Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Address to the National Association of Deacons Conference 2019, Fremantle
“The renewed ministry of diakonia in the Church beyond the shadows of the priesthood“
4 October 2019
PART 2: DIACONATE IN THE EARLY CHURCH
There is a Church ministry of deacon that goes back to the time of the apostles, even though its exact point of origin cannot be determined. This ministry was taken very seriously as attested by the New Testament. The life of a deacon was portrayed as truly Christian life, i.e., the model of the deacon is Christ the servant. The Church has continually seen the deacon as an integral or even essential part of its ministerial structure.
Deacons gained prominence in the early Church as evidenced by St Laurence and St Ephraim. Many were in charge of the treasury and some became bishops and even popes. Problematic relations between priests and deacons in the Roman Church gave rise to the so-called “cursus honorum” by which no one could begin the steps towards the priesthood unless he was qualified.
The importance of the diaconate waned as a result of the shift towards the celibate priesthood as the normative form of ministry. Deacons were seen as either exceptions to the norm for priesthood or stepping-stones to it. Throughout the second millennium, to speak of ordination was to speak ultimately about the priesthood.
It was only at the Second Vatican Council that the priesthood of the faithful was recovered and the diaconate was restored as a sacramental order distinct from the presbyterate.
Part 3 will be published tomorrow.
To read Part 1 of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.