Permanent deacons are an antidote to clericalism

Exaudi Catholic News

Permanent deacons whose ministry focuses on service to the poor and hurting is an antidote to clericalism within the church.

Their service illustrates that “to love is to serve and to serve is to reign,” Pope Francis says.

Francis made the comment when he met most of the Diocese of Rome’s 137 permanent deacons, their wives, children and grandchildren on Saturday.

The liturgical role of deacons is important, but works of charity and outreach are at the heart of their identity, Francis said.

Describing the purpose of diaconal ordination as “a ministry of service,” the Second Vatican Council restored the identity the ministry had for centuries before it was “reduced to an order of passage to the priesthood,” the pope told them.

Service “helps to overcome the scourge of clericalism,” Francis explained.

At its core, clericalism is “a priestly caste ‘above’ the people of God,” – somethig Francis wants to banish for good.

“If this is not resolved, clericalism will continue in the church…

“Deacons, precisely because they are dedicated to the service of this people, are a reminder that in the ecclesial body no one can elevate himself above others,” Francis said.

The declining number of priests has led to some permanent deacons administering parishes.

These tasks “do not constitute the specific nature of the diaconate. They are substitute tasks,” Francis told the group.

He went on to praise a recent decision to appoint a permanent deacon to head the massive diocesan Caritas program.

Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, papal vicar for Rome’s decision in this respect emphasizes the true identity of deacons who are not “half-priests” or “special altar boys,” Francis he said.

Instead, they 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.”

While all Christians are called to imitate Jesus, this is especially important for those who minister in his name, Francis said. They are called to humble themselves and make themselves the servants of all.

“Please remember that for the disciples of Jesus, to love is to serve and to serve is to reign. Power lies in service, not in anything else.”

Francis went on to explain that service is “the center of the mystery of the church,”. Without it, every ministry is emptied from within, becomes sterile and then worldly.

Deacons remind the whole church of the missionary power of love and service, bringing “God’s closeness to others without imposing themselves, serving with humility and joy.”

“The generosity of a deacon who gives of himself without seeking the top ranks has about him the perfume of the Gospel,” Francis said.

“He tells of the greatness of God’s humility in taking the first step — always, God always takes the first step — to meet even those who have turned their backs on him.”


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News category: World.

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