Peru’s Cardinal declared that a permanent diaconate would answer a “general need” in the Church today, a need especially urgent in Latin America.
Juan Cardinal Landazuri Ricketts, OFM, of Lima said in an interview that the proposal for a permanent diaconate — with the possibility of married deacons — involves a “profound” change in the Church. He was explaining what he had said earlier in a speech in the council hall given in the name of 90 Latin American bishops.
“It is to be desired,” he said, “that no judgment be passed [on the proposal] … without exact information on the reasons … for its creation, on its forms of action, and on its relationship with the early Church, particularly if the judgment is negative.”
The diaconate exists in today’s Church, but as a step to the priesthood. The deacon’s functions — which include preaching, baptizing, distributing Communion and assisting the priest at a solemn Mass — are usually performed by priests. In the early Church, deacons also took care of administering material goods, such as distributing alms to the poor.
Explaining the special need in Latin America, the Cardinal said: “It is there that the lack of priests is felt more vividly, to the damage of Christian life in general.”
He said that the deacons could administer the Eucharist in mission areas, preach, teach religion … and even witness marriages for the Church.
Asked whether he thought deacons should be allowed to marry, the Cardinal said that this is a “delicate” point and that he believes the “door should be left open so that the Holy See, acting on petitions from bishops’ conferences asking for this, could decide on the conditions … and issue the proper norms” for married deacons.
Father Jorge Mejia
NCWC News Rome correspondent