to focus again on the altar and strike my breast for each "have mercy on us/grant us peace" (as is the custom for many in the EF). Am I wrong?

Gene said...

Do you know that the National Catholic Reporter has listed ten things the Pope said will increase your joy in life? Did you know that not once, not in one of his tips, did the Pope mention God? And, we wonder why liturgical abuse continues. And, do you really think these tepid, vague suggestions regarding liturgical abuse are going to make one smidgen of difference?

Pater Ignotus said...

Every one of the Ten Things Pope Francis proposed are based on God's teaching.

Work for peace. Consumerism brings anxiety. Sunday is for family. etc

Only the most self-centered cynic cannot see God in these and the other seven tips for happiness.

I am happy to note that Pope Francis did not suggest that dresses on women and suits on men in church are necessary for happiness.

Gene said...

That isn't the point, Ignotus and, as usual, you know it.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Yes, it is the point. Every one of Pope Francis' points is theologically sound and God centered. Your beef is that he does not ask your permission or seek your counsel before saying what he has to say.

Your beef is that you have discovered that the Church you joined is not made in your image.

Anonymous said...

It is HARDLY a bombshell announcement -- more of a reminder than anything. These type of over hyping headlines are really not necessary.

Gene said...

Ignotus, wrong again! You are nearly 100%.