Q: We have presbyteral ordinations scheduled this coming April and May. How can we conduct the laying on of hands and the kiss of peace of the concelebrating priest to the candidates for ordination observing health protocols? Do you recommend scrapping the gesture entirely or any recommendations as to its modification?
A: As with so many things, we are making some decisions that are not good for the liturgy, but that are good for charity. Out of caution for spreading the virus, our charity demands some changes in the liturgy.
In this matter, your bishop should decide, but I can offer these reflections. The rite of ordination presumes that all the priests present join in the laying on of hands. That includes priests in choir dress who are not concelebrating. But the rite didn’t envision a pandemic. I could see two solutions: Have the experienced priests pass by the new priests one by one as usual, but with hands over their head, rather than on their head, using the gesture we use for such events as reconciliation, confirmation, and even the consecration at Mass. Alternatively, all the priests could extend their hands over the new priests in a common gesture, but distinct from the moment that the bishop imposes hands, which is singular in its significance. I recommend the first of these two ideas.
Regarding the kiss of peace, the introduction to the rite says that all or some of the priests offer it, insofar as possible (106). In this instance, perhaps only very few priests should offer the kiss, and they would do it with a low bow instead of any physical contact.
When the pandemic is over, we’re going to have to relearn some basic liturgical principles. But that process will be like pouring water on a thirsty plant.