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The third rank of members in the college of cardinals, numbering fourteen when the full complement was seventy. The designation goes back to the early history of Christian Rome when the city was divided into seven sections, each administered by an ordained deacon. When the regional division was abandoned, the title remained and came to be applied to cardinals. In general, cardinal deacons are those who live and exercise their duties in Rome.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.