More Support Expressed for Permanent Deacons

Latin American bishops generally favor restoration of the permanent diaconate, Auxiliary Bishop Mark McGrath, C.S.C., of Panama told a press conference at the council press office.

Reviewing the past week’s council activities, Bishop McGrath said that “toward the end of the discussion on the diaconate, the position of those who were speaking for Latin America was made increasingly clear, in the sense of favoring the restoration of the diaconate as a function by itself and without the obligation of celibacy.”

Bishop McGrath said that “several of the speakers, whether from Latin America or elsewhere, stressed practical considerations in declaring themselves favorable to this form of the diaconate, indicating that the order would be conferred only on mature men, married or not, men characterized by a mature and experienced approach to the living of the Christian life. This obviated further discussion on the organization of minor seminaries for the formation of deacons, as also on certain fears that the presence and activity of married deacons might be a source of danger for the tradition of celibacy in the priesthood.”

Another bishop at the press conference, Bishop Manuel Larrain Errazuriz of Talca, Chile, said that Catholics dealing with the Church’s life in Latin America must avoid two extremes — that of “blindness which will not see the evils which exist and that of a type of black legend about Latin America which does not correspond to the truth.”

The Bishop warned against excessive pessimism in treating of the Church in Latin America, saying that in the past 40 years much has been done. Though there is a priest shortage, he said, “We also have an exemplary clergy in Latin America. I have been a bishop for 25 years and I cannot say enough for my clergy, who are zealous.”

Major problems of the Church in Latin America are the tremendous population increase, which has not been caught up with, and the change from a rural to an industrial civilization. The Bishop said that the solution of the continent’s social problems is intimately linked with the solution of the problems confronting the Church.

He paid tribute to the brotherly help in terms of money and personnel which has come from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Belgium and Italy. But he stressed that one should concentrate on the hopeful aspect of the Church’s life in Latin America. He said:

“The civilization of Latin America was born in the bosom of the Church.”

He said that “the Second Vatican Council, which seeks to establish a dialogue between the Church and the modern world, opens for Latin America the horizons suited for a just and Christian solution of its problems.”

What is needed at present, he said, is a parallel concept to the introduction of the vernacular into the liturgy. The use of the vernacular is being adapted to specific places.

So too, he said, there is need for a “pastoral vernacular” which would permit a specific pastoral solution of problems on regional or local levels.

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