The invitation "Let us offer each other the sign of peace" is an integral part of the Rite of Peace. This rite is a part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist which follows the Lord's Prayer and precedes the Fraction of the Bread. Even before the liturgical changes of Second Vatican Council, the Rite of Peace - known then as the Kiss of Peace - was exchanged in the liturgy when the priest gave a reverent embrace to the serving deacon. Today, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal states, "There follows the Rite of Peace, by which the Church entreats 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 (GIRM, 82)." In a word, the Rite of Peace is a sign of our Catholicity and an expression of our Christian Charity. In this sense, the Rite of Peace serves as a sign of communion and unity among the members of the local Church and the Universal Catholic Church.
The Rite of Peace is an eschatological sign of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God where the peace of God reigns. Speaking of the work of the Spirit within the Church, Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you (]n 14:27)." In the midst of a world in which many voices and actions of war and violence take place, the Rite of Peace is that much more essential for us to fulfill our prophetic role in the world.
As a liturgical sign, we are called to share it with reverence to keep the solemnity of our Celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Given the nature of our parish, parishioners and visitors are welcome to exchange the Sign of Peace with the persons next to them either by shaking hands or by a slight bow of the head. Please keep in mind that this is not a time to greet one another or to wave to people across the church. Rather, the Church asks us to exchange the sign of peace ''in a sober manner" just as we reverently approach the Eucharist. I greatly appreciate your understanding and collaboration in this matter.
Sincerely in Christ,
-fr. Jorge Rativa, O.P