VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI may change the sequence of the Catholic Mass, including the sign of peace exchanged between worshippers, in order "to create a more meditative climate" of worship, a senior Vatican official said.
Cardinal Francis Arinze said the pope had asked all bishops for their views on whether the sign of peace, which is currently shared before Communion, should be moved to an earlier point in the Mass.
Arinze, who heads the Vatican body in charge of liturgy and sacraments, made the announcement in the Saturday (Nov. 22) edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
"The meaning of this gesture is often not fully understood," Arinze told an interviewer. "It is thought to be a chance to shake hands with friends. Instead it is a way to tell those nearby that the peace of Christ, really present on the altar, is also with all men."
Under the contemplated change, Arinze said, the sign of peace would instead take place at the "offering of the gifts" when the Eucharistic bread and wine is brought forward.
Pope Benedict has more than once expressed concern about the disruptive potential of the sign of peace when performed in an inappropriate fashion.
In a 2007 document, he called for "greater restraint in this gesture which can become exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly before the reception of Communion."
Arinze gave no indication of when Benedict might decide on the possible change.