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Church in Ireland sees greater role for deacons

The Vatican is expected to give the green light within the next few months to the use of deacons, including married men, by the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The Irish Independent reports that the country's bishops submitted a revised blueprint for their training and use to Rome last month. The revisions were carried out in accordance with instructions from the Vatican and the final nod of approval is now expected.

It is more than four years since the hierarchy first signalled that they intended applying to Rome for permission to train and ordain deacons. However, even if Rome gives final permission within a matter of months, as expected, it will still be at least another four years before they are seen in Irish parishes.

Following approval from Rome, it will be then up to each bishop to decide for himself exactly how and where candidates for the diaconate should be trained. Training will take three years part-time and will only commence after a one-year period of "discernment".

Deacons, like priests, are ordained, and can carry out many of the tasks of the priest, including performing some of the sacraments - for example, marriage. Single men under the age of 35 will be able to apply to become deacons, as will married men over the age of 35. It is envisaged that they will continue to hold down jobs of their own.

The bishops said in October 2000, when they announced the plan for deacons, that they had decided to restore the diaconate "in the light of the pastoral needs of the Church".

Deacons are already in use in various parts of the world, including the United States and Australia.

Vatican expected to approve Irish use of deacons (Irish Independent 24/1/05)

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