Deacon is not a second-rate priest, says Pope

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“For the disciples of Jesus to love is to serve and to serve is to reign. Power is in service, and in nothing else,” says Pope in Audience to Deacons of the Diocese of Rome.

Newsdesk (June 22, Gaudium Press) Pope Francis received last Saturday (19/06) the deacons of the Diocese of Rome. The audience was held in the Paul VI Hall and the deacons’ families were also present.

At the beginning of his speech, Francis responded to the request of those present who wanted to know what he expects from the deacons of Rome. “Let us begin by reflecting a little on the ministry of the deacon,” the Pope said: “To the ministry of deacons hands are laid not for the priesthood but for service,” he distinguished and then explained that “this difference is not insignificant. The diaconate, which in the previous conception was reduced to an order of passage to the priesthood, thus regains its place and its specificity.”

“Jesus lowered himself, he made himself servant of all”

The Pope continued with his explanation: “In the Church, the opposite logic must be in force, the logic of lowering oneself. We are all called to lower ourselves, because Jesus lowered himself, he made himself servant of all.”

“Let us remember, Francis said, that always for Jesus’ disciples to love is to serve and to serve is to reign. Power is in service, and in nothing else.” Francis goes on to explain the diaconate and says that if this dimension of service is not lived, in fact, every ministry is emptied from within, becomes sterile, does not produce fruit. And little by little it becomes mundane.

Referring further to the service of deacons the Pope says: “The generosity of a deacon who gives himself without seeking the front rows has the fragrance of the Gospel, it tells of the greatness of the humility of God who takes the first step to go out to meet even those who have turned their backs on him.”

Deacons are neither ‘half-priests’ nor ‘luxury acolytes

The Pope also drew attention to another important point for deacons: “Today we must also pay attention to another aspect,” he pointed out, “the decrease in the number of priests has led to a prevailing commitment by deacons to replace tasks that, however important, do not constitute the specific nature of the diaconate.”

And the Pope warned: “Deacons will not be ‘half-priests’, nor ‘luxury acolytes” but caring servants who do their best so that no one is excluded and the love of the Lord touches people’s lives in a concrete way.” And he sums it up in a few words: “the diaconal spirituality, the spirituality of service: availability inside and openness outside. Available inside, with a heart, ready to say yes, docile, without making life revolve around one’s own agenda; and open outside, looking out for everyone, especially those who are left out, those who feel excluded.”

Three Dimensions to Cultivate: What the Pope Expects of Deacons

In clarifying what he expects from the deacons of Rome, Francis recalls his three brief ideas that do not go in the direction of “things to do” but “dimensions to cultivate.”

“In the first place be humble! Let all the good you do be a secret between you and God. And so it will bear fruit.”

“Secondly, I hope that you will be good spouses and good parents. This will give hope and consolation to couples who are going through difficult times and who will find in your genuine simplicity an outstretched hand.”

“Finally,” Francis continues, “I hope that you will be sentinels: not only that you will know how to identify the estranged and the poor – it is not so difficult – but that you will help the Christian community to identify Jesus in the poor and the estranged, as he knocks at our door through them.”

What should the profile, the image of a deacon be like

Francis concluded the meeting by reinforcing his request to the permanent deacons of Rome: “You can make your own image with the words at the end of the Gospels, when Jesus from afar asks his own: ‘Do you have any fish?’ And the beloved disciple recognized him and said, ‘It is the Lord’ (Jn 21:5, 7). In this way I hope that you too see the Lord when, in so many of his lesser brothers, he asks to be nurtured, welcomed and loved. I would like this to be the profile of deacons in Rome and throughout the world.” (JSG)

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