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Neither ‘half-priests’ nor ‘special altar boys’: Pope outlines expectations for permanent deacons

June 21, 2021

Service lies at the heart of the deacon’s ministry, and this service helps the Church to become more of a “diaconal Church,” Pope Francis said in one of his lengthiest addresses on the permanent diaconate.

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“You have asked me what I expect from the deacons of Rome,” the Pope said on June 19, as he addressed the deacons of the Diocese of Rome and their families in the Hall of Benedictions in the Apostolic Palace. Quoting the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium, n. 29), Pope Francis said that on deacons, “hands are imposed not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.”

Pope Francis continued:

The mere fact of emphasizing this difference helps to overcome the scourge of clericalism, which places a caste of priests “above” the People of God. This is the core of clericalism: a priestly caste “above” the People of God. And if this is not resolved, clericalism will continue in the Church. Deacons, precisely because they are dedicated to the service of this People, remember that in the ecclesial body no one can elevate himself above others. . . .

The diaconate, following the high road of the Council, thus leads us to the center of the mystery of the Church. Just as I have spoken of a “constitutively missionary Church” and a “constitutively synodal Church”, so I add that we should speak of a “constitutively diaconal Church”. Indeed, if we do not live this dimension of service, every ministry is emptied from within, it becomes sterile, it does not bear fruit. And little by little it becomes worldly.

Again citing Lumen Gentium, Pope Francis emphasized that deacons are called to be “dedicated to duties of charity and of administration.” Thus, deacons are called to be

caring servants who do their best to ensure that no one is excluded and the love of the Lord touches people’s lives in a tangible way. In short, one could summarize diaconal spirituality in a few words, that is, the spirituality of service: willingness on the inside and openness on the outside. Willingness on the inside, from the heart, ready to say yes, docile, without making life revolve around one’s own agenda; and open on the outside, looking at everyone, especially those who are left out, those who feel excluded.

The Pope concluded by listing three expectations of Rome’s deacons: “I expect you to be humble. . . . I expect you to be good spouses and good fathers. And good grandparents. . . . Finally, thirdly, I expect you to be sentinels: not only to know how to spot the poor and the distant—this is not so difficult—but to help the Christian community to recognize Jesus in the poor and the distant, as He knocks on our doors through them.”

 


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