The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton is restoring the kiss of peace during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, a liturgical practice lost centuries ago.
But, as Bishop David Motiuk says, this kiss will be on the shoulders, not on the lips as it was during early Christianity.
The bishop said this change is part of the eparchy's 25-year pastoral plan which calls for parishes to be more welcoming. The kiss of peace is a sign of peace among the faithful, love in action and a powerful gesture of welcome towards strangers and guests.
"Peace starts first and foremost in our own hearts (and) in the family," Motiuk said. "Our parishes are a family of families and so we are looking for ways to re-instill peace in our community and to build community so people would know each other."
The eparchy is bringing back the kiss of peace in the Divine Liturgy, a gesture which Motiuk says was never lost amongst the Ukrainian clergy. "(Ukrainian clergy) still maintain and exchange a kiss of peace during the Divine Liturgy but it was lost amongst the laity."
The kiss of peace is a traditional Christian greeting dating to early Christianity. It was a custom practised by Jesus, who would command his followers to "Greet one another with a holy kiss."
Christians, both priests and laity, used to kiss each other on the lips during the liturgy but the practice, which was somewhat disruptive, was discarded in the 11th century and replaced by a kiss on the shoulders.
That practice eventually died out as well and for centuries now lay Ukrainian Catholics don't even give each other a limp handshake. Only priests and deacons have continued the ritual.
Given that kissing on the lips "would look strange in our day and age," the eparchy is giving the Ukrainian Catholic faithful two options: "They can kiss each other on the shoulders. But if they don't feel comfortable doing so they can exchange a handshake, like Roman Catholics do," the bishop said.
The kiss on the shoulders is once on the left shoulder and then on the right.
So far two-thirds of Ukrainian Catholic parishes in Alberta have restored the kiss of peace in the Divine Liturgy.
Motiuk hopes restoration of the practice will lead to more welcoming parishes and families.
"I hope it leads us to recognizing people who we don't necessarily know who sit with us in the pews during the liturgy," he said. "But especially this is a restoration of peace, which starts within each individual person and then goes beyond that. And we need to promote peace throughout the world."