II, Const. Iam inde ab ipsa Apostolorum aetate eminet inter illa ministeria et conspicuus apparet Diaconatus, qui in Ecclesia magno semper in honore habitus est. Quod quidem expressis verbis testatur S. Paulus Apostolus sive in epistula ad Philippenses, ubi non modo Episcopis sed etiam Diaconis salutem nuntiat Cf Phil 1, 1 , sive in litteris ad Timotheum datis, quibus Diaconorum illustrat dotes et virtutes pernecessarias, ut ii proprio ministerio digni comprobentur Cf 1 Tim 3, Prisci deinde Ecclesiae scriptores, dum praedicant Diaconorum dignitatem, non omittunt, quominus animi ornamenta ac virtutes simul extollant, quae ad idem exsequendum ministerium postulantur, scilicet erga Christum fidelitatem, morum integritatem, Episcopo obtemperationem.

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Ignatius of Antioch declares that the office of the deacon is nothing other than "the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before all ages and has been manifested in the final time.

Polycarp of Smyna exhorts deacons to "be moderate in all things, merciful, diligent, living according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all. If the Lord of heaven and earth served us and suffered and sustained everything on our behalf, should not this be done for our brothers all the more by us, since we are imitators of him and have been given the place of Christ?

As time went on, the discipline concerning this sacred order was changed. The prohibition against conferring ordination without observing the established sequence of orders was strengthened, and there was a gradual decrease in the number of those who preferred to remain deacons all their lives instead of advancing to a higher order.

As a consequence the permanent diaconate almost entirely disappeared in the Latin Church. Our predecessor Pius XII briefly alluded to this matter. In the 19th article of this document a description is given of the principal characteristics proper to that state. For this reason, the diaconate car in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. We also desire that candidates for the diaconate should know what ministries they are to exercise before sacred ordination and when and how they are to take upon themselves the responsibilities of celibacy and liturgical prayer.

Since entrance into the clerical state is deferred until diaconate, there no longer exists the rite of first tonsure, by which a layman used to become a cleric. But a new rite is introduced, by which one who aspires to the diaconate or priesthood publicly manifests his will to offer himself to God and the Church, so that he may exercise a sacred order.

The Church, accepting this offering, selects and calls him to prepare himself to receive a sacred order, and in this way he is properly numbered among candidates for the diaconate or priesthood. It is especially fitting that the ministries of lector and acolyte should be entrusted to those who, as candidates for the order of diaconate or priesthood, desire to devote themselves to God and to the Church in a special way.

Thus it comes about that the authenticity of the ministry shines out with the greatest effectiveness. In this way the candidates accede to sacred orders fully aware of their vocation. In order that this admission be properly made, the free petition of the aspirant made out and signed in his own hand, is required. Professed members of clerical congregations who seek the priesthood are not bound to this rite. Those can be accepted who give signs of an authentic vocation and, endowed with good moral qualifies and free from mental and physical defects, wish to dedicate their lives to the service of the Church for the glory of God and the good of souls.

It is necessary that those who aspire to the transitional diaconate will have completed at least their twentieth year and have begun their course of theological studies. He also acquires the right to the necessary spiritual assistance by which he can develop his vocation and submit unconditionally to the will of God. Candidates for the permanent or transitional diaconate and for the priesthood are to receive the ministries of lector and acolyte, unless they have already done so, and are exercise them for a fitting time, in order to be better disposed for the future service of the word and of the altar.

Dispensation from the reception of these ministries on the part of such candidates is reserved to the Holy See. The liturgical rites by which admission of candidates for the diaconate and the priesthood takes place and the above-mentioned ministries are conferred should be performed by the ordinary of the aspirant the bishop and, in clerical institutes of perfection.

The intervals established by the Holy See or by the episcopal conferences between the conferring--during the course of theological studies--of the ministry of lector and that of acolyte, and between the ministry of acolyte and the order of deacon must be observed.

Before ordination candidates for the diaconate shall give to the ordinary the bishop and, in clerical institutes of perfection, the major superior a declaration made out and signed in their own hand, by which they testify that they are about to receive the sacred order freely and of their own accord.

The public commitment to holy celibacy before God and the Church is to be celebrated in a particular rite, even by religious, and it is to precede ordination to the diaconate. Celibacy taken on in this way is a diriment impediment to entering marriage In accordance with the traditional discipline of the church, a married deacon who has lost his wife cannot enter a new marriage. In accordance with norms of the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours: a deacons called to the priesthood are bound by their sacred ordination by the obligation of celebrating the liturgy of the hours; b It is most fitting that permanent deacons should recite daily at least a part of the liturgy of the hours, to be determined by the episcopal conference.

Entrance into the clerical state and incardnation into a diocese are brought about by ordination to the diaconate. The rite of admission for candidates to the diaconate and priesthood and of the special consecration of holy celibacy is to be published soon by the competent department of the Roman Curia.

Transitional Norms. Candidates for the sacrament of Orders who have already received first tonsure before the promulgation of this letter, retain all the duties, rights and privileges of clerics. Those who have been promoted to the order of subdiaconate are held to the obligations taken on in regard to both celibacy and the liturgy of the hours. But they must celebrate once again their public commitment to celibacy before God and the Church by the new special rite preceding ordination to the diaconate.

We also determine that it shall come into force on 1 January Footnotes: Cf. Vatican II, dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. Testamentum D. Rahmani Mainz, , p. Rauschen Bonn, , pp. Hartel Vienna, , pp.


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