A document on the diaconate, issued by Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster, has been praised by the Congregation for the Clergy.
The Directory on the Permanent Diaconate was put together following a diocesan consultation on the diaconate carried out as part of previous Bishop of Lancaster Patrick O’Donoghue’s Fit For Mission? pastoral review. It has taken three years to produce.
In a letter dated last month, Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta, secretary of the Congregation for Clergy, wrote that the document “ought to provide a solid basis for the renewal of the formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate, and for the ongoing formation of those who have already assumed this sacred office”.
Bishop Campbell said that the letter was “very encouraging”. He said: “I take very seriously the future development of this sacred ministry, seeing the permanent diaconate as a gift of the Holy Spirit to help the Church humbly serve our society, particularly the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised.”
The new guidelines emphasise co-operation between the deacon and the priest in a parish, and emphasise that both must work together for the good of the parish. The document says: “The deacon, appointed by the bishop, is the priest’s closest
collaborator – this should be evident in their relationship with each other and with the parish as a whole.
“Priest and deacon should be loyal to one another, remembering that they are clergy together collaborating for the good of the people within their care. All gossip concerning each other with parishioners should be shunned,” the document says.
The document also emphasises the deacon’s role in performing charitable works. “The deacon is not a replacement or incomplete priest, nor is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion capable of exercising the ministry of the deacon,” it says.
The Diocese of Lancaster’s diaconate formation team will now work with the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham to develop a programme of formation for the permanent diaconate, which will now require five or six years of study.