09/13/2023, 16.02
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The permanent diaconate comes to the Philippines

by Santosh Digal

Pope Francis approved the request by the Philippine Bishops’ Conference to establish this ordained ministry, which was restored by Vatican Council II and is open to married men. It remains, however, marginal in Asia. For theologian Fr Picardal, it is a welcome and much-anticipated change. Now it should be incorporated in all its richness in the Philippine context.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis has approved the establishment of the permanent diaconate in the Philippines.

In a letter dated 17 August 2023, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State informed Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Philippine Bishops' Conference (CBCP), that the Holy Father has allowed the establishment of the permanent diaconate in the ecclesiastical circumscription of the country, as per the Church’s rules and documents. 

Francis did so in response to an official request made by Bishop David on 25 July.

According to Church sources, Archbishop Socrates Buenaventura Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan will oversee the preparation of the training programme and policies for the permanent diaconate in the country, working with the Dicastery of the Clergy.

The introduction of this ordained ministry in the Philippines represents an important step for the Churches in Asia.

Restored by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, it is no longer simply a transitional state before ordination to the priesthood, but a permanent, separate ministry open to married men.

In Asia, the Diocese of Hong Kong was the pioneer in this experience starting in 1997; currently is has some 30 deacons.

According to the Vatican Statistical Yearbook, only 281 permanent deacons serve in Asia out of more than 48,000 currently in service, mostly in North America, Europe and Australia.

The start of this ministry in Philippines, home to 85 million Catholics in more than 80 archdioceses, dioceses and apostolic vicariates, will probably lead to a substantial growth elsewhere in Asia.

"The introduction of the permanent diaconate is a welcome and long-awaited development,” said Fr Amado L. Picardal, a theologian and Redemptorist missionary, speaking to the Licas news agency.

“Like that of the bishops and priests, the ministry of deacons is a participation in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and kingly mission,” he added.

“It is a ministry of the liturgy (priestly), a ministry of the word (prophetic), and a ministry of charity and administration (kingly).”

For the Redemptorist, it will be necessary to carefully explain that “the diaconal ministry should be broad enough to encompass the threefold priestly, prophetic, and kingly/servant mission in the service of the Christian Community at the parish and BEC level and to make the vision of a Synodal Church a reality.”

Photo: Licas / Joe Torres

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”