: we now have well over 14,000 deacons in the US, with more than 2800
candidates in formation.
Permanent Deacons Help Church Stay
Close to the Faithful, Pope Says
Thanks Them for Their Service
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2004 (Zenit.org
).- John Paul II
praised the work of permanent deacons who he says enable the Church to be
close to the daily life of many people, including those who have strayed
from the faith.
When he met Saturday with a group of visiting French bishops, the Pope noted
the constant increase in the number of permanent deacons, most of whom are
The Holy Father expressed thanks to the wives and children of deacons for
their support to their ministry. And he expressed his appreciation for the
deacons who at times "are in contact with environments that are very removed
from the Church."
Permanent deacons "present a characteristic face of the Church, which likes
to be close to the people and their daily reality, to root in their lives
the proclamation of Christ's message," the Pope said.
The ministry of deacons flowered in the Western Church until the fifth
century. For a variety of reasons, it declined slowly to the point that it
became only an intermediate phase of candidates for priestly ordination.
The Second Vatican Council opened the way to restore this ministry as a
"proper and permanent stage of the hierarchy," making it possible to be
conferred on men of mature age who are already married.
With the apostolic letter "Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem" of 1967, Pope Paul VI
implemented the conciliar indications, establishing the general rules for
the Latin-rite Church.
In his meeting with the French bishops, John Paul II requested that
permanent deacons be thanked for "the mission they carry out for the Church
as servants of the Gospel, frequently supporting the Christian people in a
professional framework, which is the first context of their ministry."
"With their word and demanding personal, conjugal and family life, they make
the Christian message known and make men and women reflect on social
questions, so that the evangelical values will shine," the Pope said.
According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, in 2001 there were
28,626 diocesan permanent deacons and 578 religious permanent deacons. In
1967 there were none. The United States has almost half the world's
permanent deacons: 13,391.
Europe has 9,122 diocesan permanent deacons. Italy had the largest number
(2,546), followed among others by Germany (2,351), France (1,644), Belgium
(547), Great Britain (534), Austria (489), the Netherlands (288) and Spain
In the Americas, the country with the greatest number of permanent deacons
after the United States is Brazil (1,218), followed by Canada (894), Mexico
(691), Chile (600), Argentina (543), Puerto Rico (404), the Dominican
Republic (251) and Colombia (210).
In the whole of Africa, there are 339 permanent deacons, including 204 in
There are 72 permanent deacons in Asia, and 189 in Oceania, including 48 in