Permanent diaconate

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The Permanent Diaconate , more precisely, the office of the permanent deacon , is a form of Christian deacon ministry , which as an independent office or service in the spiritual, charitable and in sonderseelsorglichen area and not as a prelude to the priesthood is understood. It has only recently come into its own again in the Church.


The word deacon comes from the Greek and means “servant” or “helper”. Already at the time of the first Christians there was a special “service” of charity and preaching in the church. Disciples who took on this ministry were called deacons. The whole purpose of her life was to follow the example of Jesus who, according to his own words, did not come to be served, but to serve and to be there for others.

After an eventful history of the diaconate spanning almost two thousand years - at last the service as a deacon was only a kind of preliminary step on the way to the priesthood - the permanent diaconate was reintroduced in both the Old Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church . In the Roman Catholic Church this was done through a decision of the Second Vatican Council . Since then, men who are mostly married and have families have been ordained permanent deacons. "Permanent" deacon means: For these men the office of deacon is not a preliminary step on the way to the priesthood, but their calling.

The world's first ordination of permanent deacons was on April 28, 1968 in Cologne, where five married men were ordained by Auxiliary Bishop Augustinus Frotz ; the sermon was delivered by Joseph Cardinal Frings , who had particularly advocated the re-establishment of the permanent diaconate at the council. In the Diocese of Augsburg, three permanent deacons were ordained for the first time on July 20, 1969.

At the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon - New Paths for the Church and a Holistic Ecology ( Amazon Synod ) in October 2019, a majority of the participating bishops voted in favor of the recommendation that permanent deacons be ordained priests in the Amazon region in the future after completing a priestly training even if they have already started a family. With the admission of such men to ordination, pastoral care and the celebration of the Eucharist should be ensured in congregations that suffer particularly from a lack of priests . In his post-synodal letter Querida Amazonia (“Beloved Amazonia”) of February 2, 2020, Pope Francis did not take up this vote, instead the Bishops' Conference should make other efforts to make the Eucharistic celebration more frequent in remote parts of the Amazon region. For example, there should be many more permanent deacons in the Amazon Basin.

Forms of exercise

Permanent deacons can serve both full-time and alongside their civil profession. The latter exercise their service close to their home, while deacons in their main occupation have to live at the locations assigned to them (residence obligation). They are used in pastoral care or in special pastoral care ( hospital pastoral care , prison pastoral care , etc.). As deacons in their main occupation they receive a salary within the framework of the diocesan establishment plans for their work, as deacons with a civil occupation they receive an allowance for expenses.

In the Catholic Church, the deacon takes on a steadily growing number of areas of responsibility that have always been divided into three fields:

  • the service of charity
  • the preaching of the good news
  • the celebration of faith in the liturgy

In concrete terms this means:

  • Deacons help in the pastoral care of the communities, they turn to those who live on the fringes of society, visit the elderly, the sick, the disabled and prisoners, accompany the dying, take care of asylum seekers, resettlers and people in special life crises.
  • They preach in church services, give religious instruction as full-time deacons in schools, hold conversations about faith, lead Bible study groups and prepare children, young people and adults for receiving the sacraments .
  • They assist the priest in holy mass , give baptism , lead church funerals and assist in the administration of the sacrament of marriage , celebrate word services and devotions, hold blessing ceremonies and bring holy communion to the elderly and the sick .

Consecration and Ecclesiastical Significance

The term permanent deacon occurs in the Roman Catholic Church and the Old Catholic Church . While a candidate for the priesthood usually receives the ordination some time after being ordained a deacon, a permanent deacon remains in this status.

In the Roman Catholic Church, the office of permanent deacon was restored by the Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium :

“Because these diaconal offices, which are vital to the Church, can only be exercised with difficulty in numerous areas with the currently applicable discipline of the Latin Church, the diaconate can be restored as a separate and permanent hierarchical level in the future. The competent various territorial bishops' conferences, with the approval of the Pope, decide whether and where it is appropriate for pastoral care to appoint such deacons. With the consent of the Bishop of Rome, this diaconate will also be granted to married men of a more mature age [...] "

Deacons are required to be celibate . However, married men can be ordained deacons, they are for the duration of the current marriage from celibacy dispensed (= optional). The minimum age is 25 years (for celibate candidates), 35 years for married people.

A permanent deacon has the same rights and duties as a non-permanent deacon as a result of belonging to the clergy by virtue of ordination. The deacon performs the Liturgy of the Hours on behalf of the Church , but is not fully obliged to do so; however, he must at least pray Lauds and Vespers .

The permanent diaconate was also reintroduced in the Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht, although the details differ depending on the national church. In all Old Catholic Churches, with the exception of the Polish one, men and women are admitted to the diaconate; in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria this applies to all spiritual offices. It is not necessary to be married to belong to the permanent diaconate, but a deacon must live in Christian marriage if he is married; neither are deacons affected by celibacy. This was repealed for all spiritual offices at the 5th synod session of the German Old Catholic Church in 1878.

see also: Deacon

Access routes in the Roman Catholic Church

Deacon in the main job (Archdiocese of Bamberg)

Minimum age: 35 years, maximum age: 50 years (at the time of consecration)


  • Completed training as a parish officer , several years of experience in parish pastoral work and permanent employment or
  • Completed training as a pastoral consultant , several years of practice in parish pastoral care and permanent employment

(one year preparatory phase, three years diaconate group)

Deacon with civil profession (Archdiocese of Bamberg)

Minimum age: 35 years, maximum age: 55 years

Previous volunteer work in a parish in the Archdiocese of Bamberg (essential requirement)


  • Applicants without a degree in theology: Basic and advanced theology course in the correspondence course of the cathedral school in Würzburg (completed basic course before the start of the preparatory phase; completed advanced course before consecration)
  • Applicants who have not completed their studies in theology: Consultation with the Catholic Academy Cathedral School in Würzburg
  • Applicants who have completed a degree in theology: Entry into the preparatory phase as soon as possible

(one year preparatory phase)

Deacon (Archdiocese of Cologne)

The training does not differentiate according to whether the applicant is accepted into the main office or not.

Applicants without a degree in theology complete a four-year course at the Archbishop's Diaconal Institute. No state qualification is obtained; the qualification is somewhere between a FH and a university diploma . The Philosophical-Theological University of Vallendar offers a three-semester continuation of the course with a master’s degree.

Another year is used to prepare for consecration. After the ordination, there is part-time training that lasts two years.

Applicants who have completed a degree in theology generally shorten their training prior to ordination from a total of five to three years.


  • Karl Lehmann , Hanspeter Ochs, Heike Grieser , Dorothea Reininger: See what matters: 25 years of permanent diaconate in the diocese of Mainz . Bischöfliches Ordinariat, Mainz 1996, ISBN 3-9805496-3-1 .
  • Algirdas Jurevicius: On the theology of the diaconate: The permanent diaconate in search of its own profile . Kovacs, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-8300-1444-9 .
  • Working group permanent diaconate in Germany: 40 years of permanent diaconate in Germany . Holzkirchen 2008.
  • 50 years of the International Diaconate Center . In: Diaconia Christi , vol. 51 (2016), issue 1/2.
  • Franz Ferstl: In the service of confidence. The office of deacon. Developments - experiences - perspectives. Tyrolia, Innsbruck / Vienna 2019, ISBN 978-3-7022-3794-3 .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1., November 22, 2017.
  2. ↑ : Amazonas Synod votes for married priests in exceptional cases , October 27, 2019.
  3. Papal letter on the Amazon Synod presented - No relaxation of celibacy or consecration for women
  4. Wording: Querida Amazonia by Pope Francis
  5. The Mission of the Deacons . In: Diaconia Christi , vol. 52 (2017), issue 1/2.
  6. Synodal and community regulations of the Old Catholic Church , §§ 61 ff.
  7. Women's ordination: Key historical data
  8. ^ Synodal and community regulations of the Old Catholic Church , § 102.
  9. cf. Urs Küry, Christian Oeyen: The Old Catholic Church . 2nd Edition. Stuttgart 1978, p. 74 f.