Q. 1. Why do we have the Sign of Peace during the Holy Mass?
A. 1. The sign of peace in the Roman Rite significantly placed before Eucharistic communion is a particularly expressive gesture which the faithful are invited to make as a manifestation of the People of God's acceptance of all that has been accomplished in the celebration and of the commitment to mutual love which is made in sharing the one bread, with the demanding words of Christ in mind: "If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Mt 5:23-24).
Q. 2. How is the Sign of Peace supposed to be implemented by the faithful?
A. 2. Each person offers the sign of peace only to those nearby and in a dignified manner. The faithful may say, "The peace of the Lord be with you always." The response to this is, "Amen."
Q. 3. I have a concern with those who give me the Sign of Peace. Half of them simply put out their hand, looking elsewhere, making no eye-to-eye contact as if it is just a meaningless ritual. How do I deal with that?
A. 3. While smiling, you can try holding on to their hand, not letting go, until such time as they will turn around and make an eye-to-eye contact with you. Before long, they should get the hint that when you give someone the Sign of Peace, you look at the person.
Q. 4. I noticed that in some parishes, the members hold hands. In other cases, they hug each other, and sometimes even kiss others instead of giving a Sign of Peace (hand shake). Is this permitted?
A. 4. The form for the giving of the Sign of Peace is left to the Conference of Bishops to determine in accord with the culture and customs of the people.
At the same time, there is nothing in the rubric to explain why the Sign of Peace should be supplanted in order to bring a different gesture with less meaning into another part of the Mass. The Sign of Peace by a hand shake is filled with meaning, graciousness, and Christian inspiration. Any substitution for it must be repudiated.
The giving of the Sign of Peace should be implemented with full consideration that some people do not like to be touched. The Sign of Peace could be very traumatic to a person who has a history of being sexually molested. In such a case, a kiss, or even a hug, could be sufficient reason to destroy a person's faith and discourage him from attending future Mass services.