Cardinal Highlights Richness of Diaconate

Calls for Holiness From Ordained Ministers

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Congregation for Clergy is affirming the richness of the permanent diaconate, and is urging these ordained ministers to strive for holiness through meditation on God's Word and charitable works.



Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the congregation's prefect, wrote about this topic in an Aug. 10 letter on the feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr.

He reported that when bishops come to Rome for their five-yearly visits, they comment on the diaconate to the congregation.

The cardinal added, "The prelates are generally very much pleased and full of hope in regard to you, Permanent Deacons."

He affirmed, "At the same time, the Church would like to encourage you on the way of personal sanctification, in your prayer lives and in the spirituality of the diaconate."

Cardinal Hummes invited the deacons to reflect on their ministry of the Word and of charity.

He continued: "To know revelation, to adhere unconditionally to Jesus Christ as a fascinated and enamored disciple, to base oneself always upon Jesus Christ and to be with him in our mission, this is then what awaits a permanent deacon, decisively and without any reservation.  

"From a good disciple a good missionary is born."

The cardinal urged deacons to a continual, in-depth "intellectual, theological and pastoral formation" to support a "qualified and up-to-date ministry of the Word."

Charity

He then wrote about the ministry of charity, exemplified by St. Lawrence, which is at the roots of the diaconate in the early Church.

"We must love the poor in a preferential way, as did Jesus Christ; to be united with them, to work towards constructing a just, fraternal and peaceful society," the cardinal stated.

He added, "One could not understand a deacon who did not personally involve himself in charity and solidarity toward the poor, who again today are multiplying in number."

Cardinal Hummes concluded, "The Church thanks you for the support and multifaceted collaboration which you give to your respective spouses and fathers in their diaconal ministry."

There are some 35,000 permanent deacons worldwide, a number that has grown from only 309 in 1970.

The majority of these are working in North America, which claims some 47.3%, while 32.3% serve in Europe.

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-26622?l=english