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Subdeacon in Tunicella at a mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite

The subdeacon (from Latin sub 'below' and ancient Greek διάκονος diákonos 'servant, helper') holds a liturgical ministry. The subdiaconate is the first of the higher ordinations in the Roman Catholic Church that has been donated as a preliminary stage to the priesthood since the 3rd century . In the Orthodox churches, however, the ordination as a subdeacon is counted among the minor ordinations .

Roman Catholic Church

Since the Middle Ages, the ordination of the subdiaconate has been understood as a sacramental . The subdeacon was a cleric and, in contrast to the bearers of the lower ordinations ( Ostiarier , lector , exorcist and acolyte ), with the subdiaconate ordination he had taken on the obligation to pray the hours and from the end of the 12th century to the celibate life. In the end, however, the subdiaconate was only an intermediate stage to priestly ordination , which was only exercised for a short time, so that in the liturgy the tasks of the subdeacon were mostly performed by a priest.

Through the reorganization of the ordination offices by Pope Paul VI. In 1972, the ordination as subdeacon for the Roman rite with the papal motu proprio Ministeria quaedam was suspended and his liturgical functions continued in the commission (in the original Latin text institutio , "appointment") to the lector and the acolyte . In societies of apostolic life that celebrate divine services in an extraordinary form , such as the Society of St. Peter , the subdiaconate ordination continues to be given as a preliminary stage to priestly ordination.

Before the liturgical reform (and today in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite), the subdeacon appeared in so-called levitated high and pontifical offices. His main task was the service at the altar and the recitation of the epistle . He was therefore also called the Epistolar . The Subdeacon contributed to the celebration of the Holy Mass over the Albe the tunicle as a garment, and the maniple as a sign of his office.

Since most of the sub-deacons held this degree of ordination only briefly, the role of sub-deacon was (and is in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite) usually performed by a priest, sometimes also by a deacon; In addition, according to canon law, there is the possibility of transferring the function to male laymen . However, it was mostly only used in relation to the "lower clerics" who were previously included in the clergy, i.e. candidates who have received at least the tonsure . In the ordinary form of the Roman rite, concelebration and mass with deacon have replaced the office of the Levites.

Eastern Church

In the Eastern Churches , especially of the Byzantine rite, there is the office of the hypodiac ( ancient Greek ὑπό hypó 'below' and διάκονος diákonos 'servant, helper'), whose consecration is one of the lower . Like priests and deacons, the hypodiacon is not obliged to be celibate . However, he can no longer marry after the ordination or have been married at most once before the ordination (Quinisextum / Trullanum can. 3, 4, 6).


In the Evangelical Lutheran Church , subdeacon was used as the title of the clergyman following the deacon in rank. In the Moravian Brethren the title has been retained, "while deacon and the like disappeared as Lutheran official designations with the equality of the clergy in a community".


  • Hans-Jürgen Feulner: Subdeacon . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 9 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2000, Sp. 1068 .
  • "Religion in Past and Present" (concise dictionary for theology and religious studies), JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 3rd edition, Art. "Deacon"
  • Heinrich Reuter: The subdiaconate, its historical development and liturgical-canonical significance , Augsburg 1890

Web link

Individual evidence

  1. prevailing opinion against sacrament , as Thomas Aquinas and others claimed
  2. Art. Diakon (Diakonus, Diakonisse) , p. 4. Digital Library Volume 12: Religion Past and Present. P. 6955 (see RGG vol. 2, p. 161)