Why no Sign of Peace?

My (conservative) parish only does the exchange of the Sign of Peace on special occasions, such as Easter, Christmas, and our patronal feast. Even then, I know some parishioners would prefer that it never be done at all, as is the case at Mother Angelica’s Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament and EWTN.

What is their reasoning behind not having the Sign of Peace? I know it’s not a required rubric, but I’m very curious to know why the opposition toward it in conservative circles.

I agree that the Sign of Peace is way overdone in many parishes, such that it has basically become an all-out exchange of greetings. But I have a feeling the reason for not having it at my parish and EWTN goes beyond that. I get the impression that it’s somewhat related to celebrating Mass ad orientem; I mean, the same people who really want ad orientem seem not to want the Sign of Peace.

The closest I’ve come to the real reason is that it’s misplaced; in other words, some think it would be better at the beginning of Mass. Regardless, is there another reason?

If you don’t mind, I’m looking for intelligent answers, not off-the-top-your-head guesses. :slight_smile:



In the Tridentine Latin Solemn High Mass, after the Agnus Dei, the celebrant would silently pray:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Who said to His Apostles, ‘My peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you’: look not on our sins, but on the faith of Your Church, and deign to grant us peace and unity according to Your will. Who lives and reigns, world without end. Amen.”

Then the celebrant would kiss the altar, turn to the deacon, extend both arms and say, “Pax tecum”; to which the deacon would respond, “Et cum spiritu tuo”. The deacon, in turn, would offer this “kiss of peace” to the subdeacon. There was no extension of this to anyone else in the sanctuary or to the congregation.

At a solemn Requiem Mass, the endings to the threefold Agnus Dei were changed to:

“Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternum.”

The above prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, etc.” was omitted, and so was the “kiss of peace”.

In the Novus Ordo, the reason, as I understood it, for some of the opposition is pretty much the same as that used for the holding of hands during the Our Father; namely, it expresses a unity for which there is little need, since

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

Thus, for us Catholics, the true unity is in the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, not in a shaking of the hands with our fellow worshippers.


Do a simple search and you can find lots of people discussing their dislike of it. Personally, I find there no distraction in it, and I like it. Most people don’t actually give a good reason for not approving of it, the most valid is that people take it too far and make it distracting. There are rules about moving around and being somber about it and as long as those two things are done it’s quick and painless. I found this post while doing a search that was kind of interesting- 'The Sign of Peace in our sacred liturgy’. I wonder if I don’t mind because before I was Catholic I was a Methodist who had a very weak liturgy.

My understanding of the Kiss of Peace is that it is symbolic of our making peace with those who have something against us. Jesus commands us to make peace before offering our gifts at the altar. If people were taught this, I believe more conservative Catholics would favor the Kiss of Peace.

I can buy that, I like that a lot.

I don’t think the more conservative of us are against the Kiss of Peace, as a polite exchange of handshakes or “passing the Peace” among us with a verbal “Peace to you” among the people in their immediate (on either side, directly in front, directly in back, maybe family members in the slightly less immediate vicinity during a special Mass ).

The objections comes from congregants who go into wild abandon of long handshakes; full introductions, possibly verbal resumes, of one’s self and family; hugs and full smoochies for people barely known, if at all; priests who come down off the altar and have to “high five” all the way down the outside of one aisle, then come back up to “high five” the other side, hugging parishioners known to them along the way; congregational nomads, who wander around the church shaking hands and hugging; musicians who keep this going with 6 verses of “Lamb of God” not with the correct words, but with improvisations, as if this is THE HIGH POINT of the Mass.

It’s because it takes a simple, short part of the Mass, and makes it into a long-winded action resembling a sports event, such as a touchdown, goal, or more likely, a gland-slam homer. I’m hardly considered conservative on this board (but I know I hold a little 'mudgie status), and [size=5]I think what I’ve described as detrimental is simply wrong, no matter how much fun it is, and how good it feels.[/size]

in the first place it was always optional, not mandatory

it has been frequently abused, erupting into an extended orgy of “community building” and good fellowship that disrupts the Mass and draws focus away from Christ on the altar, whom we are about to receive, who is the source of our community and fellowship. It implies that it is our actions alone that form community, rather than the action of Christ.

It is redundant, in that the prayers of this part of the Mass express the reality the gesture is meant to convey.

It distorts the liturgical meaning of the kiss of peace, described above.

It has come to serve as a signal for “all those not receiving communion may leave now–save me a place at Denny’s”. What is intended as a gesture expressing among other things fraternal charity, it offends against Christian charity by intruding upon those who wish to focus on Christ in these moments before and after communion, in order that they may better recognize him in their fellow man after Mass (as the dismissal commands).

In cold and flu season it is imprudent to shake hands with a lot of people, particularly those who are stuffing a recently used kleenex into their pockets just before this ritual begins.

I am sure I can come up with many more if you wait until I finish my coffee.

I was at the Maronite Shrine a while back and the Our Father and sign of peace were closer to the beginning of Mass, I believe after the penitential rite, which strikes me as being much more “liturgically correct” and much richer in conveying the actual meaning of both.

The kiss of Peace is ALWAYS performed.

The priest says to the congregation “The peace be with you”

And the faithful respond “And also with you”

Everyone offers and recieves the Peace of Christ.

My understanding of the Kiss of Peace is that it is symbolic of our making peace with those who have something against us. Jesus commands us to make peace before offering our gifts at the altar. If people were taught this, I believe more conservative Catholics would favor the Kiss of Peace

It’s a fallacy to claim that this is supposed to be us making peace with our brother. That is the purpose of the Confetior ( I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters…)

If we are to follow Christ’s command to make peace with one another BEFORE offering our gifts, obviously this would have to happen BEFORE the Offertory, let alone the Eucharistic prayer. We offer gifts of our goods in Offetory, and the gift of ourselves during the Consecration itself. Making peace with each other has to happen BEFORE all of this to fulfil Christ’s command.

No, there’s more to it than that. I frequently happen to sit near some people in my church who do not want a handshake, even from people immediately nearby. They’d simply rather not have the Sign of Peace at all. Of course, in order not to be rude, they still say “Peace be with you” to those who put out their hand, but they do not offer their words or hand to anyone, nor do they turn to the person behind them; they only respond to those who have already turned to them.

But these are abuses. These kinds of things wouldn’t happen at my parish or EWTN.

Oh? Surely you’ve finished your coffee by now, so please do come back with more. :smiley:

I guess the reason I didn’t think the omission was on account of the distraction it’s become in so many parishes is because EWTN doesn’t do it at all. If that were the only reason for the omission, you’d think EWTN would still have the Sign of Peace but do it in the appropriate way–soberly and reverently. In fact, they could even omit the handshake altogether since the handshake is only the unofficial gesture used in this country for the Sign of Peace.

Eliminating the handshake could solve a lot of problems. I personally think it’s one of the main reasons the Sign of Peace has become the Sign of Greeting since after all, the handshake is most commonly used in everyday life for just that, greeting.

But no. The Sign of Peace is always omitted at EWTN and many of my fellow parishioners seem to wish it were the same way at our parish. So that’s why I was wondering whether there was some deeper, perhaps theological, reason behind not doing it.


If I remember correctly, the sign of peace was never meant to be solely a handshake, a kiss a hug, a smile or a wave. It was meant to be a sign of unity and offering of peace that was dictated by local customs. Thats all. It morphed into the huge demonstrations of handshaking and gratuitous hugs and kisses and roaming up and down the aisles looking for cute girls to shake hands with solely on its own for simply one reason. The laity did not and does not by and large understand what it is and the Clergy either could not or more likely did not want to assume the leadership role that is properly theirs, and exercise control over it.

All very 60ish, people oriented and man centered, very much in line with post Vatican II understanding of the Liturgy and our place and role in it. in it.

I totally agree. In my parish…the “Sign of Peace” has become a two minute socializing session. In our parish it is like a short break from Mass.

My parish doesn’t do the Sign of Peace during Cold and Flu season. Its just common sense. Do you really want to give the sign of peace to a kid that just blew his nose?

I agree that there is much that is inappropriate in some parishes. However, the Church does not require a handshake as the kiss of peace. When I was in the Philippines, the people bow to one another then. In some parishes here they simply wave to one another. So there are wide variety of possibilities.
Personally, I would rather not shake hands This seems similar to holding hands with strangers during the Our Father,
which has become a sort of required rite in some parishes, a practice which, as some bishops said at the U.S. bishop’s meeting a year before last, keeps some people from going to mass.

Which is why I’m wondering why EWTN doesn’t do the Sign of Peace albeit without handshaking. I’ve been to a monastery (in the US, by the way) where the nuns simply turn toward each other with a slight bow and “Peace be with you.” The Sign of Peace can be done without handshaking, but for some reason (and that’s what I’m trying to get to the bottom of) EWTN and my parish have chosen to omit the sign altogether.

But it’s not similar. Holding hands during the Our Father is completely unfounded and unliturgical; it’s basically an import from Protestant services and has no basis whatever in Catholic liturgies. On the other hand, there is actually supposed to be a gesture used for the Sign of Peace, but as palmas85 mentioned, the gesture is to be based on local customs. My opinion is that the handshake is not a good choice because according to American custom the handshake is normally used for greeting or well-wishing. Simply turning to one another with a nod and the words “Peace be with you” would quite sufficient for the Sign of Peace in this country, and I guess I’m just wondering why it’s not done that way at EWTN.


Once again, MTD, the Sign of Peace IS offered at every Mass. The priest extends Christ’s Peace to the Faithful, and the Faithful extent Christ’s Peace back to the celebrant.,

Given that, can you name ANYONE present who was not offered the Peace of Christ?

What may be licitly ommited is the redundant offering between the Faithful.

This is a valid option, and it is sometimes ommitted, again because it is redundant. Everyone has already been offered, and has offered, the Peace of Christ.

Yes, I know. When I used the term Sign of Peace, I was referring to the exchange between members of the congregation. What alternative term should I use?

I should clarify that I’m not advocating either the inclusion or the omission of the Sign of Peace between members of the congregation. I’m simply trying to find out why it’s omitted in conservative places. To me, the abuses in other parishes do not warrant the omission at EWTN since the Sign of Peace could very well be done reverently (i.e., without the handshake). I just thought there might be a significant reason behind the omission, but apparently I was mistaken.

Well, thanks for giving another reason. I now have three:

  1. It’s overdone in too many parishes.
  2. It’s misplaced.
  3. It’s redundant (to some extent).


I’m simply trying to find out why it’s omitted in conservative places

It may be omitted at the discretion of the celebrant (or the deacon, if a deacon is present)

The reason for omission may be what reason ever the cleric feels like.

Yes, yes. But at my parish, at EWTN, and at the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sign of Peace is omitted not at the discretion of the cleric but according to the custom of the place. I know that at my parish visiting priests are specifically told that 'tisn’t customary to have the Sign of Peace at our Masses. And I’m quite sure visiting priests at EWTN and at the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament are told the same thing.

So what I’m trying to get at is the reason behind the custom of omitting the Sign of Peace at these places. I’m obviously not getting very far (don’t worry, it’s not terribly important to me). puzzleannie, did you say you had more reasons to give?


Well, there is the Deacon’s statement of Let us offer each other the sign of peace after the Celebrant’s The Peace of the Lord be with you always, which does imply that some sort of gesture, even if merely optional, is preferred, even if not explicitely stated in the GIRM.


Just a thought: at EWTN, the chapel of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery has the Blessed Sacrament enshrined in a monstrance, which, during Mass, of course, is shrouded. Given the potential for disruption of the solemnity of the Mass at that moment, the fact that many of the worshippers are pilgrims from all over the world, plus the undue emphasis it tends to place on the horizontal element of worship, the priests at EWTN may have decided against it. By the way - this omission was in effect way back when Mother Angelica herself called many of the shots, so to speak; I surmise it was actually her wish to exercise the option to omit the rite.


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