Eucharist and The Claretian Missionary Life

We commemorated the Eucharistic miracle in the life of Claret that took place in La Granja on Agust 291856. It has been an occasion to delve into our charismatic heritage which is deeply rooted in the Eucharistic experience of the Lord. Eucharist is the bread of life that nourishes our personal lives as well as our missions.

Our constitutions present our relationship with the Eucharist as follows:

“In the first place, every day we should wholeheartedly celebrate the mystery of the Eucharist, keeping dose to Christ our Lord as be proclaims the word of life. Offers himself far his brothers and sisters, honours his Father arid builds up the unity of the Church. We should cherish conversation with Christ our Lord by visiting and worshiping him in the Holy Eucharist, as well as by faithfully offering daily prayer in the name of the Church (CC 35)

Fraternal life is best symbolised and brought to perfection in the Eucharist, which is the sign of unity and the bond of love. (CC 12).

In this page is presented writings of our Founder which express his love for the Eucharist. The last General chapter invited us to be “servants of life” in the style of Claret :

“Our Father founder was that good shepherd who gives his life. He received the gift of permanent communion with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, which spurred him to fight against the evils of his time and to offer himself as an oblation”. (That They may have life No. 16)

In this year of the Eucharist, it is opportune for us to familiarize ourselves with the way our founder made Eucharist a permanent source of spiritual vitality for his life and mission. The passages below could be used as a key to enter into his rich inner world. Following are a few excerpts from the writings of St. Claret.


1. Ever since I was a small boy I have been attracted to piety and religion. I used to attend Mass on all feasts and holy days. I usually attended two Masses, a Low Mass and a High Mass, always together with my parents. I cannot remember ever playing, looking around, or talking in church. On the contrary, I was always so recollected, modest, and devout that when I compare those early days with the present am ashamed because, to my great embarrassment, I must admit that even now I lack the
fixed attention and heartfelt fervour that I had then (Auto. 36).

2. I attended all our functions of our holy religion with great faith. The services I like best were those connected with the Blessed Sacrament, and I attended these with great devotion and joy. Besides the constant good example of my father, who had great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, I had the good fortune of discovering a book entitled Courtesies of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. How I loved that book! I liked it so much that I learn it by heart. (Auto. 37).

3. When I was ten years old, I was allowed to make my First Communion. Words cannot tell what I felt on that day when I had the unequalled joy of receiving my good Jesus into my heart for the first time. From then on always frequented the sacraments of Penance and Communion, but how fervently and with what devotion and love: more than now -yes, more than now, I must say to my embarrassment and shame. Now that I know so much more than I did then, now that the many benefits I have received since then have accumulated continually, in gratitude I should have become a seraph of love, whereas God knows what I am. I compare my early years with the present, I grow sad and tearfully confess that I am a monster of ingratitude (Auto.38).

4. In addition to attending these morning and afternoon services, I used to enter the church at night all, when hardly anyone was there, and talk alone with our Lord. With great faith, trust, and love, I would speak to God, my good Father. A thousand times over I would offer myself to his service. I wanted to become a priest so that I could dedicate myself to his service day and night. I remembered telling Him, “humanly speaking, I see no hope, but you have the power to make it happen, if you will.” Then, with total confidence, I would leave it all in God’s hands, trusting Him to do whatever had to be done: which He did, as I shall say later (Auto. 40).

5. In the midst of this whirligig of ideas, while I was at Mass one day, I remembered reading as a small boy those words of the Gospel: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” This phrase impressed me deeply and went like an arrow to my heart. I tried to think and reason what to do, but to no avail (Auto. 68).

6. After arriving in Vic, I confessed and received Communion every week, but after a while the director had me confess twice a week and receive Communion four times a week. I served Mass daily for Father Bres. Every day I made a half hour of mental prayer, visited the Blessed Sacrament during Forty Hours’ Devotion, and also visited the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in the Dominican Church, rain or shine. And even though the streets were filled with snow, I never omitted my visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary (Auto. 86).

7. On June 7, 1860, at 11.30 in the morning of the feast of Corpus Christi, after saying Mass and just before I was to lead the procession, I was in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. I was filled with fervour and devotion. Suddenly, to my surprise, Jesus said to me, “It’s good. I like the book you’ve written.” The “book” was the first volume of The Well-Instructed Seminarian, which I had just finished the day before, and I knew quite clearly that this was the book He was telling me about. When I had
finished the second volume, He was also good enough to give me his approval for it too (Auto. 690).

8. On August 26, 1861, at 7.00 in the evening while I was at prayer in the church of the Rosary at La Granja, the Lord granted me the great grace of keeping the sacramental species intact within me and of having the Blessed Sacrament always present, day and night, in my breast. Because of this I must always be very recollected and inwardly devout. Furthermore I must pray and confront all the evils of Spain, as the Lord has told me. To help me to do this, I have engraved in my memory a number of things, such as that without any merit, talent, or personal recommendation. He has lifted me up from the lowest of the low to the highest post, at the side of the kings of this earth. And now He has put me at the side of the King of Heaven. “Glorify God and bear him about in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20) (Auto. 694).

9. The Trisagion should be said every day. The Blessed Sacrament should be honoured by hearing Mass, receiving Communion frequently, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and making spiritual communion. . .(Auto. 696).

10. 1862. On May 11, 1862, at 6.30 in the evening, while I was in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament at the palace of Aranjuez, I offered myself to Jesus and Mary to preach, exhort, labour, and suffer even death itself, and the Lord accepted my offering (Auto. 698).

11. On the morning of May 16, 1862, at 4:15 while I was at prayer, I thought of what I had written down the day before concerning my experience of the Blessed Sacrament the previous August 26, I had been thinking of erasing it and was still thinking of it today, but the Blessed Virgin Mary told me not to erase it. Afterward, while I was saying Mass, Jesus Christ told me that He had indeed granted this grace of remaining within me sacramentally (Auto. 700).

12. “My Father, take this poor heart of mine and devour it as I do you, so that I may be changed totally into you. At the word of consecration the substance of bread and wine are changed into the substance of your body and blood. Almighty Lord, consecrate me; speak over me the words that will change me totally into you” (Auto. 756).

13. When I am before the Blessed Sacrament, I feel such a live by faith that I can’t describe it. Christ in the Eucharist is almost tangible to me; I kiss his wounds continually and embrace Film. When it’s time for me to leave, I have to tear myself away from his sacred presence (Auto. 767).

34. On August 14 of this year, at 9.30 in the morning while I was at prayer in the church of St Dominic in Vic, during the Forty Hours’ Devotion, the Lord spoke to me from the Blessed Sacrament: “You will go to Rome” (Auto. 839).


(Selected Spiritual Writings volume III)

14. In order to practice these and other virtues, you will need to receive Holy Communion frequently, for this is why the Lord has chosen to remain in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. These are his decisive words: “Behold, I am with you until the consummation of the world.” “Come to me, all you who labour [at practicing virtue] and are heavily burdened [with sufferings J, and I will refresh you.” “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. . .Finally, He is the Life that enlivens us with the life of grace, not only if we keep his teaching — but also if we receive the Holy Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the Bread of Life. Jesus Christ Himself has said: “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever, and the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life [or salvation] of the world.. .In truth, in very truth I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you can have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eats me shall also live by me [and of my own life].” (SSW.
pp. 153 -154).

15. Now just as the body has its food, so the soul has its own proper food, the Eucharist, which is called the bread of angels, since the angels, like our souls, are spirits, and need the same food (SSW. P.155).

16. Against the dark inventions of the genius of error, He (Jesus) has counter posed the sin of Catholic faith, the Blessed Sacrament, which is called the mystery of faith, in which Jesus Christ is ‘really and truly present as the true light which enlightens every man of good will to rise against the vain thoughts of this world and to advance in the knowledge and love of the supreme Good (SSW. P. 156).

17. Over against degrading drunkenness of flesh and blood, he has set up the delicious banquet of His flesh and blood in the Blessed Sacrament, which lifts us up to the fountainhead of divine life (SSW. Pp.l56-157).

18. It can clearly be seen, then, that Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is our moral and physical life. Our moral life consists of knowing and loving. Now the object and nourishment of the understanding is truth, and Jesus Christ is essential truth itself, while the object and nourishment of the will is goodness, and Jesus Christ is goodness and charity by essence. Our physical life consists of the union of the soul
and body and, as I have said, Jesus Christ is not only the life of the souls, but the life of the body as well…(SSW. Pp. 157-158).

19. Hence the need to receive Communion, and receive it frequently. From what we observe in the body, we may learn what we should do for the soul. The body must eat daily, if it is going to have life and health. The soul should do likewise, receiving Communion frequently, either in reality or in desire. When Jesus taught us how to pray, He charged us to ask for our bodily and spiritual bread for each day, both together. This was the understanding and practice of the early Christians, who daily
gave both soul and body their proper repast, that is, they took both Communion and a meal.. . .A hale and hearty body eats often and well; a sickly body eats little, a dead body eats nothing at all. In like manner, a Christian who is spiritually hale and hearty receives Communion often and well, that is, with fervour and devotion; a Christian who is spiritually infirm receives Communion seldom, reluctantly and lukewarmly;
and a Christian who is habitually in mortal sin, or dead to the life of grace, does not receive Communion (SSW. P. 158).

20. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel or Sanctuary of a parish, is the most exact thermometer whereby to register the degree of charity or warmth of love and devotion of the parishioners. When a metric thermometer stands at one degree above zero, the weather is bitter cold; when it stand at twelve degrees, Spring is here; and when it stands between twenty-four and thirty degrees, it’s hot. Just so, when the people receive Communion only once a year, the parish is very cold; when they receive it twelve times a year, things are going better and Sp ring has come with flowers of virtue that give hope of ripe fruits to come; but when they receive twice a month, every week or more, then the fire that Jesus brought down from heaven is burning bright — and it is His will that it should so burn (SSW. Pp. 158-159).

21. When Satan tempted our first parents, Adam and Eve, he told them: “Eat, and you will become as gods.” It was a snare of the father of lies. They did not become gods, but rather slaves of Satan and guilty of hellfire. . .But Jesus Christ availed Himself of the same means to do us good, as Satan use to do us ill. He instituted the august Sacrament under the form of food, and He tells us in full truth: “Eat, and you will become as gods. You will be like me, who am God and man.” In effect, those who receive Communion well, will be like an iron bar placed in a furnace, where it turns to fire. Yes, in this same way the soul that received Communion well, will be divinised. The fire rids the iron of its dross, its natural coldness and hardness, making it so soft that it may be shaped to the liking of the smith. The fire of divine love in the
furnace of Communion acts in a similar way on the soul who receives Communion well and often: it removes the dross of its imperfections, its natural coldness, the hardness of its self love, and makes it so tender and soft that it may be shaped completely to the will of God in all things, so that it says, as Jesus said to His Eternal Father: “Not my will, but Thine be done.” (SSW. P. 159).

22. To those who approach Holy Communion, Jesus says: “Take and eat; this is my body, broken for you. Take and drink; this is my blood, poured out for you” Take and eat, and learn from me to empty yourself of self, to make room for the glory of God and for the love of your brothers and sisters, as I emptied myself. Take and eat, and learn from me, for I was obedient even to death on the cross, and even beyond death on a cross, since everyday I most promptly and gladly obey the words of consecration, and I shall obey them until the consummation of the ages. Take and eat, for I am meek and humble of heart. See how humbled I am in this Sacrament. I am a hidden God, hidden in my divinity and hidden in my humanity, that I might teach you this most necessary virtue. Imitate my meekness; see how for love of you I suffer irreverence, sacrilege, profanation, contempt and insults. Take and eat, learn from me to love one another as I have loved you. For you I have done much, I have suffered infinitely, and I have given myself so that I could do still more; imitate me. Those who approach Communion with fervour and devotion will hear such words. This, in fact, is how the world was converted: it was converted through the preaching of Christ crucified and through the frequent reception of Holy Communion. The pagans, observing how fervent the Christians were, said to one another: “See how they love one another!” What peace, serenity and sweetness! What chastity, charity and other virtues combined! And the sight of this moved them above all to embrace the
religion of the Crucified (SSW. Pp. 159-160).

23. When we receive Communion, we all receive the same Lord Jesus Christ, but we do not all receive the same graces, and the Lord does not produce the same effects in all who receive. This comes from our being more or less well disposed. . . To explain this phenomenon, I shall use a comparison from nature, namely, the process of inserting grafts in trees (grafting) We know from experience that a wild tree yields little fruit, and that the little it yields is bad. Nevertheless, if we insert into this wild tree a graft of high quality, it yields much good fruit. To some extent, this is what happens to lazy and careless Christians, who yield little of the fruit of good works, and the little ‘they yield is shot through with imperfections. But if the same Christians receive Communion well, they will, like wild trees engrafted with good shoots, begin to yield admirable fruits. This is why Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi used to say that one well-made Communion is capable of making a great saint. . .there has to be some likeness between the graft and the tree into which it is inserted: the greater the likeness, the better the results will be. In like manner, the greater the likeness in humility, meekness, charity and other virtues that exists between Jesus and the communicant, the greater will be the results that Holy Communion yields.

Trees that are to receive grafts are divided into oily, gummy and watery, and the grafts they receive should belong to the same family, so that a graft from an oily tree will not take hold in a gummy or watery tree, and vice versa. Jesus is of an oily stock, for his name is like oil poured out, and this is why Communion, which is the precious graft, does not take hold, either in those Christians who because of their avarice are like gummy trees, or in those others who because of their lust are like watery trees. Hence it is indispensable that both of these become only oily through meekness, mercy, charity and other virtues (SSW. Pp. 160-161).

24. But as it is not enough that there be a likeness between the tree and the graft, but moreover that the one engrafting them should take proper care and have the requisite skills, so also I must tell you that it is not enough that regular communicants simply have the necessary requisites for Communion. Besides these -if Holy Communion is to produce great graces in them- it is indispensable that whenever communicants approach the holy table they do so each time with ever-greater attention, care’ and humility, and more lively desires, like the hart athirst, with more hunger, more thirst and more love. Happy the soul that communicates frequently and with ever-renewed dispositions! It shall be like a tree planted near running waters, that gives fruit in due season. It will be able to say with the Apostles, “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” In the same way, if the engrafted tree could speak, it would tell us: “I live, and in my trunk I am what I was before, but in me lives the graft, the shoot that has been placed in me and lives in me, and the fruit that I bear is not according to the old tree, but according to the new one.” Thus, then, the Christian who communicates well and often can say, “I live because I am a human being as before; but now .

I am not what I was before. Now I am according to the new man that has been engrafted unto me through Communion. I am what is in me.” As Jesus Himself says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live in the Father, so he who eats me shall also live by me”. For this reason, those who receive Communion well and frequently can say with the Apostle that nothing can separate them from the love of Jesus Christ, and that they can do all things in Him who strengthens them (SSW: pp. 161-162).

25. Let us then attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass not only on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, as is our duty, but also on other days, out of devotion. We must offer the Holy Sacrifice to God not only to make satisfaction far our failings, faults arid sins, but also to acknowledge His supreme dominion over us and to witness to the benefits and graces He has given us arid continue s giving us; far all that we have, we have received from Him. We must offer this Holy Sacrifice in thanksgiving for His many mercies to us, or rather, we must attend this Sacrifice which Jesus Christ Himself offer to the eternal Father on our behalf. He is both the principal Offerer and the Victim offered. Christ is the one who speaks far us and is our Advocate in heaven with the Father, as Saint John says. And on the Altar we have the One who makes intercession far us, as Saint Paul assures us (SSW. P. 166).

26. .. .the expositors tell us that the merits of Jesus Christ are of infinite worth in themselves and fully sufficient to redeem thousands of worlds, but that the eternal Father accepted them only on the condition that adults should take their part in this passion in order to be able to enjoy its fruit; that is, we must cooperate, now by hearing Holy Mass, now by receiving Holy Communion, now by praying, now by meekly and patiently bearing slanders, sufferings and labours, now by mortifying our passions and senses, which we must sacrifice and offer to God (SWW. P. 167-168).


Compiled by Fr. Charles Amadi cmf

2008-Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in Formation



To read from the official site Click here

I. The Church and the Discernment of a Vocation

1. “Each Christian vocation comes from God and is God’s gift. However, it is never bestowed outside of or independently of the Church. Instead it always comes about in the Church and through the Church […], a luminous and living reflection of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.” [1]

The Church, “begetter and formator of vocations”,[2] has the duty of discerning a vocation and the suitability of candidates for the priestly ministry. In fact, “the interior call of the Spirit needs to be recognized as the authentic call of the bishop.” [3]

In furthering this discernment, and throughout the entire process of formation for ministry, the Church is moved by two concerns: to safeguard the good of her own mission and, at the same time, the good of the candidates. In fact, like every Christian vocation, the vocation to the priesthood, along with a Christological dimension, has an essentially ecclesial dimension: “Not only does it derive `from’ the Church and her mediation, not only does it come to be known and find fulfilment `in’ the Church, but it also necessarily appears – in fundamental service to God – as a service `to’ the Church. Christian vocation, whatever shape it takes, is a gift whose purpose is to build up the Church and to increase the kingdom of God in the world.” [4]

Therefore, the good of the Church and that of the candidate are not in opposition, but rather converge. Those responsible for formation work at harmonizing these two goods, by always considering both simultaneously in their interdependent dynamic. This is an essential aspect of the great responsibility they bear in their service to the Church and to individuals.[5]

2. The priestly ministry, understood and lived as a conformation to Christ, Bridegroom and Good Shepherd, requires certain abilities as well as moral and theological virtues, which are supported by a human and psychic – and particularly affective – equilibrium, so as to allow the subject to be adequately predisposed for giving of himself in the celibate life, in a way that is truly free in his relations with the faithful.[6]

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis treats of the various dimensions of priestly formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. Before the text deals with the spiritual dimension – “an extremely important element of a priest’s education” [7] – it underlines that the human dimension is the foundation of all formation. The document lists a series of human virtues and relational abilities that are required of the priest, so that his personality * may be “a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity.” [8] These virtues and qualities range from the personality’s general equilibrium to the ability to bear the weight of pastoral responsibilities, from a deep knowledge of the human spirit to a sense of justice and loyalty.[9]

* The specific understanding of “personality” in this document refers to affective maturity and absence of mental disorder.

Some of these qualities merit particular attention: the positive and stable sense of one’s masculine identity, and the capacity to form relations in a mature way with individuals and groups of people; a solid sense of belonging, which is the basis of future communion with the presbyterium and of a responsible collaboration in the ministry of the bishop; [10] the freedom to be enthused by great ideals and a coherence in realizing them in everyday action; the courage to take decisions and to stay faithful to them; a knowledge of oneself, of one’s talents and limitations, so as to integrate them within a self-esteem before God; the capacity to correct oneself; the appreciation for beauty in the sense of “splendour of the truth” as well as the art of recognizing it; the trust that is born from an esteem of the other person and that leads to acceptance; the capacity of the candidate to integrate his sexuality in accordance with the Christian vision, including in consideration of the obligation of celibacy.[11]

Such interior dispositions must be moulded during the future priest’s path of formation because, as a man of God and of the Church, he is called to build up the ecclesial community. Being in love with Him who is Eternal, the priest develops an authentic and integral appreciation of humanity. He also increasingly lives the richness of his own affectivity in the gift of himself to God, One and Three, and to his brethren, particularly those who are suffering.

Clearly, these are objectives that can only be reached by the candidate co-operating daily with the work of grace within him. They are objectives that are acquired with a gradual and lengthy path of formation, which is not always linear.[12]

A priestly vocation involves an extraordinary and demanding synergy of human and spiritual dynamics. The candidate, knowing this, can only draw advantage from an attentive and responsible vocational discernment, aimed at differentiating formation paths according to each individual’s needs, as well as gradually overcoming his deficiencies on the spiritual and human levels. The Church has the duty of furnishing candidates with an effective integration of the human dimension, in light of the spiritual dimension into which it flows and in which it finds its completion.[13]

II. Preparation of Formators

3. Every formator should have a good knowledge of the human person: his rhythms of growth; his potentials and weaknesses; and his way of living his relationship with God. Thus, it is desirable that bishops – by making use of various experiences, programs and institutions of good reputation – provide a suitable preparation in vocational pedagogy for formators, according to the indications already published by the Congregation for Catholic Education.[14]

Formators need to be adequately prepared to carry out a discernment that, fully respecting the Church’s doctrine on the priestly vocation, allows for a reasonably sure decision as to whether the candidate should be admitted to the seminary or house of formation of the religious clergy, or whether he should be dismissed from the seminary or house of formation for reasons of unsuitability. The discernment also must allow for the candidate to be accompanied on his path to acquiring those moral and theological virtues, which are necessary for living, in coherence and interior freedom, the total gift of his life, so as to be a “servant of the Church as communion”.[15]

4. The document of this Congregation for Catholic Education, A Guide to Formation in Priestly Celibacy, recognizes that “errors in discerning vocations are not rare, and in all too many cases psychological defects, sometimes of a pathological kind, reveal themselves only after ordination to the priesthood. Detecting defects earlier would help avoid many tragic experiences.” [16]

Hence, the need for every formator to possess, in due measure, the sensitivity and psychological preparation [17] that will allow him, insofar as possible, to perceive the candidate’s true motivations, to discern the barriers that stop him integrating human and Christian maturity, and to pick up on any psychopathic disturbances present in the candidate. The formator must accurately and very prudently evaluate the candidate’s history. Nevertheless, this history alone cannot constitute the decisive criterion which would be sufficient for judging whether to admit the candidate or dismiss him from formation. The formator must know how to evaluate the person in his totality, not forgetting the gradual nature of development. He must see the candidate’s strong and weak points, as well as the level of awareness that the candidate has of his own problems. Lastly, the formator must discern the candidate’s capacity for controlling his own behaviour in responsibility and freedom.

Thus, every formator must be prepared, including by means of specific courses, to understand profoundly the human person as well as the demands of his formation to the ordained ministry. To that end, much advantage can be derived from meeting experts in the psychological sciences, to compare notes and obtain clarification on some specific issues.

III. Contribution of Psychology to Vocational Discernment and Formation

5. Inasmuch as it is the fruit of a particular gift of God, the vocation to the priesthood and its discernment lie outside the strict competence of psychology. Nevertheless, in some cases, recourse to experts in the psychological sciences can be useful. It can allow a more sure evaluation of the candidate’s psychic state; it can help evaluate his human dispositions for responding to the divine call; and it can provide some extra assistance for the candidate’s human growth. These experts can offer formators an opinion regarding the diagnosis of – and, perhaps, therapy for – psychic disturbances. Moreover, by suggesting ways for favouring a vocational response that is more free, they can help support the development of the human (especially relational) qualities, which are required for the exercise of the ministry.[18]

Even formation for the priesthood must face up to the manifold symptoms of the imbalance rooted in the heart of man,[19] which is symptomized, in a particular way, in the contradictions between the ideal of self-giving to which the candidate consciously aspires, and the life he actually leads. Formation must also deal with the difficulties inherent in the gradual development of the moral virtues. The help of the spiritual director and confessor is fundamental and absolutely necessary for overcoming these difficulties with the grace of God. In some cases, however, the development of these moral qualities can be blocked by certain psychological wounds of the past that have not yet been resolved.

In fact, those who today ask admittance to the seminary reflect, in a more or less accentuated way, the unease of an emerging mentality characterized by consumerism, instability in family and social relationships, moral relativism, erroneous visions of sexuality, the precariousness of choices, and a systematic negation of values especially by the media.

Among the candidates can be found some who come from particular experiences – human, family, professional, intellectual or affective – which, in various ways, have left psychological wounds that are not yet healed and that cause disturbances. These wounds, unknown to the candidate in their real effects, are often erroneously attributed by him to causes outside himself, thus depriving him of the possibility of facing them adequately.[20]

It is clear that the above-mentioned issues can limit the candidate’s capacity for making progress on the path of formation towards the priesthood.

“Si casus ferat”[21] – that is, in exceptional cases that present particular difficulties – recourse to experts in the psychological sciences, both before admission to the seminary and during the path of formation, can help the candidate overcome those psychological wounds, and interiorize, in an ever more stable and profound way, the type of life shown by Jesus the Good Shepherd, Head and Bridegroom of the Church.[22]

To arrive at a correct evaluation of the candidate’s personality, the expert can have recourse to both interviews and tests. These must always be carried out with the previous, explicit, informed and free consent of the candidate.[23]

In consideration of their particularly sensitive nature, the use of specialist psychological or psychotherapeutic techniques must be avoided by the formators.

6. It is useful for the rector and other formators to be able to count on the co-operation of experts in the psychological sciences. Such experts, who cannot be part of the formation team, will have to have specific competence in the field of vocations, and unite the wisdom of the Spirit to their professional expertise.

In choosing which experts to approach for the psychological consultation, it is necessary to guarantee, as much as possible, an intervention that is coherent with the candidate’s moral and spiritual formation. This is to avoid any harmful confusion or opposition. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that these experts, as well as being distinguished for their sound human and spiritual maturity, must be inspired by an anthropology that openly shares the Christian vision about the human person, sexuality, as well as vocation to the priesthood and to celibacy. In this way, their interventions may take into account the mystery of man in his personal dialogue with God, according to the vision of the Church.

Wherever such experts are not available, let steps be taken to specifically preparing them.[24]

The assistance offered by the psychological sciences must be integrated within the context of the candidate’s entire formation. It must not obstruct, but rather ensure, in a particular way, that the irreplaceable value of spiritual accompaniment is guaranteed; for spiritual accompaniment has the duty of keeping the candidate facing the truth of the ordained ministry, according to the vision of the Church. The atmosphere of faith, prayer, meditation on the Word of God, the study of theology and community life – an atmosphere that is essential so that a generous response to the vocation received from God can mature – will allow the candidate to have a correct understanding of what the recourse to psychology means within his vocational journey, and will allow him to integrate it within that same journey.

7. In faithfulness and coherence to the principles and directives of this document, different countries will have to regulate the recourse to experts in the psychological sciences in their respectiveRationes institutionis sacerdotalis. The competent Ordinaries or major superiors will have to do the same in the individual seminaries.

a) Initial Discernment

8. Right from the moment when the candidate presents himself for admission to the seminary, the formator needs to be able accurately to comprehend his personality; potentialities; dispositions; and the types of any psychological wounds, evaluating their nature and intensity.

Nor must it be forgotten that there is a possible tendency of some candidates to minimize or deny their own weaknesses. Such candidates do not speak to the formators about some of their serious difficulties, as they fear they will not be understood or accepted. Thus, they nurture barely realistic expectations with respect to their own future. On the other hand, there are candidates who tend to emphasize their own difficulties, considering them insurmountable obstacles on their vocational journey.

The timely discernment of possible problems that block the vocational journey can only be of great benefit for the person, for the vocational institutions and for the Church. Such problems include excessive affective dependency; disproportionate aggression; insufficient capacity for being faithful to obligations taken on; insufficient capacity for establishing serene relations of openness, trust and fraternal collaboration, as well as collaboration with authority; a sexuality identity that is confused or not yet well defined.

In the phase of initial discernment, the help of experts in the psychological sciences can be necessary principally on the specifically diagnostic level, whenever there is a suspicion that psychic disturbances may be present. If it should be ascertained that the candidate needs therapy, this therapy should be carried out before he is admitted to the seminary or house of formation.

The assistance of experts can be useful for formators, including when they are marking out a path of formation tailored to the candidate’s specific needs.

When evaluating whether it is possible for the candidate to live the charism of celibacy in faithfulness and joy, as a total gift of his life in the image of Christ the Head and Shepherd of the Church, let it be remembered that it is not enough to be sure that he is capable of abstaining from genital activity. It is also necessary to evaluate his sexual orientation, according to the indications published by this Congregation.[25] Chastity for the Kingdom, in fact, is much more than the simple lack of sexual relationships.

In light of the objectives indicated above, a psychological consultation can, in some cases, be useful.

b) Subsequent Formation

9. During the period of formation, recourse to experts in the psychological sciences can respond to the needs born of any crises; but it can also be useful in supporting the candidate on his journey towards a more sure possession of the moral virtues. It can furnish the candidate with a deeper knowledge of his personality, and can contribute to overcoming, or rendering less rigid, his psychic resistances to what his formation is proposing.

The candidates can give themselves to God with due awareness and freedom, in responsibility towards themselves and the Church, when they have better mastered not only their weaknesses, but also their human and spiritual forces.[26]

A certain Christian and vocational maturity can be reached, including with the help of psychology, illumined and completed by the contribution of the anthropology of the Christian vocation and, therefore, of grace. Nevertheless, one cannot overlook the fact that such maturity will never be completely free of difficulties and tensions, which require interior discipline, a spirit of sacrifice, acceptance of struggle and of the Cross,[27] and the entrusting of oneself to the irreplaceable assistance of grace.[28]

10. It is possible that the candidate – notwithstanding his own commitment and the support of the psychologist, or psychotherapy – could continue to show himself unable to face realistically his areas of grave immaturity – even given the gradual nature of all human growth. Such areas of immaturity would include strong affective dependencies; notable lack of freedom in relations; excessive rigidity of character; lack of loyalty; uncertain sexual identity; deep-seated homosexual tendencies; etc. If this should be the case, the path of formation will have to be interrupted.

The same is also true if it becomes evident that the candidate has difficulty living chastity in celibacy: that is, if celibacy, for him, is lived as a burden so heavy that it compromises his affective and relational equilibrium.

IV. Request for Specialist Evaluations and Respect for the Candidate’s Privacy

11. It belongs to the Church to choose persons whom she believes suitable for the pastoral ministry, and it is her right and duty to verify the presence of the qualities required in those whom she admits to the sacred ministry.[29]

Canon 1051, 1º of the Code of Canon Law foresees that, for the scrutiny of the qualities required in view of ordination, one should provide, inter al., for an evaluation of the state of the candidate’s physical and psychic health.[30]

Canon 1052 establishes that the bishop, in order to be able to proceed to ordaining the candidate, must have moral certainty that “positive arguments have proved” his suitability (§ 1) and that, in the case of motivated doubt, he must not proceed with the ordination (§ 3).

Hence, the Church has the right to verify the suitability of future priests, including by means of recourse to medical and psychological science. In fact, it belongs to the bishop or competent superior not only to examine the suitability of the candidate, but also to establish that he is suitable. A candidate for the priesthood cannot impose his own personal conditions, but must accept with humility and gratitude the norms and the conditions that the Church herself places, on the part of her responsibility.[31] Therefore, in cases of doubt concerning the candidate’s suitability, admission to the seminary or house of formation will sometimes only be possible after a psychological evaluation of the candidate’s personality.

12. The formational institution has the right and the duty to acquire the knowledge necessary for a prudentially certain judgement regarding the candidate’s suitability. But this must not harm the candidate’s right to a good reputation, which any person enjoys, nor the right to defend his own privacy, as prescribed in canon 220 of the Code of Canon Law. This means that the candidate’s psychological consultation can only proceed with his previous, explicit, informed and free consent.

Let the formators guarantee an atmosphere of trust, so that the candidate can open up and participate with conviction in the work of discernment and accompaniment, offering “his own convinced and heartfelt co-operation”.[32] The candidate is asked to be sincerely and trustingly open with his formators. Only by sincerely allowing them to know him can he be helped on that spiritual journey that he himself is seeking by entering the seminary.

Important, and often determinant in overcoming possible misunderstandings, will be both the educational atmosphere between students and formators – marked by openness and transparency – and the motivations and ways with which the formators will present their suggestion to the candidate that he should have a psychological consultation.

Let them avoid the impression that such a suggestion is the prelude to the candidate’s inevitable dismissal from the seminary or house of formation.

The candidate will be able freely to approach an expert who is either chosen from among those indicated by the formators, or chosen by the candidate himself and accepted by the formators.

According to the possibilities, the candidates should be guaranteed a free choice from among various experts who possess the requisites indicated.[33]

If the candidate, faced with a motivated request by the formators, should refuse to undergo a psychological consultation, the formators will not force his will in any way. Instead, they will prudently proceed in the work of discernment with the knowledge they already have, bearing in mind the aforementioned canon 1052 § 1.

V. The Relationship between those Responsible for Formation and the Expert

a) Those Responsible in the External Forum

13. In a spirit of reciprocal trust and in co-operation with his own formation, the candidate can be invited freely to give his written consent so that the expert in the psychological sciences, who is bound by confidentiality, can communicate the results of the consultation to the formators indicated by the candidate himself. The formators will make use of any information thus acquired to sketch out a general picture of the candidate’s personality, and to infer the appropriate indications for the candidate’s further path of formation or for his admission to ordination.

In order to protect, in both the present and the future, the candidate’s privacy and good reputation, let particular care be taken so that the professional opinions expressed by the expert be exclusively accessible to those responsible for formation, with the precise and binding proscription against using it in any way other than for the discernment of a vocation and for the candidate’s formation.

b) Specific Character of Spiritual Direction

14. The spiritual director’s task is not easy, neither in discerning the vocation nor in the area of conscience.

It is a firm principle that spiritual direction cannot, in any way, be interchanged with or substituted by forms of analysis or of psychological assistance. Moreover, the spiritual life, by itself, favours a growth in the human virtues, if there are no barriers of a psychological nature.[34] Bearing these two principles in mind, the spiritual director can find that, in order to clear up any doubts that are otherwise irresolvable and to proceed with greater certainty in the discernment and in spiritual accompaniment, he needs to suggest to the candidate that he undergo a psychological consultation – without, however, ever demanding it.[35]

Should the spiritual director request that the candidate undergo a psychological consultation, it is desirable that the candidate, as well as informing the spiritual director himself about the results of the consultation, will likewise inform the external-forum formator, especially if the spiritual director himself will have invited him to do this.

If the spiritual director should believe it useful that he himself directly acquire information from the consultant, let him proceed according to what has been indicated in n. 13 for the external-forum formators.

The spiritual director will infer from the results of the psychological consultation the appropriate indications for the discernment that is of his competence, as well as the advice he must give the candidate, including as to whether to proceed on the path of formation.

c) Help of the Expert to the Candidate and Formators

15. The expert – insofar as it is asked of him – will help the candidate reach a greater knowledge of himself, of his potentialities and vulnerabilities. He will also help him to compare the declared ideals of the vocation with his own personality, thus encouraging the candidate to develop a personal, free and conscious attachment to his own formation. It will be the task of the expert to furnish the candidate with the appropriate indications concerning the difficulties that he is experiencing, and their possible consequences for his life and future priestly ministry.

The expert, having carried out his evaluation, and also taking into account the indications offered him by the formators, will present them – but only with the candidate’s previous written consent – with his contribution to understanding the subject’s personality and the problems he is facing or must face.

In accordance with his evaluation and competence, he will also indicate the foreseeable possibilities as regards the growth of the candidate’s personality. Moreover, he will suggest, if necessary, forms or pathways of psychological support.

VI. Persons Dismissed From, or Who Have Freely Left, Seminaries or Houses of Formation

16. It is contrary to the norms of the Church to admit to the seminary or to the house of formation persons who have already left or, a fortiori, have been dismissed from other seminaries or houses of formation, without first collecting the due information from their respective bishops or major superiors, especially concerning the causes of the dismissal or departure.36

The previous formators have the explicit duty of furnishing exact information to the new formators.

Let particular attention be paid to the fact that often candidates leave the educational institution spontaneously so as to avoid an enforced dismissal.

In the case of a transfer to another seminary or house of formation, the candidate must inform the new formators about any psychological consultation previously carried out. Only with the candidate’s free, written consent can the new formators have access to the communication of the expert who carried out the consultation.

In the case of a candidate who, after a previous dismissal, has undergone psychological treatment, if it is held that he can be accepted into the seminary, let first his psychic condition be accurately verified, insofar as possible. This includes collecting the necessary information from the expert who treated him, after having obtained the candidate’s free, written consent.

In the case where a candidate, after having had recourse to an expert in psychology, asks to transfer to another seminary or house of formation and does not want to agree to the results being available to the new formators, let it be remembered that the suitability of the candidate must be proved with positive arguments, according to the norm of the aforementioned canon 1052, and, therefore, that all reasonable doubt must be excluded.


17. Let all those who, according to their different responsibilities, are involved in formation offer their convinced co-operation, in respecting the specific competencies of each, so that the discernment and vocational accompaniment of the candidates may be sufficient, thus “bringing to the priesthood only those who have been called, and to bring them adequately trained, namely, with a conscious and free response of adherence and involvement of their whole person with Jesus Christ, who calls them to intimacy of life with him and to share in his mission of salvation.” 37

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, during the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 13 June 2008, approved the present document and authorized its publication.

Rome, 29 June 2008, Solemnity of the Apostles SS. Peter and Paul.

Zenon Card. Grocholewski

+ Jean-Louis Bruguès, o.p.
Archbishop-Bishop emeritus of Anger

[1] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis (25 March 1992), n. 35b-c: AAS 84 (1992), 714.

[2] Ibid., n. 35d: AAS 84 (1992), 715.

[3] Ibid., n. 65d: AAS 84 (1992), 771.

[4] Ibid., n. 35e: AAS 84 (1992), 715.

[5] Cf. ibid., nn. 66-67: AAS 84 (1992), 772-775.

[6] A very full description of these conditions is given in Pastores dabo vobis, nn. 43-44: AAS 84 (1992), 731-736; cf. C.I.C., canons 1029 and 1041, 1º.

[7] Inasmuch as “for every priest his spiritual formation is the core which unifies and gives life to his being a priest and his acting as a priest”: Pastores dabo vobis, n. 45c: AAS 84 (1992), 737.

[8] Pastores dabo vobis, n. 43: AAS 84 (1992), 731-733.

[9] Cf. ibid.; cf. also Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree of Priestly Formation Optatam totius (28 October 1965), n. 11: AAS 58 (1966), 720-721; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum ordinis (7 December 1965), n. 3: AAS 58 (1966), 993-995; Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis (19 March 1985), n. 51.

[10] Cf. Pastores dabo vobis, n. 17: AAS 84 (1992), 682-684.

[11] Paul VI, in his Encyclical Letter Sacerdotalis cælibatus, deals explicitly of this necessary capacity of the candidate for the priesthood, in nn. 63-63: AAS 59 (1967), 682-683. In n. 64, he concludes: “The life of the celibate priest, which engages the whole man so totally and so delicately, excludes in fact those of insufficient physical, psychic and moral qualifications. Nor should anyone pretend that grace supplies for the defects of nature in such a man.” Cf. also Pastores dabo vobis,n. 44: AAS 84 (1992), 733-736.

[12] In the developing formation process, affective maturity takes on a particular importance; this is an area of development that requires, today more than ever, particular attention. “In reality, we grow in affective maturity when our hearts adhere to God. Christ needs priests who are mature, virile, capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual paternity. For this to happen, priests need to be honest with themselves, open with their spiritual director and trusting in divine mercy” (Benedict XVI, Speech to priests and religious in the Cathedral of Warsaw [25 May 2006], in L’Osservatore Romano [26-27 May 2006], p. 7). Cf. Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations, New Vocations for a New Europe, Final Document of the Congress on Vocations to the Priesthood and to the Consecrated Life in Europe, Rome, 5-10 May 1997, published by the Congregations for Catholic Education, for the Oriental Churches, for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (6 January 1998), n. 37.

[13] Cf. Pastores dabo vobis, n. 45a: AAS 84 (1992), 736.

[14] Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Directives concerning the Preparation of Seminary Formators (4 November 1993), nn. 36 and 57-59; cf. especially Optatam totius, n. 5: AAS 58 (1966), 716-717.

[15] Pastores dabo vobis, n. 16e: AAS 84 (1992), 682.

[16] Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, A Guide to Formation in Priestly Celibacy (11 April 1974), n. 38.

[17] Cf. Pastores dabo vobis, n. 66c: AAS 84 (1992), 773; Directives concerning the Preparation of Seminary Formators, nn. 57-59.

[18] Cf. Optatam totius, n. 11: AAS 58 (1966), 720-721.

[19] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes (7 December 1965), n. 10: AAS 58 (1966), 1032-1033.

[20] To understand these assertions better, it is opportune to refer to the following assertions of Pope John Paul II: “Humans, therefore, carry within themselves the seed of eternal life and the vocation to make transcendent values their own. They, however, remain internally vulnerable and dramatically exposed to the risk of failing in their own vocation. This is due to the resistance and difficulties which they encounter in their earthly existence. These may be found on the conscious level, where moral responsibility is involved, or on the subconscious level, and this may be either in ordinary psychic life or in that which is marked by slight or moderate psychic illnesses that do not impinge substantially on one’s freedom to strive after transcendent ideals which have been responsibly chosen” (Address to the Roman Rota [25 January 1988]: AAS 80 [1988], 1181).

[21] Cf. Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis, n. 39; Congregation for bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of bishops Apostolorum Successores (22 February 2004), n. 88.

[22] Cf. Pastores dabo vobis, n. 29d: AAS 84 (1992), 704.

[23] Cf. Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, Instruction on the Renewal of Formation for Religious Life (6 January 1969), n. 11 § III: AAS 61 (1969), 113.


[25] Cf. John Paul II: “It will therefore be right to pay attention to the formation of expert psychologists, who, with good scientific qualifications, will also have a sound understanding of the Christian vision of life and of the vocation to the priesthood, so as to provide effective support for the necessary integration of the human and supernatural dimensions” (Speech to the participants at the Plenary Session of the Congregation for Catholic Education [4 February 2002]: AAS94 [2002], 465).

Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Instruction concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders (4 November 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 1007-1013.

[26] Cf. A Guide to Formation in Priestly Celibacy, n. 38.

[27] Cf. Pastores dabo vobis, n. 48d: AAS 84 (1992), 744.

[28] Cf. 2 Cor 12, 7-10.

[29] Cf. C.I.C., canons 1025, 1051 and 1052; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Circular Letter to the Most Reverend Diocesan bishops and other Ordinaries with Canonical Faculties to Admit to Sacred Orders concerning: Scrutinies regarding the Suitability of Candidates for Orders” (10 November 1997): Notitiæ 33 (1997), pp. 507-518.

[30] Cf. C.I.C., canons 1029, 1031 § 1 and 1041, 1º; Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis, n. 39.

[31] Cf. Pastores dabo vobis, n. 35g: AAS 84 (1992), 715.

[32] Ibid., n. 69b33: AAS 84 (1992), 778.

[33] Cf. n. 6 of this document.

[34] Cf. note n. 20.

[35] Cf. Pastores dabo vobis, n. 40c: AAS 84 (1992), 725

2005-Criteria for Discernment of Vocations-Homosexual Tendencies

Instruction from Congregation for Catholic Education

Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders

To read from the official site Click here

In continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and, in particular, with the Decree Optatam Totius
[1] on priestly formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education has published various Documents with the aim of promoting a suitable, integral formation of future priests, by offering guidelines and precise norms regarding its diverse aspects.[2] In the meantime, the 1990 Synod of Bishops also reflected on the formation of priests in the circumstances of the present day, with the intention of bringing to completion the doctrine of the Council on this theme and making it more explicit and effective in today’s world. Following this Synod, Pope John Paul II published the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis.[3]

In light of this abundant teaching, the present Instruction does not intend to dwell on all questions in the area of affectivity and sexuality that require an attentive discernment during the entire period of formation. Rather, it contains norms concerning a specific question, made more urgent by the current situation, and that is:  whether to admit to the seminary and to holy orders candidates who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

1. Affective Maturity and Spiritual Fatherhood

According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only a baptized person of the male sex[4] validly receives sacred Ordination. By means of the Sacrament of Orders, the Holy Spirit configures the candidate to Jesus Christ in a new and specific way:  the priest, in fact, sacramentally represents Christ, the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church[5]. Because of this configuration to Christ, the entire life of the sacred minister must be animated by the gift of his whole person to the Church and by an authentic pastoral charity[6].

The candidate to the ordained ministry, therefore, must reach affective maturity. Such maturity will allow him to relate correctly to both men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood towards the Church community that will be entrusted to him[7].

2. Homosexuality and the Ordained Ministry

From the time of the Second Vatican Council until today, various Documents of the Magisterium, and especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church, have confirmed the teaching of the Church on homosexuality. The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.

Regarding acts, it teaches that Sacred Scripture presents them as grave sins. The Tradition has constantly considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. Consequently, under no circumstance can they be approved.

Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter[8].

In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question[9], cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture”[10].

Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem – for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.

3. Discernment by the Church Concerning the Suitability of Candidates

There are two inseparable elements in every priestly vocation:  the free gift of God and the responsible freedom of the man. A vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church. In responding to the call of God, the man offers himself freely to him in love[11]. The desire alone to become a priest is not sufficient, and there does not exist a right to receive sacred ordination. It belongs to the Church – in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for receiving the sacraments instituted by Christ – to discern the suitability of him who desires to enter the seminary[12], to accompany him during his years of formation, and to call him to holy orders if he is judged to possess the necessary qualities[13].

The formation of the future priest must distinctly articulate, in an essentially complementary manner, the four dimensions of formation:  human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral[14]. In this context, it is necessary to highlight the particular importance of human formation as the necessary foundation of all formation[15]. In order to admit a candidate to ordination to the diaconate, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate has reached affective maturity[16].

The call to orders is the personal responsibility of the Bishop[17] or the major superior. Bearing in mind the opinion of those to whom he has entrusted the responsibility of formation, the Bishop or major superior, before admitting the candidate to ordination, must arrive at a morally certain judgment on his qualities. In the case of a serious doubt in this regard, he must not admit him to ordination[18].

The discernment of a vocation and of the maturity of the candidate is also a serious duty of the rector and of the other persons entrusted with the work of formation in the seminary. Before every ordination, the rector must express his own judgment on whether the qualities required by the Church are present in the candidate[19].

In the discernment concerning the suitability for ordination, the spiritual director has an important task. Although he is bound to secrecy, he represents the Church in the internal forum. In his discussions with the candidate, the spiritual director must especially point out the demands of the Church concerning priestly chastity and the affective maturity that is characteristic of the priest, as well as help him to discern whether he has the necessary qualities[20]. The spiritual director has the obligation to evaluate all the qualities of the candidate’s personality and to make sure that he does not present disturbances of a sexual nature, which are incompatible with the priesthood. If a candidate practises homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination.

It goes without saying that the candidate himself has the primary responsibility for his own formation[21]. He must offer himself trustingly to the discernment of the Church, of the Bishop who calls him to orders, of the rector of the seminary, of his spiritual director and of the other seminary educators to whom the Bishop or major superior has entrusted the task of forming future priests. It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality in order to proceed, despite everything, towards ordination. Such a deceitful attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and openness that must characterize the personality of him who believes he is called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministerial priesthood.


This Congregation reaffirms the need for Bishops, major superiors and all relevant authorities to carry out an attentive discernment concerning the suitability of candidates for holy orders, from the time of admission to the seminary until ordination. This discernment must be done in light of a conception of the ministerial priesthood that is in accordance with the teaching of the Church.
Let Bishops, episcopal conferences and major superiors look to see that the constant norms of this Instruction be faithfully observed for the good of the candidates themselves, and to guarantee that the Church always has suitable priests who are true shepherds according to the Heart of Christ.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, on 31 August 2005, approved this present Instruction and ordered its publication.

Rome, 4 November 2005, Memorial of St Charles Borromeo, Patron of Seminaries

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski

 J. Michael Miller, C.S.B.
Tit. Archbp. of Vertara


[1] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on priestly formation Optatam Totius (28 October 1965):  AAS 58 (1966), 713-727.

 [2]Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis (6 January 1970; second edition 19 March 1985); The Study of Philosophy in Seminaries (20 January 1972); A Guide to Formation in Priestly Celibacy (11 April 1974); On the Teaching of Canon Law to Those Preparing to be Priests (2 April 1975); The Theological Formation of Future Priests (22 February 1976); Epistula circularis de formatione vocationum adultarum (14 July 1976); Instruction on Liturgical Formation in Seminaries (3 June 1979); Circular Letter Concerning Some of the More Urgent Aspects of Spiritual Formation in Seminaries (6 January 1980); Educational Guidance in Human Love:  Outlines for Sex Education (1 November 1983); Pastoral Care of People on the Move in the Formation of Future Priests (25 January 1986); Guide to the Training of Future Priests Concerning the Instruments of Social Communication (19 March 1986); Circular Letter Concerning Studies of the Oriental Churches (6 January 1987); The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation (25 March 1988); Guidelines for the Study and Teaching of the Church’s Social Doctrine in the Formation of Priests (30 December 1988); Instruction on the Study of the Fathers of the Church in the Formation of Priests (10 November 1989); Directives Concerning the Preparation of Seminary Educators (4 November 1993); Directives on the Formation of Seminarians Concerning Problems Related to Marriage and the Family (19 March 1995); Instruction to the Episcopal Conferences on the Admission to Seminary of Candidates Coming from Other Seminaries or Religious Families (9 October 1986 and 8 March 1996); The Propaedeutic Period (1 May 1998); Circular Letters Concerning the Canonical Norms relating to Irregularities and Impediments both ad Ordines recipiendos and ad Ordines exercendos (27 July 1992 and 2 February 1999).

[3] Pope John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992):  AAS 84 (1992), 657-864.

[4] Cf. CIC, can. 1024 and CCEO, can. 754; Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis on reserving priestly ordination to men alone (22 May 1994):  AAS 86 (1994), 545-548.

 [5] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the ministry and life of priests Presbyterorum Ordinis (7 December 1965), n. 2:  AAS 58 (1966), 991-993; Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 16:  AAS 84 (1992), 681-682. With regard to the priest’s configuration to Christ, Bridegroom of the Church, Pastores Dabo Vobis states that “The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the Spouse of the Church…. In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ’s spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest’s life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ’s spousal love” (n. 22):  AAS 84 (1992), 691.

[6] Cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 14:  AAS 58 (1966), 1013-1014; Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 23:  AAS 84 (1992), 691-694.

[7] Cf. Congregation for the Clergy, Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests (31 March 1994), n. 58.

[8] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (editio typica, 1997), nn. 2357-2358. Cf. also the various Documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:  Declaration Persona Humana on certain questions concerning sexual ethics (29 December 1975); Letter Homosexualitatis Problema to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (1 October 1986); Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on Non-discrimination of Homosexual Persons (23 July 1992); Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons (3 June 2003). With regard to homosexual inclinations, the Letter Homosexualitatis Problema states that “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder” (n. 3).

[9] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (editio typica, 1997), n. 2358; cf. also CIC, can. 208 and CCEO, can. 11.

[10] Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, A memorandum to Bishops seeking advice in matters concerning homosexuality and candidates for admission to Seminary (9 July 1985); Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Letter (16 May 2002):  Notitiae 38 (2002), 586.

[11] Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, nn. 35-36:  AAS 84 (1992), 714-718.

[12] Cf. CIC, can. 241 1:  “A diocesan Bishop is to admit to a major seminary only those who are judged qualified to dedicate themselves permanently to the sacred ministries; he is to consider their human, moral, spiritual and intellectual qualities, their physical and psychic health, and their correct intention”; cf. CCEO, can. 342 1.

[13] Cf. Optatam Totius, n. 6:  AAS 58 (1966), 717. Cf. also CIC, can. 1029:  “Only those are to be promoted to orders who, in the prudent judgment of their own Bishop or of the competent major superior, all things considered, have integral faith, are moved by the right intention, have the requisite knowledge, possess a good reputation, and are endowed with integral morals and proven virtues and the other physical and psychic qualities in keeping with the order to be received”; cf. CCEO, can. 758. Not to call to orders those who do not have the necessary qualities is not an unjust discrimination:  cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on Non-discrimination of Homosexual Persons.

[14] Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, nn. 43-59:  AAS 84 (1992), 731-762.

[15] Cf. ibid., n. 43:  “The priest, who is called to be a “living image’ of Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church, should seek to reflect in himself, as far as possible, the human perfection which shines forth in the incarnate Son of God and which is reflected with particular liveliness in his attitudes toward others”:  AAS 84 (1992), 732.

[16] Cf. ibid., nn. 44 and 50:  AAS 84 (1992), 733-736 and 746-748. Cf. also:  Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Circular Letter to the Most Reverend Diocesan Bishops and Other Ordinaries with Canonical Faculties to Admit to Sacred Orders Concerning:  Scrutinies regarding the Suitability of Candidates for Orders (10 November 1997):  Notitiae 33 (1997), 507-518, particularly Enclosure V.

[17] Cf. Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores (22 February 2004), n. 88.

[18] Cf. CIC, can. 1052 3:  “If… the Bishop doubts for specific reasons whether a candidate is suitable to receive orders, he is not to promote him”. Cf. also CCEO, can. 770.
[19] Cf. CIC, can. 1051:  “The following prescripts regarding the investigation about the qualities required in the one to be ordained are to be observed:  …there is to be a testimonial of the rector of the seminary or house of formation about the qualities required to receive the order, that is, about the sound doctrine of the candidate, his genuine piety, good morals and aptitude to exercise the ministry, as well as, after a properly executed inquiry, about his state of physical and psychic health”
[20] Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, nn. 50 and 66:  AAS 84 (1992), 746-748 and 772-774. Cf. also Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis, n. 48.

[21] Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 69:  AAS 84 (1992), 778.

2002-Starting Afresh from Christ



(Selected texts that deal with formation based on A. Values and Principles of consecrated life; B. Vocations; C. Initial formation; D. Ongoing formation)

To  read the full document Click here

A. Values and Principles of Consecrated Life


Contemplating the Splendour of the Face of Christ

1. Contemplating Christ’s crucified and glorious face1 and witnessing to his love in the world, consecrated persons joyfully accept the Holy Father John Paul II’s pressing invitation at the beginning of the third millennium to cast out into the deep: “Duc in altum!” (Lk 5:4). These words, echoed throughout the whole Church have enlivened a powerful new hope, reawakened the desire for a more intense evangelical life, and broken open the horizons of dialogue and mission.

Perhaps today, more than ever, Jesus’ invitation to cast out into the deep appears as a response to the human drama which is the victim of hate and death. The Holy Spirit is always active in history and can draw from human dramas a discernment of the events which is open to the mystery of mercy and peace among peoples. The Spirit, in fact, from the very troubled nature of the nations calls forth in many the dream of a different world already present among us. John Paul II assures young people of this when he exhorts them to be “sentinels of the dawn” who, strong in the faith, keep watch, awaiting the dawn.2

Certainly the dramatic events which have taken place in the world in these recent years have given rise to new and more weighty questions added to those already present, which grow out of a globalized Society. A society with its positive and negative forces in which “not only are technology and economy globalized but also insecurity and fear, crime and violence, injustices and war”.3

In this situation, consecrated persons are called by the Spirit to a continual conversion to give new vigour to the prophetic dimension of their vocation. They who, in fact, are “called to place their very existence at the service of the cause of the Kingdom of God, leaving everything behind and closely imitating the form of life of Jesus Christ, assume a most important teaching role for the whole People of God”.4

The Holy Father made this expectation clear in his message to the members of the last Plenary Session of our Congregation: “The Church”—he writes—“counts on the continual dedication of this chosen host of her sons and daughters, on their yearning for holiness and upon the enthusiasm of their service to foster and sustain every Christian’s striving for perfection and to enhance the common welcoming of neighbor, especially those most in need. In this way, witness is given to the love of Christ among all people”.5

Walking in the Footsteps of Christ

2. But how do we recognize in the reflection of history and at the present time the signs of the Spirit and the seeds of the Word, present now as always in human life and culture?6 How do we interpret the signs of the times in a reality such as ours in which areas of darkness and mystery abound? As with the disciples on the walk towards Emmaus, the Lord himself must be our travelling companion and grant us his Spirit. Only the Lord, present among us, can help us to fully understand and carry out his word, he can enlighten minds and warm hearts.

“Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world” (Mt 28:20). The Risen Lord has remained faithful to this promise. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, from her very beginnings, the Lord has always been present in the Church, lighting her way, flooding her with graces, giving her the strength to live his word ever more intensely and to carry out the mission of salvation as a sign of the unity of all with God and with each other.7

Consecrated life, in its continuous development and experience of new forms, is already in itself an eloquent expression of this very presence, almost a kind of Gospel spread out through the centuries. It appears in fact as a “prolongation in history of a special presence of the Risen Lord”.8 With this assurance, consecrated persons must seek a new impetus in Christian living, making it the force which inspires their journey of faith.9

Today’s world is expecting to see in consecrated men and women the concrete reflection of Jesus’ way of acting, of his love for every person without distinction or qualification. It wants to experience that, with the Apostle Paul, it is possible to say: “I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life for me” (Gal 2:20).

Five years after the Apostolic Exhortation “Vita Consecrata”

3. In order to help in the discernment which safeguards this particular vocation, and to support the courageous choice of evangelical witness, at this time, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life held its Plenary Session 25-28 September 2001.

In 1994 the IX Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, having completed the treatment “of the specific identity of the various states of life willed by Jesus for his Church”,10 following the Synods dedicated to the laity and to priests, studied Consecrated Life and its mission in the Church and in the world. The Holy Father John Paul II, gathering together the reflections and the hopes of that Assembly, gifted the whole Church with the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata.

Five years after the publication of this fundamental Document of the Church’s Magisterium, our Dicastery, in Plenary Session, considered the effectiveness with which it has been received and put into practice within communities and Institutes and in the local Churches.

The Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata clearly and profoundly expressed the Christological and ecclesial dimensions of consecrated life in a Trinitarian theological perspective, shedding new light on the theology of the following of Christ and of consecration, of communion in community and of mission. It contributed to the creation of a new mentality regarding the mission of consecrated life within the people of God. It helped consecrated persons themselves to capture a greater awareness of the grace of their own vocation.

This programmatic document remains the most significant and necessary point of reference guiding the path of fidelity and renewal of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life while at the same time, allowing for the rising of valid proposals for new forms of consecrated and evangelical life. It must continue to be studied, understood and put into practice.

B. Vocations

Vocation Animation

16. One of the first fruits of a path of ongoing formation is the daily ability to live one’s vocation as a gift which is always new and to be accepted with a grateful heart: a gift which calls for an ever more responsible attitude, to be witnessed to with an ongoing conviction and attractiveness so that others might feel called to God either in this particular vocation or through other paths. The consecrated person is, by nature, also a vocation animator: one who is called cannot not become a caller. There is, therefore, a natural link between ongoing formation and vocation animation.

Service to vocations is one of the most demanding challenges which consecrated life must face today. On the one hand, the globalization of culture and the complexity of social relations make radical and lifelong choices difficult; on the other hand, the world is living through a growing experience of moral and material sufferings which undermine the very dignity of the human being and is silently calling for persons who will powerfully announce a message of peace and hope, persons who will bring the salvation of Christ. We are reminded of the words of Jesus: “The harvest is great but the labourers are few. Pray the master of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2; Mt 9:37-38).

The first task of any vocational pastoral program is always prayer. Especially in those places where few are choosing to enter into consecrated life, a renewed faith in God who can raise Children of Abraham even from stone (cf. Mt 3:9) and make sterile wombs fruitful if called upon in faith, is urgently needed. All the faithful, and especially youth, should be involved in this manifestation of faith in God who alone can call and send workers. The entire local Church—bishops, priests, laity, consecrated persons—is called to assume responsibility for vocations to this particular consecration.

The master plan of vocational promotion to consecrated life is that which the Lord himself began when he said to the apostles John and Andrew, “Come and see” (Jn 1:39). This encounter accompanied by the sharing of life requires that consecrated persons deeply live their consecration in order to become a visible sign of the joy which God gives to those who listen to his call. For this reason, there is a need for communities which are welcoming and able to share the ideal of their life with young people, allowing themselves to be challenged by the demands of authenticity, and willing to accept them.

The local Church is the privileged place for this vocational announcement. Here all the ministries and charisms express their complimentarity.52 Together they realize communion in the one Spirit of Christ in the many ways that it is manifested. The active presence of consecrated persons will help Christian communities to become laboratories of faith,53 places of research, of reflection and of meeting, of communion and apostolic service, in which all feel part of the building up of the Kingdom of God. In this way the characteristic climate of the church as God’s family, an environment which facilitates mutual knowledge, sharing and the contagion of those very values which are at the origin of the choice to give one’s whole life to the cause of the Kingdom, is created.

17. Care for vocations is a crucial task for the future of consecrated life. The decrease in vocations particularly in the Western world and their growth in Asia and Africa are drawing a new geography of the presence of consecrated life in the Church and new cultural balances in the lives of Institutes. This state of life which, through the profession of the evangelical counsels gives a constant visibility to the characteristic features of Jesus in the midst of the world,54 is today undergoing a particular period of rethinking and of research with new methods in new cultures. This is certainly a promising beginning for the development of unexplored expressions of its multiple charismatic forms.

The transformations which are taking place directly involve each Institute of Consecrated Life and Society of Apostolic Life, calling them to give strong Gospel-based meaning to their presence in the Church and their service to humanity. Vocational ministry requires the development of new and deeper means of encounter; of offering a living witness of the characteristics of the following of Christ and of holiness, of presenting ways which strongly and clearly announce the freedom which springs from a life of poverty whose only treasure is the kingdom of God, the depths of love of a chaste existence which seeks only one heart, that of Christ, and the strength for sanctification and renewal contained in an obedient life whose only goal is to carry out the will of God for the salvation of the world.

Today vocation promotion is not something which can be delegated in an exclusive way to some specialists dedicated to the task, nor can it be separated from a true, specific youth ministry which first and foremost communicates Christ’s love for youth. Every community and all the members of the Institute are called to take on the tasks of contact with youth, of an evangelical teaching of the following of Christ and of handing on the charism. Young people are searching for others who are able to propose styles of authentic evangelical life and ways of arriving at the great spiritual values of human and Christian life. Consecrated persons must rediscover the teaching art of bringing to the surface and freeing the deep questions which are too often kept hidden in one’s heart. This is especially true when dealing with young people. As they accompany others on the path of vocational discernment, consecrated persons will be forced to share the source of their identity. Communicating one’s own life experience always entails remembering and revisiting that light which guided the person to his or her own particular vocational choice.

C. Inititial formation

 The Formative Courses

18. As far as formation is concerned, our Dicastery has issued two documents, Potissimum Institutioni, and Inter-Institute Collaboration for Formation. However, we are well aware of the constant challenges which Institutes must face in this field.

The new vocations knocking at the doors of consecrated life present great diversity and require personal attention and methods which are able to respond to their concrete human, spiritual and cultural situations. For this reason, a peaceful discernment, freed from the temptations of numbers or efficiency, must take place in order to verify the authenticity of the vocation and the purity of motivation in the light of faith and of possible contradictions. Young people need to be challenged to meet the high ideals of a radical following of Christ and the profound demands of holiness, when discerning a vocation which is beyond them and which perhaps goes beyond the initial ideas which attracted them to enter a particular Institute. For this reason, formation must have the characteristics of the initiation to the radical following of Christ. “Since the very purpose of consecrated life is conformity to the Lord Jesus” it is necessary to begin “a path of gradual identification with the attitude of Christ towards the Father”.55 This will help to integrate theological, humanistic and technical studies with the spiritual and apostolic life of the Institute and will always conserve the characteristic of a “school of holiness”.

The most pressing challenges which formation must face grow out of the values of today’s globalized culture. The Christian announcement of life as vocation, that is, one which flows from God’s loving plan and requires a personal and salvific encounter with Christ in the the Church must confront the dominant ideals and plans of cultures and social histories which are extremely diversified. There is the risk that subjective choices, individual projects and local customs will prevail over the rule, the style of community life and the apostolic projects of the community. This calls for a formative dialogue capable of bringing together the human, social and spiritual characteristics borne by each person, discerning in them the human limitations which must be overcome and the promptings of the Spirit which can renew the lives of individuals and Institutes. In a period of profound changes, formation must be attentive to the need to plant in the hearts of young consecrated persons those human, spiritual and charismatic values necessary to make them suitable to carry out a “creative fidelity”56 in the paths of the spiritual and apostolic tradition of the Institute.

Institutes of Consecrated Life are increasingly characterized by cultural, age and project differences. Formation should prepare for community dialogue in the cordiality and charity of Christ, teaching to see diversity as richness and to integrate the various ways of seeing and feeling. Thus the constant search for unity in charity will become a school of communion for Christian communities and an example of people living together in communion.

Particular attention must be given to a cultural formation in line with the times and in dialogue with the research of the meaning of human life today. This calls for a greater preparation in the philosophical, theological and psychological fields and a more profound orientation to the spiritual life, models more adapted to the cultures in which new vocations are being born and well-planned programs for ongoing formation. Above all it is hoped that the best forces are destined for formation even when this calls for great sacrifices. The use of qualified personnel and their adequate preparation must be a priority commitment.

We must be very generous in dedicating our time and best energies to formation. The consecrated persons themselves are, in fact, the best resources that we have. Without them all formative and apostolic plans remain theory and useless desires. In an era as rushed as ours, perseverance and patient waiting to realize the scope of formation are called for more than ever. In circumstances in which rapidity and superficiality prevail we need serenity and depth because, in reality, a person is fashioned very slowly.

Some Particular Challenges

19. Importance has been placed on the quality of life and the demands of formation because these seem to be the areas which are in most need of attention. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life wishes to be close to consecrated persons in all problem areas and to continue an ever more sincere and constructive dialogue. The members of the Plenary are aware of this need and have manifested the desire for a greater knowledge of and collaboration with Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Their presence in the local Church and particularly that of congregations of diocesan right, consecrated virgins and hermits require special attention on the part of the Bishops and their presbyterates.

In the same way they are aware of the questions posed by religious regarding the great works in which up to now they have been allowed to serve in line with their respective charisms: hospitals, schools, houses of welcome and of retreat. In some parts of the world these are urgently needed, in other parts they are becoming difficult to administer. Creativity, wisdom and dialogue among members of the Institute, among Institutes with similar works and with those responsible for the local Church are necessary in order to find the right answers.

The themes of inculturation are also very much alive. These deal with the way in which to incarnate consecrated life, adaptation of forms of spirituality and apostolate, ways of governing, formation, use of resources and material goods and the carrying out of mission. The appeals expressed by the Pope regarding the whole Church are also applicable to consecrated life. “In the third millennium, Christianity will have to respond ever more effectively to this need for inculturation. Christianity, while remaining completely true to itself, with unswerving faith to the proclamation of the Gospel and the tradition of the Church, will also reflect the different faces of the cultures and peoples in which it is received and takes root”.57 A true inculturation in consecrated life and in the whole Church will result in a notable enrichment and a new season of spiritual and apostolic growth.

We could endlessly list other expectations of consecrated life at the beginning of this new millennium because the Spirit always pushes us above and beyond. It is the word of the Teacher who, with great enthusiasm, must provoke all of the disciples to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future in confidence.58

Listening to the invitation given to the whole Church by John Paul II, consecrated life must clearly start afresh from Christ, contemplating his face, giving preference to the ways of spirituality as life, teaching and pastoral practice. “The Church also awaits your contribution, Consecrated Brothers and Sisters, to advance this new track of street according to the paths which I outlined in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte: contemplate the face of Christ, start afresh from Him, witness to His love”.59 Only then will consecrated life find new vitality to place itself at the service of the whole Church and all of humanity.

D. On going formation

 Ongoing Formation

15. The times in which we are living call for a general rethinking of the formation of consecrated men and women, which is no longer limited to one period of life. Not only to enable them to become better able to insert themselves into a reality which changes with a rhythm which is often frenetic but also and more importantly because consecrated life itself, of its nature, calls for the constant openness of those who are called to it. If, in fact, consecrated life is in itself “a progressive taking on of the attitude of Christ”,50 it seems evident that such a path must endure for a lifetime and involve the whole person, heart, mind and strength (cf. Mt 22:37) reshaping the person in the likeness of the Son who gives himself to the Father for the good of humanity. Thus understood, formation is no longer only a teaching period in preparation for vows but also represents a theological way of thinking of consecrated life which is in itself a never ending formation “sharing in the work of the Father who, through the Spirit, fashions in the heart the inner attitudes of the Son”.51

Thus it will be important that all consecrated persons be formed in the freedom to learn throughout life, in every age and season, in every human ambient and context, from every person and every culture open to be taught by any fragment of truth and beauty found around them. But above all they must learn to be formed by everyday life, by their own community, by their brothers and sisters, by everyday things, ordinary and extraordinary, by prayer and by apostolic fatigue, in joy and in suffering, until the moment of death.

Openness to the other and to otherness, particularly a relation with time become most important. People in ongoing formation take advantage of time, they don’t submit to it. They accept it as a gift and wisely enter into the various rhythms of life itself (days, weeks, months, years) with wisdom, seeking the harmony between them and the rhythm, fixed by an immutable and eternal God which marks the days, centuries and times. In a very unique way consecrated persons learn to allow themselves to be moulded by the liturgical year in which the mysteries of the life of the Son of God are relived in order to start afresh from Christ and from his death and resurrection everyday of their lives.

On May 16, 2002 the Holy Father approved this Document of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Rome, 19 May 2002, The Solemnity of Pentecost.

Eduardo Card. Martínez Somalo


1Cf. John Paul II, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, Rome, 25 March 1996, 14.

2John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 6 January 2001, 9.

3John Paul II, Talk given to Caritas Italiana (24 November 2001): L’Osservatore Romano, 25 November 2001, n.4.

4John Paul II, Message to the Plenary Session of The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (21 September 2001): L’Osservatore Romano, 28September 2001.


6Cf. Ad Gentes, 11.

7Cf. Lumen Gentium, 1.

8Vita Consecrata, 19.

9Cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 29.

50Vita Consecrata, 65.

51Vita Consecrata, 66.

52Cf. Christifideles Laici, 55.

53Cf. John Paul II, Homily at the Vigil of Torvergata (20 August 2000): L’Osservatore Romano, 21-22 August 2000, n.3, p.4.

54Cf. Vita Consecrata, 1.

55Cf. Vita Consecrata, 65.

56Vita Consecrata, 37.

57Novo Millennio Ineunte, 40.

58Cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 1.

59John Paul II, Homily (2 February 2001): L’Osservatore Romano, 4 February 2001, p.4.

1998-Inter Institute Collaboration

Instruction from Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life  and Societies of Apostolic Life.


To read the full document click here


1. Attentive to the conditions of the present moment and under the guidance of the Lord, the Church is continuously required to provide, in view of the growth of the Body of Christ,(1) for the formation of her members.

Aware of the significance which religious life has for the People of God,(2) the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life judges it an obligation to reflect on the formation of members of religious institutes in today’s circumstances and to propose some directives which guarantee a formation which is complete, solid, and consistent with the journey of the Church. One fruit of this commitment was publication of the Instruction Potissimum institutioni.(3)

2. By this new document, the Congregation wishes to develop one of the questions of which that Instruction speaks, the question about collaboration among institutes involved in works of the apostolate(4) for the formation of their own members.(5)

What is said in this document about religious institutes applies also to societies of apostolic life, taking into account their own character.(6)

3. Collaboration among institutes in the area of formation arose from the need to answer the challenges arising from concrete situations and from specific pedagogical needs. At the beginning, it developed mainly in places where religious families had a limited number of candidates either because of a reduced number of vocations or because the vocations were the first fruits of the apostolic work of the young Churches. In addition, there were a lack of formators and a small number of qualified teaching personnel. This situation brought numerous institutes to join forces, aware of the need to offer their members a more complete and deeper formation.

At the same time, in many cases there was a need to carry out initial formation in a setting not alien to the culture of the candidates, so as to promote a positive integration between the life of each institute and the culture of the members received into it. Such a need, encountered in diverse geographical and cultural settings, found an effective answer in “inter-institute(7) centers”. These have helped to avoid an exodus of candidates into other cultures during the initial process of religious life.

A more clear understanding of the many demands and difficulties found on the formative journey has also brought institutes to create such centers. A growing number of institutes wishes to offer their young members in formation the most complete educational course possible. In their formative communities, they continue the task of handing on the spiritual patrimony of the institute. But they also feel the need to offer those elements which have always constituted the precious common patrimony of consecrated life, a richness which flows from the centuries long experience of the Church and from the pressing needs and yearnings of our time. A deep and integral synthesis of all these elements is a very complex task that can not always be carried out by the formators and professors of one institute by itself.

The establishment of inter-congregational centers of formation, properly carried out, is positive and helps build an awareness of ecclesial communion in the variety of vocations and charisms and the multiple forms of service in the mission of the Church. His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, has said: “in order to assure the new generations, those responsible for formation, and all men and women religious of an adequate preparation, you have begun many forms of cooperation”.(8) In this way, it is possible to “take advantage of the work of the best collaborators of each institute and offer services that not only help to overcome eventual limitations, but that create a valid style of formation to religious life”.(9)

In the same message, the Holy Father also emphasizes that these inter-institute initiatives “will at the same time help to make the most of specific charisms, developing communion and the awareness of complementarity in fraternity, and extending the horizons of charity to the universal Church and the entire local Church”.(10)

In this way, the Holy Father re-affirms the fundamental orientations of Vatican Council II in relation to formation. These have been ratified by the experience which religious life has known in recent years. The doctrine taught by the Council and found in subsequent documents of the Magisterium shows the profound integration which exists among formation, renewal, and the mission of the religious institutes.(11) Even more, he underscores the fact that formation is a primary factor for the renewal of the institutes and for a more vital assimilation of their charismatic identity in view of the continuing evolution of our time. High quality formative programs are indispensable for carrying out the mission of the institutes in a world which poses fundamental questions about faith and consecrated life, in relation to scientific, human, ethical, and religious problems.


4. In order to understand and accompany the development of these initiatives, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life has gathered extensive documentation on the inter-institute centers which already exist. Study of this material has helped us reflect on some fundamental conditions for the educational effectiveness of the centers and their various initiatives: clarity about the purpose of the center, determination of ultimate responsibility and of the authorities for running the center, quality and preparation of professors, integrated design of the program and of its gradual implementation. Of fundamental importance for creating an atmosphere which helps in the living and deepening of the call to consecrated life, however, is the presence of the formators in these initiatives, and the smooth meshing and complementarity of the inter-congregational program with the programs of the individual institutes.

5. Given the diversity of circumstances in which these centers have arisen and their somewhat recent experience, questions and problems have also arisen which it is helpful to recognize in order to make appropriate discernment and clarification. Some have to do with the relationship between the identity of each institute and communion in diversity, between the goal of the centers to offer a service to all and the freedom of institutes to take advantage of centers or not. Other questions concern the vision of apostolic religious life which underlies the pedagogical structure, and thus of the design of the programs and of the criteria for choosing the teaching personnel. Still others are concerned with the effective participation of those responsible for formation in the institutes, monitoring formation, the real conditions which make it possible to transform temporarily living together in the centers into an experience of deep ecclesial communion and of authentic spiritual and apostolic formation, open to the needs of evangelization.(12)

Fundamental Principles

6. In face of this rich and complex situation, and attentive to the various initiatives already functioning, the Congregation considers itself responsible to offer some reflections and timely directives for the monitoring, consolidation, and development of these experiences and of others like them.

Such directives are based on the principles which regulate initial and continuing formation for religious life, in the variety of its charisms and in its specific role in the communion and mission of the Church.(13)

a) Formation: Inalienable right and duty of every institute

7. Before entering into specifics, it seems necessary to recall that formation is an inalienable right and duty of every institute.(14) This fundamental principle is basic to this entire document and needs to be given prominence right from the beginning so that collaboration among institutes in the overall formative process can be properly understood.

7.1. Every institute has a primary responsibility for its own identity. In fact, “the charism of the founders, an experience of the Holy Spirit transmitted to their disciples to be lived, safeguarded, deepened, and constantly developed by them, in harmony with the Body of Christ continually in the process of growth”,(15) is entrusted to each institute as its original patrimony for the benefit of the entire Church.(16) Cultivating their own identity in “creative fidelity”,(17) then, means harmoniously blending in the life and mission of the People of God, the gifts and experiences which enrich it,(18) as well as taking care that religious not “become part of the life of the Church in a vague and ambiguous way”.(19)

It follows that each institute is recognized as having a rightful autonomy of life, especially of government, by means of which it has in the Church its own discipline and can keep intact and develop its spiritual and apostolic patrimony. It is the responsibility of local Ordinaries to preserve and safeguard this autonomy.(20) Autonomy of life and of government implies a corresponding autonomy in the area of formation, because “the first responsibility for the formation of religious belongs by law to each institute”.(21)

7.2. It is in the process of formation that the charismatic identity is acquired. This identity is necessary not only for the maturity of the members in order to live and work in conformity with the foundational charism, but also for the identity and unity of the institute, as well as for the authenticity of its expressions in diverse cultures,(22) and for the Church’s communion-mission. “In fact, taking into consideration that initial and continuing formation in regard to one’s own charism is the responsibility of the institute, inter-congregational formation cannot entirely fulfill the task of the continuing formation of the members. This formation must be imbued, under many aspects, with the characteristics proper to the charism of each institute”.(23)

Thus, in keeping with these principles, when the Code of Canon Law speaks of formation in the strict sense, it refers only to the formation of religious within the context of their own institutes.(24) This does not preclude, however, the possibility of collaboration which is indeed recognized and encouraged by Pope John Paul II in his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata. He asks that “in the perspective of a communion open to the challenges of our time, Superiors, men and women, ‘working in harmony with the Bishops’, should seek ‘to make use of the accomplishments of the best members of each Institute’”.(25)

7.3. For its part, the Church must safeguard and promote the proper character and the charismatic awareness of the institutes, making of both one of the fundamental principles of renewal for the institutes,(26) because the state which is constituted by profession of the evangelical counsels is a “precious and necessary gift for the present and future of the People of God, since it is an intimate part of her life, her holiness and her mission”.(27) Further, since the charism of each institute is an original and singular gift which the Spirit makes to the Church, she is concerned to assure the spiritual conditions and the juridic instruments which guarantee its fruitfulness, development, and harmony in the ecclesial communion.(28)

b) Collaboration and solidarity in formation

8. The principle of collaboration(29) and solidarity among the various institutes, especially among those present in a determined geographic-cultural area, also needs to be emphasized, in connection with the preceding principle. In fact, religious life has acquired a deeper consciousness of the uniqueness of each charism, of its specific ecclesial role, and also of the characteristics and responsibilities common to all institutes.

Formation has a deep common root. In fact, it is the action of God the Father who forms in those called the image of his Son by means of the sanctifying action of the Spirit, according to a particular charismatic design.(30)

Further, collaboration finds its soul in the pneumatic-mysterious dimension of the Church from which, by the work of the Spirit, arises the multiplicity of charisms and toward whose communion and mission the life and missionary mandate of the institutes converge. It is founded on the richness, vitality, and beauty of the Church,(31) and it is fruitful because the various charismatic initiatives complement and illumine one another; one uncovering for the other its own gifts by being together and by sharing,(32) in fraternity.

A concrete expression of collaboration and solidarity among religious families is the initiative, now spread in various contexts, of creating inter-institute centers of formation, especially where individual institutes do not have sufficient means to offer a complete formation to their members.

The Holy Father spoke about this collaboration in an audience granted to the International Union of Superiors General, saying: “The essential thing is that on the part of religious families there should be absolute co-operation in forming their members in a total, sincere and joyous love for Jesus Christ, who is deeply known, followed and obeyed”.(33)

Experience gathered suggests that, when this collaboration is well done, it contributes to a greater appreciation of the charism of one’s own institute as well as that of others, manifests concrete solidarity among communities which are richer and poorer in both members and means, offers an eloquent testimony of the communion to which the Church is called by divine vocation, and helps formation achieve the level and breadth that the mission of religious life requires in today’s world.

c) Inter-institute centers and formation

9. In order to carry out the function proper to these inter-institute centers, i.e. the purpose of their being a “center of studies” at the service of formation, they need to bear in mind that:

– formation is an integral process whose elements inter-penetrate one another. There is a deep correlation between life and truth; between theology and the human sciences; between the search for truth and the expectations, hopes, and values of young people; between study and consistency in personal commitments; between the signs of the times and a pastoral formative orientation.(34)

– intellectual preparation is an irreplaceable dimension of formation. The ordering of subjects to be studied and scientific seriousness ought to contribute to harmonizing the attitudes proper to consecrated life. Thus the centers should offer a service of high quality to contribute wisely to the integral growth of the students.

– the inter-institute character of the centers requires a special respect for the aspects which are common to all. At the same time, collaboration and solidarity also require respect and appreciation of the diversities. If this were not so, the centers would probably contribute to a sameness which would impoverish them and would bring about the risk of spiritual and pastoral uniformity, inadequate for the complexity of the world which is to be evangelized, and harmful to the specific identity of each institute. In this case, the centers would lose their identity as a service to religious life.

Practical Directives

From the fundamental principles stated, some practical directives derive for religious institutes and inter-institute centers:

10. Religious institutes

a) Chapters and Major Superiors

Through their Chapters and Major Superiors, institutes are responsible for determining in their own Ratio the principles and norms of formation,(35) for assigning the mission to the formators and teachers, and for taking care that the formative process be carried out in conformity with the character and mission of the institute and according to law. When Superiors decide to send their members to an inter-institute center of formation, they do not cede to others the responsibility that is theirs, but they continue to exercise it (cf. nn. 11, 17, and 22) with “their full responsibility as guardians and teachers”.(36)

b) The formation community

In all forms of inter-institute collaboration, it is necessary to apply the necessary distinction between the formation community and an inter-institute center of studies.(37) The formation community is a primary point of reference for which no center can substitute. It is the setting in which personal identity and response to the vocation received grow and develop, in the spirit of the respective founders or foundresses.(38) Deepening in charismatic identity is achieved, in the first place, by living contact with the formators and with the brothers and sisters with whom are shared the same experiences of life, the same challenges posed by society, and the traditions of the institute.(39) This community is always the place where the vital synthesis of the formation experience is lived.(40) “Fidelity to one’s own charism needs to be deepened through an ever increasing knowledge of the history of the institute, of its particular mission and the spirit of the founder, at the same time making the corresponding effort to incarnate it in one’s personal and community life”.(41)

Should it happen that circumstances not allow religious to live in their own formation community while enrolled in an inter-institute center, Superiors are to provide regular and intense periods of formation and community life in their own institute.(42)

11. Inter-congregational centers(43)

a) Centers and their constitution

Conferences of Major Superiors, which have as their purpose “fostering more effective cooperation for the good of the Church”,(44) or a group of Major Superiors who wish to collaborate among themselves in the area of formation may for this purpose organize services or constitute inter-institute centers.(45)

These have very diverse configurations. Some are designed to provide complementary services; others provide for the formation of religious from the doctrinal aspect; still others set up specific structures to prepare religious who are candidates for the priesthood. The norms and directives which follow take these differences into account.

The formal establishing of an inter-institute center of formation requires the written consent of the Ordinary of the place.

b) Directive responsibilities

The Superiors who initiate the project also bear the ultimate responsibility for the center. In the spirit of Mutuae relationes, they shall seek the most appropriate way to inform the Bishops about the activities of the center and to maintain with them an open dialogue that will contribute to the richness and advancement of the center.(46) The Holy Father reminds us that they are responsible for following the activity of the centers and for guaranteeing that the teaching in them conform to the Magisterium of the Church.(47)

All inter-institute initiatives should be run directly by a team, under the responsibility of one person, who enjoys assured stability and is competent in formation.

c) Professors

In choosing professors, attention is to be given to sound doctrine, specific competence, pedagogical ability, and ability to work as part of a team. Consideration shall also be given to their knowledge and esteem for religious life in its various forms and developments, according to the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium.

The centers should promote a lively formational sensitivity in the professors, organizing meetings with the formators for the exchange of ideas and for evaluation.


12. Collaborative initiatives take place in the various phases of religious formation. They can be part of initial formation: preparation for novitiate, formation of novices, formation of religious in temporary vows, formation of candidates for ordained ministries; and part of continuing formation.

Services should be organized by the Conferences of Major Superiors, or by a group of Major Superiors, who bear ultimate responsibility for them. These Superiors are responsible for informing this Congregation every three years about the life and activities of the centers.

The organization of the programs ought to offer effective help for doctrinal formation and for the vocational growth of the candidates, according to the criteria indicated by the Code of Canon Law(48) and by complementary norms issued by competent authorities.

The courses should be based on the mystery of Christ(49) and developed with gradualness and attention to persons and cultures. They should propose to the students the theology of consecrated life and help them deepen the sense “of that one ecclesial charity by which all work to build up the organic communion — charismatic and at the same time hierarchically structured — of the whole People of God”.(50)

Preparation for novitiate

13. Given the diversity of human experience and of religious formation in the candidates, preparation for the novitiate, in today’s socio-cultural circumstances, is seen to be ever more necessary and demanding.(51) Inter-congregational initiatives should offer candidates from the various institutes programs which address, with competence and solidity, the fundamental contents of human and Christian formation so as to promote an integral formation and satisfy any existing gaps. Further, formators themselves need to be able to take part in programs designed to enliven religious life and to apply instruments and criteria for careful vocational discernment. This collaboration is particularly helpful for formators who work in cultures different from their own or who accompany candidates from diverse cultures.


14. Novitiate constitutes a formative phase which is fundamental and delicate.(52) Here the young person begins the journey of vocational identity in religious life.(53) This phase has as its purpose forming the novice well in the spirit and praxis of the specific vocation of the institute and further evaluating the motives of vocational choice, spiritual commitment, and the necessary suitability. In each institute, this phase requires a personalized accompanying, attentive to the growth of each novice, a formative atmosphere which is evangelical, serene, rich in values, sustained by the joyous testimony of the formators and of the community, nourished by authentic and deep experience of the foundational charism.(54)

Where circumstances make it advisable, an inter-institute program can contribute to the adequate doctrinal formation of those who are beginning their formation for consecrated life, helping them to define themselves, in their own specific identity, as members of the Church mystery-communion and mission and to act as such, developing, in the rub of daily life, attitudes of fraternal co-responsibility. We must be mindful, however, that “one can speak of ‘inter-congregational courses for novices,’ men or women, separate from one another, but it is impossible to speak of an ‘inter-congregational novitiate’”.(55)

15. Inter-institute collaboration in the novitiate phase is one of the “complementary services”. Not included under the category of collaboration is the creation of so-called “inter-congregational novitiates”, which would have male and female novices living in the same community. Indeed, such an arrangement does not correspond to the proper character of the beginning of religious life, which ought to introduce the novice to what characterizes the patrimony of every institute. Consequently, every institute should have its own novitiate.

16. In organizing such “complementary services”, the following points should be kept in mind:

a) The necessary harmonizing of the courses offered by the center and the process of initiation into the religious life of each institute require as appropriate, if not necessary, that the novice directors be present for the courses in order to help the novices integrate the contents.

b) The program should offer basic courses on different subjects in such a way that institutes can choose those which will complete the formation they themselves give. The program should be well structured and harmonious, include fundamental elements of Sacred Scripture, spiritual theology, moral theology, ecclesiology, theology and the law of religious life — in particular of each of the evangelical counsels — liturgy, and also fundamental concepts of anthropology and psychology which should give to the novice, at the beginning of the formative journey, the possibility of knowing himself or herself better, particularly in those areas most needing formation.(56) These subjects should be treated as contributors to formation.

c) During the novitiate, the courses should not be programmed with a frequency or intensity which impede the purpose proper to this phase of formation.(57) They should be carried out in such a way that residing outside the novitiate is avoided. In the event that novices must go to another place for this purpose, for brief periods of time and sporadically, the Major Superior shall observe canons 647.2, 648.1 and 648.3, and 649.1.

d) Also to be promoted is knowledge of the respective institutes, of the founders and foundresses, and of the various spiritualities. In fact, fraternal exchange contributes to the maturing of a more lively appreciation of one’s own foundational originality and to discovering the value of each founder or foundress in helping articulate the mission of the Church, in promoting collaboration and a mentality of communion.(58)

e) Formators, according to their specific responsibilities,(59) are to meet at regular intervals with the team responsible for the center — also listening to the views of those in formation — to monitor the program and, in relation to the reports received from the various parties, the purpose of the courses. Because of their primary responsibility in formation, Major Superiors should follow these initiatives attentively.

f) The courses can offer the directors of novices the opportunity for constant updating, for monitoring their own formative role, and for mutual support in a concrete and enlightened dialogue. Given the nature of this initial phase, characterized by the process of psychological maturing and of charismatic identification by the novices, a process which allows them to acquire a new way of living, the programs of collaboration should foresee, to the extent possible, meetings of the formation directors to consider specific pedagogical subjects which would then be taken up in more detail in the novitiates; among these are psycho-physical development, affective-sexual maturity, and other aspects of human maturity.(60)

Formation of those with temporary vows

17. The Instruction Potissimum institutioni, referring to the norms of the Code(61) and to the requirements of formation of religious in temporary vows, indicates the fundamental lines and offers appropriate indications about the objectives and program of studies.(62)

Every institute, according to its own plan of formation, has “the grave responsibility of providing for the organization and duration of this period of formation, and of furnishing the young religious with favorable conditions for a real increase in their donation to the Lord”.(63)

a) In this phase also, inter-congregational initiatives are designed to promote the training of young religious in relation to their consecration and the deepening of their spiritual, doctrinal, and pastoral formation, with particular attention to the history, theology, and mission of consecrated life, and to their pastoral preparation. This is especially so for institutes which are unable to provide for their needs in other ways.

b) In particular, in order to respond better to the demands proper to this phase of formation, inter-institute initiatives of collaboration should be mindful of the characteristics and circumstances of life of those professed of temporary vows.

In fact, the time of temporary profession is characterized as a propitious moment for the maturing of an intimate relationship with Christ(64) and the maturing of a faith-filled vision of the world, the Church, and history. It is a time for committing oneself to the kingly, priestly, and prophetic mission of the People of God. It requires, in a kind of sapiential integration, both a study of theological disciplines and a deepening of the biblical foundations of a vocation to the radical following of Christ. To this must be added adequate knowledge of the means and steps which lead to human and Christian maturity. Thus, this phase of formation continues the study of Sacred Scripture and other theological subjects such as Christology, ecclesiology, Mariology, moral theology, and the theology of history, and the additional fields of spirituality, ascetical theology, and human sciences, which contribute to a maturity in Christ of the human person,(65) should also be included.

c) Because community life, right from the beginning, should disclose “the essential missionary dimension of consecration”,(66) and because this stage is characterized by the apostolic commitments taken in the name of the community, courses in catechetics and pedagogy, especially for pastoral work with youth, will be of great value. Apostolic commitments require a deepened knowledge of some themes of the ecclesiology promoted by the Second Vatican Council, e.g. the pastoral collaboration of religious with priests and lay persons under the guidance of the Pastors,(67) the law of the Church, the missio ad gentes, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue,(68) the relation of the Church to the world, the social and political duties of Christians and the specific responsibility of consecrated persons in this sector.(69) All these themes should offer a solid foundation for the pastoral and missionary action of the Church-mystery and communion in the New Evangelization. In this phase of temporary profession, it will be helpful to deepen the charismatic contribution by which the various institutes share in the mission of the Church.

d) Such goals can be satisfied by the specialized centers of study which will be considered in Part III or by initiatives or courses which are more accessible, whether by reason of the level of studies, or the basic level of courses offered, or the short duration of the commitment.

Inter-institute collaboration has particular importance in initiatives or courses which help prepare for perpetual profession.(70)

For initiatives and courses in this phase also, the formators should be involved in the programming, execution, and evaluation. This involvement can become a stimulus for their own renewal in view of their responsibility as well as a reminder for all to respond more effectively to the expectations of the young.

e) Religious who attend other centers of study, especially civil centers (universities, academies, etc.) in order to study the humanities or engage in other scientific or technical studies can find in the inter-institute centers the possibility of integrating their formation, especially by courses in theology and pastoral studies.

Continuing formation

18. “Continuing formation, whether in institutes of apostolic or contemplative life, is an intrinsic requirement of religious consecration”.(71) It promotes theological and pastoral renewal, enhances the quality of life of each member and of the whole community through careful attention to the moments of particular commitment or when the interior life is challenged to grow.(72) In relation to these dynamics of formation, “there is a youthfulness of spirit which lasts through time; it arises from the fact that at every stage of life a person seeks and finds a new task to fulfill, a particular way of being, of serving and loving…. If the subject of formation is the individual at every stage of life, the object of formation is the whole person, called to seek and love God ?with all one’s heart, and with all one’s soul, and with all one’s might’ (cf. Dt 6:5), and one’s neighbour as oneself. Love of God and of the brethren is a powerful force which can ceaselessly inspire the process of growth and fidelity”.(73) Each institute is called to provide continuing formation in an organized manner, consistent with its own character. In this way, it can become a model of consecrated life, fraternity, and apostolic commitment for new generations in formation and attract, by its vitality and fruitfulness, new vocations.(74)

The Instruction Potissimum institutioni and the Exhortation Vita consecrata give ample space to continuing formation,(75) describing its nature, identifying its objectives and contents, asking Superiors, according to the norm of the Code, to provide for their members the “assistance and the time”(76) necessary and to designate a member as responsible for continuing formation.

Inter-institute collaboration can be helpful for organizing temporary and permanent services which should give new impulse to the spiritual life, to theological-pastoral updating, and to a renewed professional training for carrying out the responsibilities entrusted. It will give an important place to deepening the general lines and pastoral priorities of the Church for carrying out better her mission of evangelizing today’s world. Hopefully, religious families will offer their best trained members for this purpose.

Conferences of Major Superiors and those responsible for centers of study should include among their objectives and programs adequate initiatives for the continuing formation of religious. In this way, more effective collaboration and complementarity among them will be achieved.


19. In Part I and Part II, some fundamental criteria referring to inter-institute initiatives of formation and some forms of collaboration in the various phases of formation itself were considered. In Part III, institutes of religious sciences and institutes of philosophy and theology which provide a complete academic formation and have their own juridic structure and particular organizational requirements will be considered.

It is helpful to recall that the formation of religious brothers, sisters, and permanent deacons, and the formation of religious who are candidates for priesthood, all have specific requirements which must be respected. In order to respect the identity of each one, it is necessary to distinguish between priestly formation, diaconal formation, and the formation required for other ecclesial services.(77) Consequently, in organizing the contents of its programs, a center of studies which prepares such religious should be mindful of the characteristics proper to each group.

Institutes of religious sciences

20. Institutes of religious sciences arose to provide religious brothers and sisters an adequate level of formation in the humanities and in theological-pastoral areas, keeping in mind the social and cultural contexts of those to whom the courses are offered, in order to qualify and prepare them for diverse ecclesial services, according to the purposes of their institutes.(78)

It is necessary to offer the participants a solid philosophical and theological foundation; to prepare them to be educators of the faith; to prepare them for the explicit proclamation of the Gospel and for human and social promotion; to make them sensitive to the relationship between the Gospel and culture, to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, to discerning the signs of the times, to being part of an overall pastoral program, and to missionary openness in communion with the universal and particular Church.

Also, such institutes should offer a good preparation, permeated with evangelical values, in the human sciences (pedagogy, psychology, sociology, communications sciences), enabling the participants to use them for transmitting the faith and forming disciples of Christ.

Attention should also be given to assure a knowledge of the human groups and the cultural contexts which they are to evangelize, collaborating in this way to overcome the danger of a dichotomy between the formation which religious receive and an evangelization correctly inculturated.(79)

Finally, these institutes should provide courses suitable for training religious to carry out more effectively their specific apostolate in the Church: courses for pastoral work with youth, the infirm, the elderly, the marginalized, or other particular apostolic activities proper to the mission of each institute.

21. The founding and running of these institutes depend on the Conferences of Major Superiors of men or of women, or on a group of Major Superiors. This group bears ultimate responsibility for the institutes. It is necessary that every center have its own Statutes, in which are defined its purpose, those for whom it is intended, the services it offers, and the body which bears immediate responsibility for it. Confirmation of erection and approval of the Statutes is reserved to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life.

To assure its adequate functioning, the center must be run by a team with a person designated as responsible for the team. In carrying out responsibilities, this person is to assure stability and formational competence. Every three years, he or she shall send a report of activities to this Congregation.

For the organization of courses, the prescriptions of canons 659, 660, and 661 along with Potissimum institutioni, n. 61, apply.(80)

Institutes of religious sciences, intended for the formation of those who are not candidates for priesthood, are encouraged to establish a relationship with a Faculty of Theology. In this way, a better doctrinal formation can be promoted, so that the participants will eventually be able to earn appropriate academic degrees or diplomas.(81)

Possible civil recognition of these institutes is of great benefit, but ought not prejudice or alter the formative goals proper to them.

In this area, Catholic universities as well as other organisms at the level of local Churches can offer helpful initiatives of study to be carried out in collaboration with the Bishops and Major Superiors.(82)

Institutes of theological and philosophical formation
for religious who are candidates for priesthood

22. The following are the fundamental norms which regulate inter-institute centers of philosophical-theological formation for religious who are candidates for priesthood:

a) Canonical erection. Before proceeding to the canonical erection of an inter-institute center of philosophical and theological studies, it is necessary to receive approval both for erection of the center and for its Statutes from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life(83) which, prior to giving approval, will request the authoritative judgment of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples for territories of mission and the approval of the Congregation for Catholic Education(84) regarding the programming of philosophical and theological studies as well as academic degrees. In this connection, institutes of philosophy and theology reserved for candidates to the priesthood are encouraged to affiliate to a philosophical or theological Faculty(85) respectively.

b) Authority over the institute. The Statutes shall define clearly how the Major Superiors who constitute the organism which bears ultimate responsibility for the center are to exercise their authority.

This authority, or the one delegated by it — usually the Board of Directors — appoints, confirms, or substitutes the professors, in conformity with the procedure indicated in the Statutes,(86) and also requests the consent of the competent Superior, and receives the “profession of faith” which is required.(87) The “mandate” for teaching in the name of the Church(88) goes together with appointment as professor. The teaching which the professors give shall be “an objective and complete presentation of doctrine, structured in harmony with the Church’s Magisterium”.(89)

The same authority shall, with reference to the instruction which is given and the progress of the center, regularly inform the Major Superiors who send students and who must guarantee to the Church and their own congregation the adequate formation of their future priest-religious. It is necessary that the authority inform the president of the Mixed Commission of Bishops and Major Superiors in order to promote mutual knowledge and collaboration.(90) The Superiors of the students — whether religious Superiors or responsible Bishops — or, where it might be the case, their representatives, should be invited to regular meetings of consultation regarding the progress of the center. Where the ecclesial and pastoral importance of the center requires it, it is recommended, in the spirit of communion, that a Bishop be a member of the Board of Directors.(91)

c) Programs. The intellectual formation of a future priest is based and constructed above all upon the study of Sacra Doctrina.

“True theology proceeds from the faith and aims at leading to the faith”.(92) “Theological formation, given in the light of faith and under the guidance of the Magisterium, is to be imparted in such a way that the students learn the whole of Catholic teaching, based on divine revelation, that they make it a nourishment of their own spiritual lives, and that in the exercise of the ministry they may be able properly to proclaim and defend it”.(93)

In relation to studies, special attention shall be given to the completeness of the subjects and to the content prescribed for the six year period of philosophical and theological studies.(94) While respecting the demands proper to priestly religious life and to the “intrinsic unity of the Catholic priesthood”, whether secular or religious,(95) these studies should be carried out in light of the plan for priestly formation established by the Holy See and by the episcopal conference of the country,(96) and provide that there always be included a course on the theology and spirituality of the religious life and the theology of the particular Church.(97) Also in this case, possible civil recognition should not prejudice or alter the program of studies prescribed by the Church.

Where centers for the formation of religious candidates for the priesthood, for serious reasons, also admit as students candidates for the permanent diaconate or religious brothers or sisters preparing for other apostolic activities, the program of studies for future priests must appear as a unit which is special and fully recognizable,(98) in such a way that the formation not be a generic ministerial formation common to all. Thus, the specific requirements of the other students are to be respected, offering them an appropriate program which prepares them for the ministry of permanent diaconate or for the other ecclesial services consistent with their vocation.

d) Professors. The formative validity and the consistency of the initiatives described depend in great part on the professional quality, on the sensus Ecclesiae, and on the religious qualities of the professors, in addition to the organization of the programs and the life of the center itself. The professors should be mindful that their teaching ought to “open and communicate to others the understanding of the faith, in the last analysis in the name of the Lord and his Church”.(99) Major Superiors shall be mindful of this in their choice of professors. Above other pastoral commitments, the preparation of future generations is to be privileged, assigning to them the best professors and formators. This is an ecclesial responsibility which they may not neglect, for the good of the People of God, of religious life, and of their own institute, both in the present and in the future.

In addition to academic competence, the professors shall be attentive to the didactic art required by their office. (100) There should be special care to assure the quality of teaching for the disciplines which constitute the fundamental part of the curriculum of studies.

Every professor of theological disciplines must possess the mandate to teach. (101) Competent Superiors, before consenting to the appointment of a professor, shall be sure that the person in question have the proper preparation, fidelity to the Magisterium, and respect for the tradition which are necessary, and the ability to prepare priests for the service of the men and women of our time. (102)

e) Admission. For admission to a center of philosophical-theological studies, it is necessary that the candidate have achieved the level of studies indicated in the Statutes, taking into account the canonical norms and the needs of places and times. Written authorization of the Major Superior or of the Superior of the house of formation to which the candidate belongs is also necessary.

Candidates of the diocesan clergy can also be admitted upon written request of their respective Bishop, who assumes, according to the norm of the Statutes of the center, the rights and duties of Superiors who send students there.

The center has the right to exclude from its programs a student who during the course of the year shows himself incapable of measuring up to the center’s objectives and conditions for admission, even if he shows superior intellectual ability and diligence in studies. Such dismissal does not impede his respective Major Superior from providing other options for him in another place.

f) Formation community and center of philosophical-theological studies. The Superior and the formation team of every religious institute are always the ones primarily responsible for the religious and priestly formation of their own members. They should guide and coordinate community life, the overall program of formation and the complementary courses proper to their institute, according to the institute’s own spirituality and pastoral purpose, as the unifying basis of human, doctrinal, spiritual, and pastoral formation. They should maintain regular contact with the center of studies and be actively interested in its programs.

In the process of discerning and evaluating the suitability of their religious candidates for the priesthood, Superiors should also consult the professors and those who collaborate in pastoral formation. This exchange can be a source of advantage for both the formation community and the center of studies, who will feel that their responsibility in the formative journey of future priests is sought.

Finally, it is to be hoped that every religious institute which sends students to the center also be committed to contribute a qualified member for teaching or for animating the life of the center.

g) Proper initiatives. The initiatives of inter-institute collaboration described are distinct from a philosophical or theological center erected under the responsibility of one religious institute which, maintaining its own autonomy, admits as students religious of other institutes. (103) These centers follow their own norms.


The service of formation

23. The service of formation, an authentic “ecclesial ministry” (Paul VI), is an art, “the art of arts”. (104) Formators must come to know the world of the young and should develop pedagogical ability to accompany and guide those being formed. Theirs is a service marked by the mystery of the Trinity: “formation then is a sharing in the work of the Father who, through the Spirit, fashions the inner attitudes of the Son in the hearts of young men and women”. In exercising this ?participative mediation,’ “those in charge of formation must therefore be very familiar with the path of seeking God, so as to be able to accompany others on this journey… They will combine the illumination of spiritual wisdom with the light shed by human means, which can be a help both in discerning the call and in forming the new man or woman, until they are genuinely free”. (105) This task requires of formators a serious and solid preparation, and a generous and total dedication in their commitment to be imitators of Christ in the service of their brothers and sisters. (106) “Notwithstanding the great apostolic demands and the urgent situations in which religious families are working, careful attention in the selection and preparation of those responsible for formation remains a top priority. This ministry is one of the most difficult and delicate… Young men and women above all need teachers who will be for them: men and women of God, respectful discerners of the human heart and the ways of the Spirit, capable of responding to their needs for greater interiority, experience of God, fraternity and initiation to their mission. Those responsible for formation must know how to teach discernment, docility and obedience, reading the signs of the times and people’s needs, teaching their charges to respond to those needs with solicitude and courage, in full ecclesial communion”. (107)

Careful choice and solid preparation of formators

24. Major Superiors, as their primary responsibility, should choose future formators carefully so that a religious family have available members qualified for such a ministry. The criteria for choosing, the qualities required, the preparation and updating should be defined by the norms proper to each institute and developed in the Ratio Institutionis.

Major Superiors should offer the formators programs and opportunities which assure the necessary theological and pedagogical formation, spiritual formation, competence in the human sciences, and specific training for the tasks to be carried out on the journey of formation. Formators should be expert particularly in the matters which refer to the spiritual patrimony of the founder or foundress.

This Dicastery again urges religious families to continue developing efforts toward the adequate preparation of those responsible for initial and continuing formation.

Inter-institute collaboration

25. The experiences of inter-institute collaboration reveal a broad panorama of models in the preparation of formators. There are centers at the level of university or comparable institutions with systematic programs offering the possibility of academic degrees or degrees recognized by the Congregation for Catholic Education; intensive courses spread over a year or a semester, designed for formators at the beginning of their charge as well as for those already serving in formation communities. There are courses for updating, regular meetings for formators engaged in the same phase of formation and sessions of study, exchange, and reflection on specific educational topics. Many of these courses are organized by the Conferences of Major Superiors, others by a consortium of institutes, or are initiatives promoted by specialized centers or by university Faculties.

Given the urgent need for qualified formators, this Dicastery invites institutes to intensify inter-institute collaboration, making available for each other programs, experiences, and, to the extent possible, even the most qualified personnel for mutual enrichment in benefit of the institutes, of the Church, and of her mission in the world. (108)


26. Among the criteria which guide the organization of such courses, we underline the following:

a) Their specific organization should have as its purpose preparing educators for the task of the integral formation of a religious in the unity and uniqueness of the person, developing all the dimensions of baptismal and religious consecration. Thus, courses should contribute to a formation which is doctrinal, spiritual, canonical, and pedagogical-pastoral. In particular they should ensure solid theological formation, especially in the fields of spirituality, moral theology, and religious life. Further they should make the formators aware of the organic unity of the formation process and of the specific goals of each stage of formation.

The courses should above all help the formators in transmitting the art of a theological reading of the signs of the times (109) so as to discern the presence, the love, and the will of God in all things: in revelation and in creation, in the Church, in the sacraments, and in persons, in the ordinary and extraordinary circumstances of life, in the unfolding of history. (110) They should be a help in acquiring the art of inspiring and nourishing a deep love for the Persons of the Blessed Trinity and the Eucharist; as well as for Our Lady, Mother of Jesus and of the Church; and for the holy founders and foundresses, and in leading to a deeper life of prayer. (111)

The organization of the courses should give proper importance to the topic of fraternal life in community and to the mission of the institutes (112) and should offer the means adequate for consolidating or recovering the spirit of unity and co-responsibility among the members, an apostolic spirit and an attitude of justice, solidarity, and mercy toward the most needy. “Consecrated persons are asked to be true experts of communion and to practise the spirituality of communion as ‘witnesses and architects of the plan for unity which is the crowning point of human history in God’s design’”. (113) They should remember to underline the dignity of the vocation of the laity and of the diocesan clergy, promoting collaboration with them and a sharing in the spirit and mission of the institute. (114)

b) The courses

– should develop the formators’ ability to relate, listen, discern vocations, guide, and educate young people and adults to discernment and commitment.

– should develop the ability to accompany another spiritually, pedagogically, and psychologically; the purposes of these and the levels of intervention differ, even though they converge in the integral maturing of the person consecrated to God. They should offer skills for handling and knowing how to face particular situations and personal problems, with the help of experts when necessary.

– should help one read and understand the diverse cultural contexts in order to promote a formation consonant with the demands of the culture of origin of the religious or with the culture of the people among whom they will be working. It is important that they learn to appreciate those authentic values which bear the stamp of the Gospel or are open to it and to discern those elements which ought to be purified or rejected. (115)

– should help formators know and respond to the challenges which the Church faces in our time and take up the pastoral priorities which the Holy Father and the Bishops in union with him propose for the reflection of the faithful. “Institutes of consecrated life are thus invited courageously to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today’s world. This invitation is first of all a call to perseverance on the path of holiness in the midst of the material and spiritual difficulties of daily life”. (116)

c) Formators should learn how to prepare the members of their communities for the task of the New Evangelization: announcing Christ, the Good News of the Father, to all men and women. This implies preparation for the evangelization of cultures, for pastoral work in favor of life, the family and solidarity, for the evangelical option for the poor, for the formation of youth, for the mission ad gentes, for ecumenical commitment and inter-religious dialogue, social communications, etc. (117) They should learn to welcome the hopes and questions of youth, children of our time, who are entering communities and prepare them to incarnate the best of their own epoch and give a response of holiness and of effective charity to the needs of our times. To form is always to prepare for the service which the Church and society need in a determined epoch and cultural setting.

A formation which is integral, precisely because its hinge is in the education of faith and in maturing the commitment of consecration-mission, must be mindful also of the new forms of poverty and injustice of our time. In this area, inter-institute courses, without falling into simplistic formulas, can be a helpful support for formators.

d) Courses for formators should provide an experience of spiritual growth and contribute to their continuing formation. The responsibility of accompanying young people on their journey of growth includes a constant invitation from Christ, Master and Lord, to intensify the life of prayer, intimacy with him, and to embrace the cross which seals this delicate ministry of formation, placing always one’s own trust in his guidance and his grace.

The work of formation is carried out along the axis of the following of “Christ chaste, poor, and obedient – the One who prays, the Consecrated One, and the Missionary of the Father” (118) – and has at its center the Paschal mystery. Thus the preparation of formators may not be merely intellectual, doctrinal, pastoral, and professional; it is, above all, a deep, human, and religious experience of sharing in the mystery of Christ while respectfully approaching the mystery of the human person. In Christ is the experience of sonship before the Father and of docility to the Spirit, of fraternity and sharing, of fatherhood and motherhood in the Spirit: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!” (Gal 4:19). In this light it is helpful that formators be able to meet among themselves as consecrated persons, to support one another on their journey of faith, to pray together, to let themselves be questioned by the Word, and to celebrate the Eucharist. They can be enriched by experiencing the goodness and wisdom of the Master who, by the outpouring of his Spirit and by the mediation of the maternal action of Mary, continues his work and, in a privileged way, by means of their own mediation in the life and experiences of those whom they help to live as “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19).


27. “Awareness of the times in which we are living and of our responsibilities demands that we assure young men and women religious of an adequate formation, more complete than ever, in dynamic fidelity to Christ and the Church, to the charism of the founder and to mankind today”. (119)

In offering the criteria and the directives presented in this document, the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, has intended to evaluate, order, and promote the vast and varied experience in the area of inter-institute collaboration, supported by the Second Vatican Council and developed in these years.

Inter-institute collaboration, which respects the sharing of charismatic gifts, respects their diversity, and is placed at their service, is a concrete response to the calls of the Church to help form a religious by promoting his or her unity of life in Christ through the Spirit. (120) Consecrated persons are called to insert themselves in the contemporary world to offer valid models of human and Christian fullness, according to the form of life which Christ the Lord chose, which Mary, Virgin and Mother embraced, (121) and which he himself proposed to his disciples. (122)

Thus religious will fulfill their mission as Christians called to be “a living memorial of Jesus’ way of living and acting”, (123) and “moved by God to be pioneers on the missionary road and the paths of the Spirit”. (124) With the new ardor of their lives and of their word, with new methods and new expressions of their works, they will be faithful and bold instruments of God, signs of hope in “serv[ing] man by revealing to him the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ”. (125)

On 31 October 1998, the Holy Father approved this document of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life and authorized its publication.

Rome, 8 December 1998, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Eduardo Card. Martínez Somalo


Piergiorgio Silvano Nesti




I. Fundamental principles and practical directives

– Fundamental principles

a) Formation: Inalienable right and duty of every institute

b) Collaboration and solidarity in formation

c) Inter-institute centers and formation

Practical directives

– Religious institutes

a) Chapters and Major Superiors

b) The formation community

– Inter-congregational centers

a) Centers and their constitution

b) Directive responsibilities

c) Professors

II. Collaboration in the various phases of formation

– Preparation for novititiate

– Novitiate

– Formation of those with temporary vows

– Continuing formation

III. Institutes of religious sciences and of philosophical and theological formation

– Institutes of religious sciences

– Institutes of theological and philosophical formation for religious candidates for priesthood

a) Canonical erection

b) Authority over the institute

c) Programs

d) Professors

e) Admission

f) Formation community and center of philosophical-theological studies

g) Proper initiatives

IV. Inter-Institute collaboration for the formation of formators

– The service of formation

– Careful selection and solid preparation of formators

– Inter-institute collaboration

– Courses


(1) Cf. LG 7; ChL 21, 24.

(2) Cf. LG 43-44; VC 1-3.

(3) Cf. Potissimum institutioni, CICLSAL, 2 February 1990.

(4) Cf. PC 8; can. 675.

(5) PI 98-100.

(6) PI 72-85.

(7) By “inter-institute centers” of formation (sometimes called “inter-congregational centers”) is understood the diverse forms of collaboration among religious institutes, at the service of formation.

(8) John Paul II, Message to the XIV General Assembly of the Conference of Religious of Brasil, 11 July 1986, n. 2. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1986, n. 35, p. 2.

(9) Ibid., n. 4; cf. VC 53.

(10) Ibid., n. 4. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1986, n. 35, p. 10.

(11) Cf. PC 18; ET 52; VC 68.

(12) Cf. RM 2; VC 67, 73.

(13) Cf. PC 1; RHP 22; ChL 18-21, 32.

(14) Cf. can. 646-53 and 659-61.

(15) Cf. MR 11.

(16) Cf. MR 14b; can. 574.1; VC 4-5, 29, 33-34.

(17) VC 37.

(18) Cf. PC 1; can. 577; VC 19, 47-48.

(19) MR 11.

(20) Cf. can. 586.2; VC 48.

(21) PI 98; cf. can. 587.1, 646, and 659.

(22) Cf. PI 46, 90-91; can. 577.

(23) John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of Northeast Region II of the National Conference of Bishops of Brasil, 11 July 1995. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1995, n. 29, p. 5.

(24) Cf. can. 646-53 for the formation of novices; can. 659-60 for the formation of those temporarily professed; can. 661 for continuing formation.

(25) Cf. VC 52, 53.

(26) PC 2; can. 576, 578.

(27) VC 3, cf. VC 29.

(28) Cf. LG 44; MR 11; can. 576-578; 587.1; VC 25, 35, 92-95.

(29) Cf. VC 52.

(30) Cf. VC 66, 93; Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations, New Vocations for a New Europe (Final Document of the Congress on Vocations to the Priesthood and to Consecrated Life in Europe: Rome, 5-10 May 1997), nn. 15-19.

(31) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, IIa-IIae, q. 184, art. 4.

(32) Cf. VC 52.

(33) John Paul II, Address to the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), 18 May 1995. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1995, n. 23, p. 3.

(34) Cf. VC 73.

(35) Can. 659.2 and 659.3; PI 103.

(36) John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of Northeast Region II of the National Conference of Bishops of Brasil, 11 July 1995, n. 6. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1995, n. 29, p. 5.

(37) Cf. PI 99.

(38) Cf. EE 47; PI 60.

(39) Cf. PI 26-27.

(40) FLC 43.

(41) John Paul II, Address to Women Religious, Florianopolis, 18 October 1991, n. 6. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1991, n. 43, p. 14.

(42) Cf. EE III 12; MR 46; RHP 9; can. 659, 665. 1.

(43) In this document, “inter-congregational centers” of formation (as indicated in note 7) are all inter-congregational institutions which collaborate in the formation of their own members, whether they offer complementary courses or complete programs of study. In this document, centers which give a complete academic formation are called “institutes of religious sciences” andor “institutes of philosophical and theological formation”.

(44) PC 23.

(45) Cf. PI 98-100.

(46) Cf. MR 28, 31; VC 46, 50.

(47) John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of Northeast Region II of the National Conference of Bishops of Brasil, 11 July 1995. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1995, n. 29, p. 5.

(48) Cf. can. 646, 659-61; PDV 42-59.

(49) Cf. OT 14; VC 14-16.

(50) VC 49; cf. PI 24-25.

(51) Cf. PI 42-44.

(52) Cf. RC 4.

(53) Cf. PI 45; can. 646.

(54) Cf. can. 646, 652.2, 652.3, and 652.4.

(55) John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of Northeast Region II of the Conference of Bishops of Brasil, 11 July 1995, n. 6. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1995, n. 29, p. 5.

(56) Cf. can. 652.2.

(57) Cf. can. 646, 648, 652.5.

(58) Cf. VC 46, 52.

(59) Cf. can. 652.1.

(60) Cf. PI 13, 39-41.

(61) Cf. can. 659-61; PI 58.

(62) Cf. PI 58-65.

(63) PI 60.

(64) Cf. VC 16, 65.

(65) Cf. PI 35-38.

(66) VC 67.

(67) Cf. MR 18, 36, 37, 40, 56-58; can. 675.3, 678, 680, 680.1, VC 16, 31, 54-55.

(68) Cf. VC 102.

(69) Cf. RHP.

(70) Cf. PI 64.

(71) VC 69.

(72) Cf. PI 70.

(73) VC 70-71.

(74) Cf. FLC 43, 54-57; VC 64.

(75) Cf. PI 66-71; VC 69-71.

(76) Can. 661.

(77) Cf. can. 659-60.

(78) Cf. MR 31.

(79) Cf. John Paul II, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (14 September 1995), 55-71.

(80) It is necessary to distinguish institutes of religious sciences (which are considered in this document) from higher institutes of religious sciences which are erected by the Holy See and are sponsored by a Theological Faculty. Cf. Norms for Higher Institutes of Religious Sciences, Seminarium 1 (1991), pp. 194-201.

(81) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana, 1979, Part I: Common Norms, art. 62 § 1, and Part II (Congregation for Catholic Education), Applied Norms, art. 47.

(82) MR 31.

(83) Cf. can. 237.2. Given the lack of specific law in this area, canonical references should be interpreted “by analogy”.

(84) Cf. Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus (28 June 1988), 108.2.

(85) Cf. Sapientia Christiana, Part I: Common Norms, art. 62, and Part II: Applied Norms, art. 47.

(86) Cf. Sapientia Christiana, Part I: Common Norms, art. 24.

(87) Cf. can. 833.

(88) Cf. can. 812.

(89) MR 31.

(90) Cf. VC 50.

(91) Cf. VC 48-50.

(92) PDV 53.

(93) Can. 252.1.

(94) Cf. can. 250, 252-58; 1032.

(95) Cf. OT Introduction; RFIS I, 1-4; PI 108-09.

(96) Cf. can. 242; RFIS I, 2.

(97) Cf. VC 50.

(98) Cf. PDV 61.

(99) PDV 67.

(100) Cf. can. 254.

(101) Cf. can. 812.

(102) Cf. can. 248, 253. Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae On Catholic Universities (15 August 1990) Part II General Norms, 4, 3. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian (24 May 1990), 6 and 7.

(103) Cf. can. 586.

(104) RFIS V 30.

(105) VC 66.

(106) Cf. 1 Cor 11:1; 1 Thes 1:6. Cf. Jean Galot, S.J., “Mutual Esteem in Community”, Informationes SCRIS 1980, 269-74.

(107) John Paul II, Message to the XIV General Assembly of the Conference of Religious of Brasil, 11 July 1986, par. 4. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1986, n. 35, pp. 2, 10. Cf. also John Paul II, Address to the Plenary of CICLSAL, 1 December 1988: Insegnamenti, XI4 (1988), pp. 1703-06.

(108) Cf. “Directives Concerning the Preparation of Seminary Educators”, Congregation for Catholic Education, 4 November 1993, nn. 79, 82; CD 5, 35; MR 31, 37; VC 53.

(109) Cf. VC 73, 94.

(110) Cf. VC 53.

(111) Cf. VC 94, 95.

(112) Cf. VC 41-42; 72.

(113) VC 46; cf. RHP 24.

(114) Cf. MR 37; VC 4, 15, 31, 56.

(115) Cf. VC 79-80.

(116) Cf. VC 37.

(117) Cf. VC 77-83, 96-99; 101-03.

(118) Cf. VC 77.

(119) John Paul II, Message to the XIV General Assembly of the Conference of Religious of Brasil, 11 July 1986, n. 4. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1986, n. 35, p. 2.

(120) Cf. PI 1.

(121) Cf. LG 46; VC 18.

(122) Cf. LG 44.

(123) VC 22.

(124) John Paul II, Message to the XIV General Assembly of the Conference of Religious of Brasil, 11 July 1986, par. 1. Found in L’Osservatore Romano (English version) 1986, n. 35, p. 2.

(125) Cf. RM 2; VC 110.

1998-Formation of Permanent Deacons



To read the full document click here


I. The Ordained Ministry

1. “In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in the Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body. The holders of office, who are invested with a sacred power, are, in fact, dedicated to promoting the interests of their brethren, so that all who belong to the People of God, and are consequently endowed with true Christian dignity, may, through their free and well-ordered efforts towards a common goal, attain to salvation”.(3)

The Sacrament of Orders “configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ’s instrument for his Church. By ordination he is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet and king”.(4)

Through the Sacrament of Orders, the mission entrusted by Christ to his Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. It is thus the sacrament of apostolic ministry.(5) The sacramental act of ordination surpasses mere election, designation or delegation by the community, because it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit enabling the exercise of sacred power which can only come from Christ himself through his Church.(6) “The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act of his own authority, but by virtue of Christ’s authority; not as a member of the community but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered. This fact presupposes ministers of grace, authorised and empowered by Christ”.(7)

The sacrament of apostolic ministry comprises three degrees. Indeed “the divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests and deacons”.(8)

Together with priests and deacons as their helpers, the bishops have received pastoral charge of the community, and preside in God’s stead over the flock of which they are shepherds in as much as they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship and ministers of pastoral government.(9)

The sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is such that it has “intrinsically linked…its character of service. Entirely dependant on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ” (cf. Rom. 1:11), in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us (cf. Phil.2:7)”.(10)

The sacred ministry also has a collegial form(11) and a personal character(12) by which “sacramental ministry in the Church…is at once a collegial and a personal service, exercised in the name of Christ”.(13)

II. The Diaconate

2. The service of deacons in the Church is documented from apostolic times. A strong tradition, attested already by St. Ireneus and influencing the liturgy of ordination, sees the origin of the diaconate in the institution of the “seven” mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-6). Thus, at the initial grade of sacred hierarchy are deacons, whose ministry has always been greatly esteemed in the Church.(14) St. Paul refers to them and to the bishops in the exordium of his Epistle to the Philippians (cf. Phil 1:1), while in his first Epistle to Timothy he lists the qualities and virtues which they should possess so as to exercise their ministry worthily (cf. 1 Tim 3:8-13).(15)

From its outset, patristic literature witnesses to this hierarchical and ministerial structure in the Church, which includes the diaconate. St Ignatius of Antioch(16) considers a Church without bishop, priest or deacon, unthinkable. He underlines that the ministry of deacons is nothing other than “the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before time began and who appeared at the end of time”. They are not deacons of food and drink but ministers of the Church of God. The Didascalia Apostolorum,(17) the Fathers of subsequent centuries, the various Councils(18) as well as ecclesiastical praxis(19) all confirm the continuity and development of this revealed datum.

Up to the fifth century the Diaconate flourished in the western Church, but after this period, it experienced, for various reasons, a slow decline which ended in its surviving only as an intermediate stage for candidates preparing for priestly ordination.

The Council of Trent disposed that the permanent Diaconate, as it existed in ancient times, should be restored, in accord with its proper nature, to its original function in the Church.(20) This prescription, however, was not carried into effect.

The second Vatican Council established that “it will be possible for the future to restore the diaconate as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy….(and confer it) even upon married men, provided they be of more mature age, and also on suitable young men for whom, however, the law of celibacy must remain in force”,(21) in accordance with constant tradition. Three reasons lay behind this choice: (i) a desire to enrich the Church with the functions of the diaconate, which otherwise, in many regions, could only be exercised with great difficulty; (ii) the intention of strengthening with the grace of diaconal ordination those who already exercised many of the functions of the Diaconate; (iii) a concern to provide regions, where there was a shortage of clergy, with sacred ministers. Such reasons make clear that the restoration of the permanent Diaconate was in no manner intended to prejudice the meaning, role or flourishing of the ministerial priesthood, which must always be fostered because of its indispensability.

With the Apostolic Letter Sacrum diaconatus ordinem(22) of 18 June 1967, Pope Paul VI implemented the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council by determining general norms governing the restoration of the permanent Diaconate in the Latin Church. The Apostolic ConstitutionPontificalis Romani Recognitio(23) of 18 June 1968 approved the new rite of conferring the Sacred Orders of the Episcopate, the Presbyterate and the Diaconate and determined the matter and form of these sacramental ordinations. Finally, the Apostolic Letter Ad pascendum(24) of 15 August 1972 clarified the conditions for the admission and ordination of candidates to the diaconate. The essential elements of these norms subsequently passed into the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 25 January 1983.(25)

In the wake of this universal legislation, several Episcopal Conferences, with the prior approbation of the Holy See, have restored the permanent Diaconate in their territories and have drawn up complementary norms for its regulation.

III. The Permanent Diaconate

3. The experience of the Church over several centuries has generated the norm of conferring the priesthood only on those who have already received the Diaconate and exercised it appropriately.(26) The Order of deacons, however, “should not be considered merely a step towards the Priesthood”.(27)

“One of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council was the desire to restore the diaconate as a proper and stable rank of the hierarchy”.(28) On the basis of the “historical circumstances and pastoral purposes noted by the Council Fathers, the Holy Spirit, protagonist of the Church’s life, worked mysteriously to bring about a new and more complete actualization of the hierarchy which traditionally consists of bishops, priests and deacons. In this manner the Christian community was revitalized, configured more closely to that of the Apostles which, under the influence of the Paraclete, flourished as the Acts of the Apostles(29) testifies.

The permanent Diaconate is an important enrichment for the mission of the Church.(30) Since themunera proper to deacons are necessary to the Church’s life,(31) it is both convenient and useful, especially in mission territories,(32) that men who are called to a truly diaconal ministry in the Church, whether liturgical or pastoral, charitable or social, “be strengthened by the imposition of hands, which has come down from the Apostles, and more closely united to the altar so as to exercise their ministry more fruitfully through the sacramental grace of the diaconate”.(33)

Vatican City, 22 February 1998, Feast of the Chair of Peter.

Congregation for Catholic Education

Pio Card. Laghi


+ José Saraiva Martins

Titular Archbishop of Tuburnica


Congregation for the Clergy

Darío Card. Castrillón Hoyos


+ Csaba Ternyák

Titular Archbishop of Eminenziana







1. The paths of formation

1. The first indications about the formation of permanent deacons were given by the Apostolic Letter Sacrum diaconatus ordinem.(1)

These indications were then taken up and further refined in the Circular Letter of the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education of 16 July 1969, Come è a conoscenza, in which were foreseen “different types of formation” according to the “different types of diaconate” (for celibates, married people, “those destined for mission territories or for countries which were still developing”, those called “to carry out their function in countries with a certain level of civilisation and a fairly developed culture”). Regarding doctrinal formation, it was specified that it must be above that required for a simple catechist and, in some way, analogous to that of the priest. The material which had to be taken into consideration when drawing up the programme of studies was then listed.(2)

The subsequent Apostolic Letter Ad pascendum specified that “in regard to the course of theological studies that are to precede the ordination of permanent deacons, the Episcopal Conferences, according to the local situation, are competent to issue the appropriate norms and submit them to the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education for approval”.(3)

The new Code of Canon Law brought together the essential elements of this norm into canon 236.

2. After about thirty years from the first directives, and with the contribution of subsequent experiences, it has been thought opportune now to draw up the present Ratio fundamentalis institutionis diaconorum permanentium. Its purpose is that of providing an instrument for guiding and harmonising, while respecting legitimate diversity, the educational projects drawn up by the Episcopal Conferences and dioceses, which at times vary greatly from one to another.

2. Reference to a sure theology of the diaconate

3. The effectiveness of the formation of permanent deacons depends to a great extent on the theological understanding of the diaconate that underlies it. In fact it offers the co-ordinates for establishing and guiding the formation process and, at the same time, lays down the end to be attained.

The almost total disappearance of the permanent diaconate from the Church of the West for more than a millennium has certainly made it more difficult to understand the profound reality of this ministry. However, it cannot be said for that reason that the theology of the diaconate has no authoritative points of reference, completely at the mercy of different theological opinions. There are points of reference, and they are very clear, even if they need to be developed and deepened. Some of the most important of these will now follow, without, however, any claim to completeness.

4. First of all we must consider the diaconate, like every other Christian identity, from within the Church which is understood as a mystery of Trinitarian communion in missionary tension. This is a necessary, even if not the first, reference in the definition of the identity of every ordained minister insofar as its full truth consists in being a specific participation in and representation of the ministry of Christ.(4) This is why the deacon receives the laying on of hands and is sustained by a specific sacramental grace which inserts him into the sacrament of Orders.(5)

5. The diaconate is conferred through a special outpouring of the Spirit (ordination), which brings about in the one who receives it a specific conformation to Christ, Lord and servant of all. Quoting a text of the Constitutiones Ecclesiae Aegypticae, Lumen gentium (n. 29) defines the laying on of hands on the deacon as being not “ad sacerdotium sed ad ministerium”,(6) that is, not for the celebration of the eucharist, but for service. This indication, together with the admonition of Saint Polycarp, also taken up again by Lumen gentium, n. 29,(7) outlines the specific theological identity of the deacon: as a participation in the one ecclesiastical ministry, he is a specific sacramental sign, in the Church, of Christ the servant. His role is to “express the needs and desires of the Christian communities” and to be “a driving force for service, or diakonia”,(8) which is an essential part of the mission of the Church.

6. The matter of diaconal ordination is the laying on of the hands of the Bishop; the form is constituted by the words of the prayer of ordination, which is expressed in the three moments of anamnesis, epiclesis and intercession.(9) The anamnesis (which recounts the history of salvation centred in Christ) goes back to the “levites”, recalling worship, and to the “seven” of the Acts of the Apostles, recalling charity. The epiclesis invokes the power of the seven gifts of the Spirit so that the ordinand may imitate Christ as “deacon”. The intercession is an exhortation to a generous and chaste life.

The essential form of the sacrament is the epiclesis, which consists of the words: “Lord, send forth upon them the Holy Spirit, that they may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace to carry out faithfully the work of the ministry”. The seven gifts originate in a passage of Isaiah 11:2, from the fuller version given by the Septuagint. These are the gifts of the Spirit given to the Messiah, which are granted to the newly ordained.

7. Insofar as it is a grade of holy orders, the diaconate imprints a character and communicates a specific sacramental grace. The diaconal character is the configurative and distinguishing sign indelibly impressed in the soul, which configures the one ordained to Christ, who made himself the deacon or servant of all.(10) It brings with it a specific sacramental grace, which is strength, vigor specialis, a gift for living the new reality wrought by the sacrament. “With regard to deacons, ‘strengthened by sacramental grace they are dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the Gospel and of works of charity'”.(11) Just as in all sacraments which imprint character, grace has a permanent virtuality. It flowers again and again in the same measure in which it is received and accepted again and again in faith.

8. In the exercise of their power, deacons, since they share in a lower grade of ecclesiastical ministry, necessarily depend on the Bishops, who have the fullness of the sacrament of orders. In addition, they are placed in a special relationship with the priests, in communion with whom they are called to serve the People of God.(12)

From the point of view of discipline, with diaconal ordination, the deacon is incardinated into a particular Church or personal prelature to whose service he has been admitted, or else, as a cleric, into a religious institute of consecrated life or a clerical society of apostolic life.(13) Incardination does not represent something which is more or less accidental, but is characteristically a constant bond of service to a concrete portion of the People of God. This entails ecclesial membership at the juridical, affective and spiritual level and the obligation of ministerial service.

3. The ministry of the deacon in different pastoral contexts

9. The ministry of the deacon is characterised by the exercise of the three munera proper to the ordained ministry, according to the specific perspective of diakonia.

In reference to the munus docendi the deacon is called to proclaim the Scriptures and instruct and exhort the people.(14) This finds expression in the presentation of the Book of the Gospels, foreseen in the rite of ordination itself.(15)

The munus sanctificandi of the deacon is expressed in prayer, in the solemn administration of baptism, in the custody and distribution of the Eucharist, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in presiding at the rites of funeral and burial and in the administration of sacramentals.(16) This brings out how the diaconal ministry has its point of departure and arrival in the Eucharist, and cannot be reduced to simple social service.

Finally, the munus regendi is exercised in dedication to works of charity and assistance (17) and in the direction of communities or sectors of church life, especially as regards charitable activities. This is the ministry most characteristic of the deacon.

10. As can be seen from original diaconal practice and from conciliar indications, the outlines of the ministerial service inherent in the diaconate are very well defined. However, even if this inherent ministerial service is one and the same in every case, nevertheless the concrete ways of carrying it out are diverse; these must be suggested, in each case, by the different pastoral situations of the single Churches. In preparing the formation to be imparted, these should obviously be taken into account.

4. Diaconal spirituality

11. The outlines of the specific spirituality of the deacon flow clearly from his theological identity; this spirituality is one of service.

The model “par excellence” is Christ the servant, who lived totally at the service of God, for the good of men. He recognised himself as the one announced in the servant of the first song of the Book of Isaiah (cf Lk 4:18-19), he explicitly qualified his action as diakonia (cf Mt 20:28; Lk 22:27; Jn 13:1-17; Phil 2:7-8; 1 Pet 2:21-25) and he entrusted his disciples to do the same (cf Jn 13:34-35; Lk12:37).

The spirituality of service is a spirituality of the whole Church, insofar as the whole Church, in the same way as Mary, is the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:28), at the service of the salvation of the world. And so that the whole Church may better live out this sprituality of service, the Lord gives her a living and personal sign of his very being as servant. In a specific way, this is the spirituality of the deacon. In fact, with sacred ordination, he is constituted a living icon of Christ the servant within the Church. The Leitmotiv of his spiritual life will therefore be service; his sanctification will consist in making himself a generous and faithful servant of God and men, especially the poorest and most suffering; his ascetic commitment will be directed towards acquiring those virtues necessary for the exercise of his ministry.

12. Obviously such a spirituality must integrate itself harmoniously, in each case, with the spirituality related to the state of life. Accordingly, the same diaconal spirituality acquires diverse connotations according to whether it be lived by a married man, a widower, a single man, a religious, a consecrated person in the world. Formation must take account of these variations and offer differentiated spiritual paths according to the types of candidates.


7. The permanent diaconate in institutes of consecrated life and in societies of apostolic life

17. The institution of the permanent diaconate among the members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life is regulated by the norms of the Apostolic Letter Sacrum diaconatus ordinem. It establishes that “Institution of the permanent diaconate among religious is a right reserved to the Holy See, which alone is competent to examine and approve the votes of general chapters in the matter”.(22) The document continues: “Whatever is said…is to be understood as applying to the members of other institutes professing the evangelical counsels”.(23)

Each institute or society which has obtained the right to re-establish the permanent diaconate assumes the responsibility of guaranteeing the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation of its candidates. Such an institute or society must commit itself therefore to preparing its own formation programme which incorporates the specific charism and spirituality of the institute or society and, at the same time, is in harmony with the present Ratio fundamentalis, especially as regards intellectual and pastoral formation.

The programme of each institute or society should be submitted for examination and approval to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life or the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches for territories where they are competent. The competent Congregation, having obtained the opinion of the Congregation for Catholic Education as regards intellectual formation, will approve it, firstly ad experimentum, and then for a specific number of years, so as to guarantee periodic revisions.



1. The Church and the Bishop

18. The formation of deacons, like that of other ministers and all the baptised, is a duty which involves the whole Church. Hailed by the Apostle Paul as “the heavenly Jerusalem” and like Mary “our mother” (Gal 4:26), “by preaching and baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life”.(24) And not only this: imitating the motherhood of Mary, she accompanies her children with maternal love and cares for them so that they all may come to the fullness of their vocation.

The Church’s care for her children is expressed in the offering of the Word and sacraments, in love and solidarity, in prayer and in the solicitude of the various ministries. However, in this care, which is, so to speak, visible, the care of the Holy Spirit is made present. In fact “the social structure of the Church serves the Spirit of Christ who vivifies it, in the building up of the body”,(25) both in its universality and in the singularity of its members.

In the Church’s care for her children, the first figure, therefore, is the Spirit of Christ. It is He who calls them, accompanies them and moulds their hearts so that they can recognise his grace and respond generously to it. The Church must be well aware of this sacramental relevance of its educational work.

19. In the formation of permanent deacons, the first sign and instrument of the Spirit of Christ is the proper Bishop (or the competent Major Superior).(26) He is the one ultimately responsible for their discernment and formation.(27) While ordinarily exercising this duty through the assistants who have been chosen, nevertheless he will he commit himself, as far as is possible, to knowing personally those who are preparing for diaconate.

2. Those responsible for formation

20. Those persons who, in dependence upon the Bishop (or competent Major Superior) and in strict collaboration with the diaconal community, have a special responsibility in the formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate are: the director of formation, the tutor (where the number requires it), the spiritual director and the pastor (or the minister to whom the candidate is entrusted for the diaconal placement).

21. The director of formation, nominated by the Bishop (or the competent Major Superior) has the task of co-ordinating the different people involved in the formation, of supervising and inspiring the whole work of education in its various dimensions, and of maintaining contacts with the families of married aspirants and candidates and with their communities of origin. In addition, he has the responsibility of presenting to the Bishop (or to the competent Major Superior) the judgement of suitability on aspirants for their admission among the candidates, and on candidates for their promotion to the order of diaconate after having heard the opinion of the other formators,(28) excepting the spiritual director.

Because of his decisive and delicate duties, the director of formation must be chosen with great care. He must be a man of lively faith and a strong ecclesial sense, have had a wide pastoral experience and have given proof of wisdom, balance and capacity for communion; in addition he must have acquired a solid theological and pedagogical competence.

He could be a priest or a deacon and, preferably, not be at the same time also responsible for ordained deacons. In fact, it would be better for this responsibility to remain distinct from that of forming aspirants and candidates.

22. The tutor, designated by the director of formation from among the deacons or priests of proven experience and nominated by the Bishop (or the competent Major Superior), is the direct companion of each aspirant and of each candidate. He is charged with closely following the formation of each one, offering his support and advice for the resolution of any problems which may arise and for helping to make personal the various moments of formation. He is also called to collaborate with the director of formation in the programming of the different formational activities and in the preparation of the judgement of suitability to be presented to the Bishop (or the competent Major Superior). According to circumstances, the tutor will be responsible for only one person or for a small group.

23. The spiritual director is chosen by each aspirant or candidate and must be approved by the Bishop or Major Superior. His task is that of discerning the workings of the Spirit in the soul of those called and, at the same time, of accompanying and supporting their ongoing conversion; he must also give concrete suggestions to help bring about an authentic diaconal spirituality and offer effective incentives for acquiring the associated virtues. Because of all this, aspirants and candidates are invited to entrust themselves for spiritual direction only to priests of proven virtue, equipped with a good theological culture, of profound spiritual experience, of marked pedagogical sense, of strong and refined ministerial sensibility.

24. The pastor (or other minister) is chosen by the director of formation in agreement with the other members of the formation team and taking account of the different situations of the candidates. He is called to offer to the one who has been entrusted to him a lively ministerial communion and to introduce him to and accompany him in those pastoral activities which he considers most suitable; he will also be careful to make a periodic check on the work done with the candidate himself and to communicate the progress of the placement to the director of formation.

3. Professors

25. The professors contribute in a relevant way to the formation of the future deacons. In fact by teaching the sacrum depositum held by the Church, they nourish the faith of the candidates and qualify them to be teachers of the People of God. For that reason they must occupy themselves not only with acquiring the necessary scientific competence and an adequate pedagogical ability, but also with witnessing with their lives to the Truth which they teach.

In order to harmonise their specific contribution with the other dimensions of formation, it is important that they be willing, depending on circumstances, to collaborate and be open to discussion with the others involved in formation. In this way they will contribute to providing the candidates with a unified formation and help them in the necessary work of synthesis.

4. The formation community of permanent deacons

26. Aspirants and candidates for the permanent diaconate, naturally constitute a unique context, a distinct ecclesial community which strongly influences the formation process.

Those entrusted with the formation must take care that this community be characterised by a profound spirituality, a sense of belonging, a spirit of service and missionary thrust, and have a definite rhythm of meetings and prayer.

The formation community of permanent deacons can thus be for aspirants and candidates for the diaconate a precious support in the discernment of their vocation, in human growth, in the initiation to the spiritual life, in theological study and pastoral experience.

5. Communities of origin

27. The communities of origin of aspirants and candidates for the diaconate can exercise some influence on their formation.

For younger aspirants and candidates, the family can be an extraordinary help. It must be invited to “…accompany the formative journey with prayer, respect, the good example of the domestic virtues and spiritual and material help, especially in difficult moments… Even in the case of parents or relatives who are indifferent or opposed to the choice of a vocation, a clear and calm facing of the situation and the encouragement which derives from it can be a great help to the deeper and more determined maturing of a…vocation”.(29) As far as married aspirants and candidates are concerned, their commitment must be such that their married communion might contribute in a real way to inspiring their formation journey towards the goal of the diaconate.

The parish community is called to accompany the path of its member towards the diaconate with the support of prayer and an appropriate catechesis which, while it makes the faithful aware of this ministry, gives to the candidate a strong aid to his vocational discernment.

Those other ecclesial groupings from which aspirants and candidates for the diaconate come can also continue to be for them a source of help and support, of light and warmth. However, they must show, at the same time, respect for the ministerial call of their members, not obstructing them, but rather promoting in them the maturing of an authentic diaconal spirituality and readiness.

6. Aspirant and candidate

28. Finally, the man preparing for diaconate “…is a necessary and irreplaceable agent in his own formation: all formation…is ultimately a self-formation”.(30)

Self-formation does not imply isolation, closure to or independence from formators, but responsibility and dynamism in responding with generosity to God’s call, valuing to the highest the people and tools which Providence puts at one’s disposition.

Self-formation has its root in a firm determination to grow in life according to the Spirit and in conformity with the vocation received, and it is nourished in being humbly open to recognising one’s own limitations and one’s own gifts.



29. “The history of every priestly vocation, as indeed of every Christian vocation, is the history of aninexpressible dialogue between God and human beings, between the love of God who calls and the freedom of individuals who respond lovingly to him”.(31) However, alongside God’s call and the response of individuals, there is another element constitutive to a vocation, particularly a ministerial vocation: the public call of the Church. “Vocari a Deo dicuntur qui a legitimis Ecclesiae ministris vocantur”.(32) The expression should not be understood in a predominantly juridical sense, as if it were the authority that calls which determines the vocation, but in a sacramental sense, that considers the authority that calls as the sign and instrument for the personal intervention of God, which is realised with the laying on of hands. In this perspective, every proper election expresses aninspiration and represents a choice of God. The Church’s discernment is therefore decisive for the choice of a vocation; how much more so, due to its ecclesial significance, is this true for the choice of a vocation to the ordained ministry.

This discernment must be conducted on the basis of objective criteria, which treasure the ancient tradition of the Church and take account of present day pastoral needs. For the discernment of vocations to the permanent diaconate, some requirements of a general nature and others responding to the particular state of life of those called should be taken into account.

1. General requirements

30. The first diaconal profile was outlined in the First Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy: “Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for gain; they must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons…Let deacons be the husband of one wife, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Jesus Christ” (1 Tim 3:8-10.12-13).

The qualities listed by Paul are prevalently human, almost as if to say that deacons could carry out their ministry only if they were acceptable models of humanity. We find echoes of Paul’s exhortation in texts of the Apostolic Fathers, especially in the Didachè and Saint Polycarp. The Didachè urges: “Elect for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, meek men, not lovers of money, honest and proven”,(33) and Saint Polycarp counsels: “In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of his righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ, and not of men. They must not be slanderers, double-tongued, or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all”.(34)

31. The Church’s tradition subsequently finalised and refined the requirements which support the authenticity of a call to the diaconate. These are firstly those which are valid for orders in general: “Only those are to be promoted to orders who…have sound faith, are motivated by the right intention, are endowed with the requisite knowledge, enjoy a good reputation, and have moral probity, proven virtue and the other physical and psychological qualities appropriate to the order to be received”.(35)

32. The profile of candidates is then completed with certain specific human qualities and evangelical virtues necessary for diakonia. Among the human qualities which should be highlighted are: psychological maturity, capacity for dialogue and communication, sense of responsibility, industriousness, equilibrium and prudence. Particularly important among the evangelical virtues: prayer, Eucharistic and Marian devotion, a humble and strong sense of the Church, love for the Church and her mission, spirit of poverty, capacity for obedience and fraternal communion, apostolic zeal, openness to service,(36) charity towards the brothers and sisters.

33. In addition, candidates for the diaconate must be active members of a Christian community and already have exercised praiseworthy commitment to the apostolate.

34. They may come from every social grouping and carry out any work or professional activity, providing that it is not, according to the norms of the Church and the prudent judgement of the Bishop, inconsistent with the diaconal state.(37) Furthermore, such activity must be compatible in practice with commitments of formation and the effective exercise of the ministry.

35. Regarding the minimum age, the Code of Canon Law prescribes that: “the candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married may be admitted to the diaconate only when he has completed at least his twenty-fifth year; if he is married, not until he has completed at least his thirty-fifth year”.(38)

Lastly, candidates must be free of irregularities and impediments.(39)

2. Requirements related to the candidate’s state of life

a) Unmarried

36. “On the basis of Church law, confirmed by the same Ecumenical Council, young men called to the diaconate are obliged to observe the law of celibacy”.(40) This is a particularly appropriate law for the sacred ministry, to which those who have received the charism freely submit.

The permanent diaconate, lived in celibacy, gives to the ministry a certain unique emphasis. In fact, the sacramental identification with Christ is placed in the context of the undivided heart, that is within the context of a nuptial, exclusive, permanent and total choice of the unique and greatest Love; service of the Church can count on a total availability; the proclamation of the Kingdom is supported by the courageous witness of those who have left even those things most dear to them for the sake of the Kingdom.

b) Married

37. “In the case of married men, care should be taken that only those are promoted to the diaconate who have lived as married men for a number of years and have shown themselves to be capable of running their own homes, and whose wives and children lead a truly Christian life and have good reputations”.(41)

Moreover. In addition to stability of family life, married candidates cannot be admitted unless “their wives not only consent, but also have the Christian moral character and attributes which will neither hinder their husbands’ ministry nor be out of keeping with it”.(42)

c) Widowers

38. “Those who have received the order of deacon, even those who are older, may not, in accordance with traditional Church discipline, enter into marriage”.(43) The same principle applies to deacons who have been widowed.(44) They are called to give proof of human and spiritual soundness in their state of life.

Moreover, a precondition for accepting widowed candidates is that they have already provided, or have shown that they are capable of providing adequately for, the human and Christian upbringing of their children.

d) Members of institutes of consecrated life and of societies of apostolic life

39. Permanent deacons belonging to institutes of consecrated life or to societies of apostolic life (45) are called to enrich their ministry with the particular charism which they have received. In fact, their pastoral activity, while being under the jurisdiction of the local Ordinary,(46) is nevertheless characterised by particular traits of their religious or consecrated state of life. They will therefore commit themselves to integrating their religious or consecrated vocation with the ministerial vocation and to offering their special contribution to the mission of the Church.




1. The presentation of aspirants

40. The decision to undertake the path of diaconal formation can come about either upon the initiative of the aspirant himself or by means of an explicit proposal of the community to which the aspirant belongs. In each case, the decision must be accepted and shared by the community.

On behalf of the community, it is the pastor (or the superior in religious houses) who must present to the Bishop (or competent Major Superior) the aspirant to the diaconate. He will do so accompanying the candidacy with an illustration of the motivations which support it and with a curriculum vitae and pastoral history of the aspirant.

The Bishop (or competent Major Superior), after having consulted the director of formation and the formation team, will decide whether or not to admit the aspirant to the propaedeutic period.

2. The propaedeutic period

41. With admission among the aspirants to diaconate there begins a propaedeutic period, which must be of an appropriate length. During this period the aspirants will be introduced to a deeper knowledge of theology, of spirituality and of the ministry of deacon and they will be led to a more attentive discernment of their call.

42. The director of formation is responsible for the propaedeutic period; depending on the cases, he may entrust the aspirants to one or more tutors. It is to be hoped that, where circumstances permit, the aspirants may form their own community, with its own cycle of meetings and prayer which also foresees times in common with the community of candidates.

The director of formation will ensure that each aspirant is accompanied by an approved spiritual director and will make contact with the pastor of each one (or another priest) in order to programme the pastoral placement. In addition, he will make contact with the families of married aspirants to make sure of their openness to accepting, sharing and accompanying the vocation of their relative.

43. The programme of the propaedeutic period, usually, should not provide school lessons, but rather meetings for prayer, instructions, moments of reflection and comparison directed towards ensuring the objective nature of the vocational discernment, according to a well structured plan.

Even during this period, care should be taken, wherever possible, to involve the wives of the aspirants.

44. The aspirants are invited to carry out a free and self conscious discernment, basing it on the requirements necessary for the diaconal ministry, without allowing themselves to be conditioned by personal interests or external pressures of any sort.(47)

At the end of the propaedeutic period, the director of formation, after having consulted the formation team and taking account of all the elements in his possession, will present to the proper Bishop (or competent Major Superior) a declaration which outlines the profile of the aspirants’ personalities and also, on request, a judgement of suitability.

For his part, the Bishop (or the competent Major Superior) will enlist among the candidates for the diaconate only those about whom he will have reached a moral certainty of suitability, whether because of personal knowledge or because of information received from the formators.

3. The liturgical rite of admission to candidacy for ordination as deacon

45. Admission to candidacy for ordination as deacon comes about by means of a special liturgical rite, “by which one who aspires to the diaconate or priesthood publicly manifests his will to offer himself to God and the Church, so that he may exercise sacred orders. The Church, accepting this offering, chooses and calls him to prepare himself to receive a sacred order, and in this way he is rightly numbered among candidates for the diaconate”.(48)

46. The competent superior for this acceptance is the Bishop himself or, for members of a clerical religious institute of pontifical rite or of a clerical society of apostolic life of pontifical right, the Major Superior.(49)

47. By reason of its public character and its ecclesial significance, the rite is to be held in proper esteem and celebrated preferably on a feast day. The aspirant is to prepare himself for it by a spiritual retreat.

48. The liturgical rite of admission must be preceded by a request for enrolment among the candidates, which must be prepared and personally signed by the aspirant himself and accepted in writing by the proper Bishop or Major Superior to whom it is addressed.(50)

Enrolment among the candidates for the diaconate does not constitute any right necessarily to receive diaconal ordination. It is a first official recognition of the positive signs of the vocation to the diaconate, which must be confirmed in the subsequent years of formation.

4. Time of formation

49. The formation programme must last at least three years, in addition to the propaedeutic period, for all candidates.(51)

50. The Code of Canon Law prescribes that young candidates receive their formation residing “for at least three years in a special house, unless the diocesan Bishop for grave reasons decides otherwise”.(52) “The Bishops of a region—or, where it would be useful, those of several regions in the same country—should join in establishing a college of this kind, depending on local circumstances. They should choose particularly well-fitted men to be in charge of it and should make clear rules regarding discipline and studies”.(53) Care should be taken that these candidates have good relationships with the deacons of the diocese to which they belong.

51. For those more mature candidates, whether single or married, the Code of Canon Lawprescribes that they “prepare for three years in a manner determined by the Episcopal Conference”.(54) Where circumstances permit, this preparation must be undertaken in the context of a full participation in the community of candidates, which will have its own calendar of meetings for prayer and formation and will also foresee meetings in common with the community of aspirants.

Different ways of organising the formation are possible for these candidates. Due to work and family commitments, the most common models foresee formational and scholastic meetings in the evenings, during weekends, at holiday time or with a combination of the various possibilities. Where geographical factors might present particular difficulties it will be necessary to consider other models, extending over a longer time period or making use of modern means of communication.

52. For candidates belonging to institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life, formation will be carried out according to the directives of the eventual ratio of the person’s institute or society, or by using the structures of the diocese in which the candidates are to be found.

53. In the cases in which the above-mentioned ways of formation might not be set up or be impracticable, “then the candidate should be entrusted to some priest of outstanding judgement who will take a special interest in him and teach him, and who will be able to testify to his maturity and prudence. Great care must always be taken that only those who have enough learning and are suitable are enrolled in the sacred order”.(55)

54. In all cases the director of formation (or the priest responsible) will check that during the whole time of formation every candidate will maintain his commitment to spiritual direction with his own approved spiritual director. In addition, he will ensure the accompaniment, evaluation and eventual modification of each one’s pastoral internship.

55. The formation programme, which will be outlined in general in the next chapter, must integrate in a harmonious manner the different areas of formation (human, spiritual, theological and pastoral), it must be theologically well founded, have a specific pastoral finality and be adapted to local needs and pastoral programmes.

56. The wives and children of married candidates and the communities to which they belong should also be involved in appropriate ways. In particular, there should be also a specific programme of formation for the wives of candidates, to prepare them for their future mission of accompanying and supporting their husband’s ministry.

5. Conferral of the ministries of lectorate and acolytate

57. “Before anyone may be promoted to the diaconate, whether permanent or transitory, he must have received the ministries of lector and acolyte, and have exercised them for an appropriate time”,(56) so that he may “be better disposed for the future service of the word and the altar”.(57) In fact the Church “considers it to be very opportune that both by study and by gradual exercise of the ministry of the word and of the altar, candidates for sacred orders should through intimate contact understand and reflect upon the double aspect of the priestly office. Thus it comes about that the authenticity of the ministry shines out with the greatest effectiveness. In this way the candidates come to sacred orders fully aware of their vocation, ‘fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, constant in prayer and aware of the needs of the faithful’ (Rm 12:11-13)”.(58)

The identity of these ministries and their pastoral relevance are illustrated in the Apostolic LetterMinisteria quaedam, to which reference should be made.

58. Aspirants to lectorate and acolytate, on the invitation of the director of formation, will make a request for admission, which has been compiled and signed freely, and present it to the Ordinary (the Bishop or Major Superior) who has the authority to accept it.(59) Having accepted the request, the Bishop or Major Superior will proceed to the conferral of the ministries, according to the rite of theRoman Pontifical.(60)

59. It is appropriate that a certain period of time elapse between the conferring of lectorate and acolytate in such a way that the candidate may exercise the ministry he has received.(61) “Between the conferring of the ministry of acolyte and the diaconate there is to be an interval of at least six months”.(62)

6. Diaconate ordination

60. At the conclusion of the formation journey, the candidate who, in agreement with the director of formation, considers himself to have the necessary pre-requisites for ordination, may address to the proper Bishop or competent Major Superior “a declaration written in his own hand and signed by him, in which he attests that he is about to receive the sacred order freely and of his own accord and will devote himself permanently to the ecclesiastical ministry, asking at the same time that he be admitted to receive the order”.(63)

61. With this request the candidate must enclose the certificate of baptism, of confirmation and of the ministries mentioned in can. 1035, and the certificate of studies duly completed in accordance with can. 1032.(64) If the ordinand to be promoted is married, he must present his marriage certificate and the written consent of his wife.(65)

62. Having received the request of the ordinand, the Bishop (or competent Major Superior) will evaluate his suitability by means of a diligent scrutiny. First of all he will examine the certificate which the director of formation is obliged to present to him “concerning the qualities required in the candidate for the reception of the order, namely sound doctrine, genuine piety, good moral behaviour, fitness for the exercise of the ministry; likewise, after proper investigation, a certificate of the candidate’s state of physical and psychological health”.(66) “The diocesan Bishop or Major Superior may, in order properly to complete the investigation, use other means which, taking into account the circumstances of time and place, may seem useful, such as testimonial letters, public notices or other sources of information”.(67)

After having verified the suitability of a candidate and having been assured that he is aware of the new obligations which he is assuming,(68) the Bishop or competent Major Superior will promote him to the order of the diaconate.

63. Before ordination, unmarried candidates must assume publicly, in the prescribed rite, the obligation of celibacy; (69) candidates belonging to an institute of consecrated life or a society of apostolic life who have taken perpetual vows or other form of definitive commitment in the institute or society are also obliged to this.(70) All candidates are bound personally, before ordination, to make a profession of faith and an oath of fidelity, according to the formulae approved by the Apostolic See, in the presence of the Ordinary of the place or his delegate.(71)

64. “Each candidate is to be ordained…to the diaconate by his proper Bishop, or with lawful dimissorial letters granted by that Bishop”.(72) If the candidate belongs to a clerical religious institute of pontifical right or to a clerical society of apostolic life of pontifical right it belongs to the Major Superior to grant him dimissorial letters.(73)

65. The ordination, carried out according to the rite of the Roman Pontifical,(74) is to be celebrated during solemn Mass, preferably on a Sunday or holyday of obligation, and generally in the Cathedral Church.(75) The ordinands prepare themselves for it by making “a retreat for at least five days, in a place and in the manner prescribed by the Ordinary”.(76) During the rite special attention should be given to the participation of the wives and children of the married ordinands.




1. Human formation

66. The scope of human formation is that of moulding the personality of the sacred ministers in such a way that they become “a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man”.(77) Accordingly they must be educated to acquire and perfect a series of human qualities which will permit them to enjoy the trust of the community, to commit themselves with serenity to the pastoral ministry, to facilitate encounter and dialogue.

Similar to the indications of Pastores dabo vobis for the formation of priests, candidates for the diaconate, too, must be educated “to love the truth, to be loyal, to respect every person, to have a sense of justice, to be true to their word, to be genuinely compassionate, to be men of integrity and, especially, to be balanced in judgement and behaviour”.(78)

67. Of particular importance for deacons, called to be men of communion and service, is the capacity to relate to others. This requires that they be affable, hospitable, sincere in their words and heart, prudent and discreet, generous and ready to serve, capable of opening themselves to clear and brotherly relationships, and quick to understand, forgive and console.(79) A candidate who was excessively closed in on himself, cantankerous and incapable of establishing meaningful and serene relationships with others must undergo a profound conversion before setting off with conviction on the path of ministerial service.

68. At the root of the capacity to relate to others is affective maturity, which must be attained with a wide margin of certainty in both celibate and married candidates. Such a maturity presupposes in both types of candidate the discovery of the centrality of love in their own lives and the victorious struggle against their own selfishness. In reality, as Pope John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical Redemptor hominis, “man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it”.(80) As the Pope explains inPastores dabo vobis, this is a love which involves all the aspects of the person, physical, psychological and spiritual and which therefore demands full dominion over his sexuality, which must become truly and fully personal.(81)

For celibate candidates, to live love means offering the totality of one’s being, of one’s energies and readiness, to Christ and the Church. It is a demanding vocation, which must take into account the inclinations of affectivity and the pressures of instinct and which therefore requires renunciation, vigilance, prayer and fidelity to a precise rule of life. A decisive assistance can come from the presence of true friends, who represent a precious help and a providential support in living out one’s own vocation.(82)

For married candidates, to live love means offering themselves to their spouses in a reciprocal belonging, in a total, faithful and indissoluble union, in the likeness of Christ’s love for his Church; at the same time it means welcoming children, loving them, educating them and showing forth to the whole Church and society the communion of the family. Today, this vocation is being hard tested by the worrying degradation of certain fundamental values and the exaltation of hedonism and a false conception of liberty. To be lived out in all its fullness, the vocation to family must be nourished by prayer, the liturgy and a daily offering of self.(83)

69. A pre-condition for an authentic human maturity is training in freedom, which is expressed in obedience to the truth of one’s own being. “Thus understood, freedom requires the person to be truly master of himself, determined to fight and overcome the different forms of selfishness and individualism which threaten the life of each one, ready to open out to others, generous in dedication and service to one’s neighbour”.(84) Training in freedom also includes the education of the moral conscience, which prepares one to listen to the voice of God in the depths of one’s heart and to adhere closely to it.

70. These many aspects of human maturity—human qualities, ability to relate, affective maturity, training in freedom and education of the moral conscience—must be considered, taking into account the age and previous formation of the candidates, when planning programmes tailored to the individual. The director of formation and the tutor will contribute in the area of their competence; the spiritual director will take these aspects into consideration and check them during spiritual direction. Encounters and conferences which encourage development and give some incentive to maturity are also of use. Community life—in the various forms in which it can be programmed—will constitute a privileged forum for fraternal checks and correction. In those cases where it may be necessary, in the judgement of the formators, and with the consent of the individual concerned, recourse may be made to a psychological consultation.

2. Spiritual formation

71. Human formation leads to and finds its completion in spiritual formation, which constitutes the heart and unifying centre of every Christian formation. Its aim is to tend to the development of the new life received in Baptism.

When a candidate begins the path of formation for the diaconate, generally he has already had a certain experience of the spiritual life, such as, recognition of the action of the Spirit, listening to and meditating upon the Word of God, the thirst for prayer, commitment to service of the brothers and sisters, willingness to make sacrifices, the sense of the Church, apostolic zeal. Also, according to his state of life, he will already have matured a certain defined spirituality: of the family, of consecration in the world or of consecration in the religious life. The spiritual formation of the future deacon, therefore, cannot ignore this experience which he has already had, but must seek to affirm and strengthen it, so as to impress upon it the specific traits of diaconal spirituality.

72. The element which most characterises diaconal spirituality is the discovery of and sharing in the love of Christ the servant, who came not to be served but to serve. The candidate must therefore be helped progressively to acquire those attitudes which are specifically diaconal, though not exclusively so, such as simplicity of heart, total giving of self and disinterest for self, humble and helpful love for the brothers and sisters, especially the poorest, the suffering and the most needy, the choice of a life-style of sharing and poverty. Let Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, be present on this journey and be invoked as mother and auxiliatrix in the daily recitation of the Rosary.

73. The source of this new capacity to love is the Eucharist, which, not by chance, characterises the ministry of the deacon. In fact, service of the poor is the logical consequence of service of the altar. Therefore the candidate will be invited to participate every day, or at least frequently, within the limits of his family and professional commitments, in the celebration of the Eucharist and will be helped to penetrate ever deeper into its mystery. Within the context of this Eucharistic spirituality, care will be taken to give adequate appreciation to the sacrament of Penance.

74. Another characteristic element of diaconal spirituality is the Word of God, of which the deacon is called to be an authoritative preacher, believing what he proclaims, teaching what he believes, living what he teaches.(85) The candidate must therefore learn to know the Word of God ever more deeply and to seek in it constant nourishment for his spiritual life by means of its loving and thorough study and the daily exercise of lectio divina.

75. There should also be an introduction to the meaning of the Prayer of the Church. Indeed praying in the name of the Church and for the Church is part of the ministry of the deacon. This requires a reflection on the uniqueness of Christian prayer and the meaning of the Liturgy of the Hours, but especially a practical initiation into it. To this end, it is important that time be dedicated to this prayer during all meetings of the future deacons.

76. Finally, the deacon incarnates the charism of service as a participation in the ministry of the Church. This has important repercussions on his spiritual life, which must be characterised by obedience and fraternal communion. A genuine education in obedience, instead of stifling the gifts received with the grace of ordination, will ensure ecclesial authenticity in the apostolate. Communion with his ordained confreres is also a balm for supporting and encouraging generosity in the ministry. The candidate must therefore be educated to a sense of belonging to the body of ordained ministers, to fraternal collaboration with them and to spiritual sharing.

77. The means for this formation are monthly retreats and annual spiritual exercises; instructions, to be programmed according to an organic and progressive plan, which takes account of the various stages of the formation; and spiritual accompaniment, which must be constant. It is a particular task of the spiritual director to assist the candidate to discern the signs of his vocation, to place himself in an attitude of ongoing conversion, to bring to maturity the traits proper to the spirituality of the deacon, drawing on the writings of classical spirituality and the example of the saints, and to bring about a balanced synthesis of his state of life, his profession and the ministry.

78. Moreover, provision should be made that wives of married candidates may grow in awareness of their husbands’ vocation and their own mission at his side. They are to be invited, therefore, to participate regularly in the spiritual formation meetings.

Appropriate efforts should also be directed towards educating children about the ministry of the deacon.

3. Doctrinal formation

79. Intellectual formation is a necessary dimension of diaconal formation insofar as it offers the deacon a substantial nourishment for his spiritual life and a precious instrument for his ministry. It is particularly urgent today, in the face of the challenge of the new evangelization to which the Church is called at this difficult juncture of the millennium. Religious indifference, obscuring of values, loss of ethical convergence, and cultural pluralism demand that those involved in the ordained ministry have an intellectual formation which is complete and serious.

In the Circular Letter of 1969, Come è a conoscenza, the Congregation for Catholic Education invited Episcopal Conferences to prepare a doctrinal formation for candidates to the diaconate which would take account of the different situations, personal and ecclesial, yet at the same time would absolutely exclude “a hurried or superficial preparation, because the duties of the Deacon, as laid down in the Constitution Lumen gentium (n. 29) and in the Motu Proprio (n. 22),(86) are of such importance as to demand a formation which is solid and effective”.

80. The criteria which must be followed in preparing this formation are:

a) necessity for the deacon to be able to explain his faith and bring to maturity a lively ecclesial conscience;

b) attention to his formation for the specific duties of his ministry;

c) importance of acquiring the capacity to read a situation and an adequate inculturation of the Gospel;

d) usefulness of knowing communication techniques and group dynamics, the ability to speak in public, and to be able to give guidance and counsel.

81. Taking account of these criteria, the following contents must be taken into consideration: (87)

a) introduction to Sacred Scripture and its right interpretation; the theology of the Old and New Testament; the interrelation between Scripture and Tradition; the use of Scripture in preaching, catechesis and pastoral activity in general;

b) introduction to the study of the Fathers of the Church and an elementary knowledge of the history of the Church;

c) fundamental theology, with illustration of the sources, topics and methods of theology, presentation of the questions relating to Revelation and the formulation of the relationship between faith and reason, which will enable the future deacons to explain the reasonableness of the faith;

d) dogmatic theology, with its various treatises: Trinity, creation, Christology, ecclesiology and ecumenism, mariology, Christian anthropology, sacraments (especially theology of the ordained ministry), eschatology;

e) Christian morality, in its personal and social dimensions and, in particular, the social doctrine of the Church;

f) spiritual theology;

g) liturgy;

h) canon law.

According to particular situations and needs, the programme of studies will be integrated with other disciplines such as the study of other religions, philosophical questions, a deepening of certain economic and political problems.(88)

82. For theological formation, use may be made, where possible, of institutes of religious sciences which already exist or of other institutes of theological formation. Where special schools for the theological formation of deacons must be instituted, this should be done in such a way that the number of hours of lectures and seminars be not less than a thousand in the space of the three years. The fundamental courses at least are to conclude with an examination and, at the end of the three years there is to be a final comprehensive examination.

83. For admission to this programme of formation, a previous basic formation is required; this is to be determined according to the cultural situation of the country.

84. Candidates should be predisposed to continuing their formation after ordination. To this end, they are encouraged to establish a small personal library with a theological-pastoral emphasis and to be open to programmes of ongoing formation.

4. Pastoral formation

85. In the wide sense, pastoral formation coincides with spiritual formation: it is formation for an ever greater identification with the diakonia of Christ. This attitude must guide the articulation of the various aspects of formation, integrating them within the unitary perspective of the diaconal vocation, which consists in being a sacrament of Christ, servant of the Father.

In the strict sense, pastoral formation develops by means of a specific theological discipline and a practical internship.

86. This theological discipline is called pastoral theology. It is “a scientific reflection on the Church as she is built up daily, by the power of the Spirit, in history; on the Church as the ‘universal sacrament of salvation’, as a living sign and instrument of the salvation wrought by Christ through the word, the sacraments and the service of charity”.(89) The scope of this discipline, therefore, is the presentation of the principles, the criteria and the methods which guide the apostolic-missionary work of the Church in history.

The pastoral theology programmed for the deacons will pay particular attention to those fieldswhich are eminently diaconal, such as:

a) liturgical praxis: administration of the sacraments and sacramentals, service at the altar;

b) proclamation of the Word in the varied contexts of ministerial service: kerygma, catechesis, preparation for the sacraments, homily;

c) the Church’s commitment to social justice and charity;

d) the life of the community, in particular the guidance of family teams, small communities, groups and movements, etc.

Certain technical subjects, which prepare the candidates for specific ministerial activities, can also be useful, such as psychology, catechetical pedagogy, homiletics, sacred music, ecclesiastical administration, information technology, etc.(90)

87. At the same time as (and possibly in relationship with) the teaching of pastoral theology a practical internship should be provided for each candidate, to permit him to meet in the field what he has learned in his study. It must be gradual, tailored to the individual and under continual supervision. For the choice of activities, account should be taken of the instituted ministries received, and their exercise should be evaluated.

Care is to be taken that the candidates be actively introduced into the pastoral activity of the diocese and that they have periodic sharing of experiences with deacons already involved in the ministry.

88. In addition, care should be taken that the future deacons develop a strong missionary sensitivity. In fact, they too, in an analogous way to priests, receive with sacred ordination a spiritual gift which prepares them for a universal mission, to the ends of the earth (cf Acts 1:8).(91) They are to be helped, therefore, to be strongly aware of their missionary identity and prepared to undertake the proclamation of the truth also to non-Christians, particularly those belonging to their own people. However, neither should the prospect of the mission ad gentes be lacking, wherever circumstances require and permit it.


89. The Didascalia Apostolorum recommends to the deacons of the first century: “As our Saviour and Master said in the Gospel: let he who wishes to be great among you, make himself your servant, in the same way as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many, you deacons must do the same, even if that means giving your life for your brothers and sisters, because of the service which you are bound to fulfil”.(92) This invitation is most appropriate also for those who are called today to the diaconate, and urges them to prepare themselves with great dedication for their future ministry.

90. May the Episcopal Conferences and Ordinaries of the whole world, to whom the present document is given, ensure that it becomes an object of attentive reflection in communion with their priests and communities. It will be an important point of reference for those Churches in which the permanent diaconate is a living and active reality; for the others, it will be an effective invitation to appreciate the value of that precious gift of the Spirit which is diaconal service.

The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II has approved this “Ratio fundamentalis institutionis diaconorum permanentium”, and ordered it to be published.

Rome, given at the Offices of the Congregations, 22 February 1998, Feast of the Chair of Peter.

Pio Card. Laghi


+ José Saraiva Martins

Titular Archbishop of Tuburnica










Sacred Minister

1. The origin of the diaconate is the consecration and mission of Christ, in which the deacon is called to share.(34) Through the imposition of hands and the prayer of consecration, he is constituted a sacred minister and a member of the hierarchy. This condition determines his theological and juridical status in the Church.


2. At the time of admission to the diaconate, all candidates shall be required to express clearly in writing their intention to serve the Church(35) for the rest of their lives in a specific territorial or personal circumscription, in an institute of consecrated life or in a society of apostolic life which has the faculty to incardinate.(36) Written acceptance of a request for incardination is reserved to him who has authority to incardinate and determines the candidate’s Ordinary.(37)

Incardination is a juridical bond. It has ecclesiological and spiritual significance in as much as it expresses the ministerial dedication of the deacon to the Church.

3. A deacon already incardinated into one ecclesiastical circumscription may be incardinated into another in accordance with the norm of law.(38) Written authorization must be obtained from both the bishop a quo and the bishop ad quem in the case of deacons who, for just reasons, wish to exercise their ministry in a diocese other than that into which they were incardinated. Bishops should encourage deacons of their own dioceses who wish to place themselves either permanently or for a specified time period at the service of other particular Churches with a shortage of clergy. They should also support in a particular way those who, after specific and careful preparation, seek to dedicate themselves to the missio ad gentes. The terms on which deacons afford such service should be duly regulated by contract and agreed upon by the bishops concerned.(39)

It is a duty incumbent on the bishop to care for the deacons of his diocese with particular solicitude.(40) This is to be discharged either personally or through a priest acting as his delegate. Special pastoral care should always be shown to those in particular difficulties because of personal circumstances.

4. The deacon incardinated into an institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life shall exercise ministry under the jurisdiction of the bishop in all that pertains to the pastoral ministry, acts of public worship and the apostolate. He is, however, also subject to his own superiors’ competence and to the discipline of his community.(41) When a deacon is transferred to a community in another diocese, the superior shall be obliged to present him to the local Ordinary and obtain permission for him to exercise his ministry in accordance with the procedures agreed upon, between the bishop and the superior.

5. The specific vocation to the permanent Diaconate presupposes the stability of this Order. Hence ordination to the Priesthood of non-married or widowed deacons must always be a very rare exception, and only for special and grave reasons. The decision of admission to the Order of Presbyters rests with the diocesan bishop, unless impediments exist which are reserved to the Holy See.(42) Given the exceptional nature of such cases, the diocesan bishop should consult the Congregation for Catholic Education with regard to the intellectual and theological preparation of the candidate, and also the Congregation for the Clergy concerning the programme of priestly formation and the aptitude of the candidate to the priestly ministry.

6. By virtue of their ordination, deacons are united to each other by a sacramental fraternity. They are all dedicated to the same purpose — building up the Body of Christ — in union with the Supreme Pontiff(43) and subject to the authority of the bishop. Each deacon should have a sense of being joined with his fellow deacons in a bond of charity, prayer, obedience to their bishops, ministerial zeal and collaboration.

With the permission of the bishop and in his presence or that of his delegate, it would be opportune for deacons periodically to meet to discuss their ministry, exchange experiences, advance formation and encourage each other in fidelity. Such encounters might also be of interest to candidates to the permanent Diaconate. The local Ordinary should foster a “spirit of communion” among deacons ministering in his diocese and avoid any form of “corporatism” which was a factor in the decline and eventual extinction of the permanent Diaconate in earlier centuries.

7. The Diaconate brings with it a series of rights and duties as foreseen by canons 273-283 of theCode of Canon Law with regard to clerics in general and deacons in particular.

8. The rite of ordination includes a promise of obedience to the bishops: “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and to my successors?”.(44) In making this promise to his bishop the deacon takes Christ, obedient par excellence (cf. Phil 2: 5-11), as his model. He shall conform his own obedience in listening (Hb 10, 5ff; John 4:34) and in radical availability (cf. Lk 9:54ff and 10:1ff) to the obedience of Christ. He shall therefore dedicate himself to working in complete conformity with the will of the Father and devote himself to the Church by means of complete availability.(45) In a spirit of prayer, with which he should be permeated, the deacon, following the example of the Lord who gave himself “unto death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:8), should deepen every day his total gift of self. This vision of obedience also predisposes acceptance of a more concrete detailing of the obligation assumed by the deacon at ordination, in accordance with the provisions of law: “Unless excused by a lawful impediment, clerics are obliged to accept and faithfully fulfil the office committed to them by their Ordinary”.(46) This obligation is based on participation in the bishop’s ministry conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Orders and by canonical mission. The extent of obedience and availability is determined by the diaconal ministry itself and by all that is objectively, immediately and directly in relation to it.

The Deacon receives office by a decree of the bishop. In his decree of appointment, the bishop shall ascribe duties to the deacon which are congruent with his personal abilities, his celibate or married state, his formation, age, and with his spiritually valid aspirations. The territory in which his ministry is to be exercised or those to whom he is to minister should be clearly specified. The decree must also indicate whether the office conferred is to be discharged on a partial or full-time basis and the priest who has the “cura animarum” where the deacon’s ministry is exercised, must be named.

9. Clerics are obliged to live in the bond of fraternity and of prayer, collaborate with each other and with the bishop to recognise and foster the mission of the faithful in the Church and in the world(47) and live in a simple, sober manner which is open to fraternal giving and sharing.(48)

10. Unlike deacons to be ordained to the priesthood,(49) who are bound by the same norms as priests in the matter,(50) permanent deacons are not obliged to wear clerical garb. Deacons who are members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life shall adhere to the norms prescribed for them by the Code of Canon Law.(51)

11. In its canonical discipline, the Church recognises the right of deacons to form associations among themselves to promote their spiritual life, to carry out charitable and pious works and pursue other objectives which are consonant with their sacramental consecration and mission.(52) As with other clerics, deacons are not permitted to found, participate in or be members of any association or group, even of a civil nature, which is incompatible with the clerical state or which impedes the diligent execution of their ministerial duties. They shall also avoid all associations whose nature, objectives and methods are insidious to the full hierarchical communion of the Church. Likewise, associations which are injurious to the identity of the diaconate and to the discharge of its duties for the Church’s service, as well as those groups or associations which plot against the Church, are to be avoided.(53)

Associations too which, under the guise of representation, organize deacons into a form of trade(s) unions or pressure groups, thus reducing the sacred ministry to a secular profession or trade, are completely irreconcilable with the clerical state. The same is true of any form of association which would prejudice the direct and immediate relationship between every deacon and his bishop.

All such associations are forbidden because they are injurious to the exercise of the sacred ministry, which, in this context, is considered as no more than a subordinate activity, and because they promote conflict with the bishops who are similarly regarded purely as employers.(54)

It should be recalled that no private association may be considered an ecclesial association unless it shall have obtained prior recognitio of its statutes by the competent ecclesiastical authority.(55) Such authority has the right and duty to be vigilant concerning associations and the fulfilment of their statutory ends.(56)

Deacons who come from ecclesial associations or movements may continue to enjoy the spiritual benefits of such communities and may continue to draw help and support from them in their service of a particular Church.

12. The professional activity of deacons assumes a significance which distinguishes it from that of the lay faithful.(57) Thus the secular work of permanent deacons is in some sense linked with their ministry. They should be mindful that the lay members of the faithful, in virtue of their own specific mission, are “particularly called to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth”.(58)

Derogating from what is prescribed for other clerics,(59) the present discipline of the Church does not prohibit to permanent deacons professions which involve the exercise of civil authority or the administration of temporal goods or accountable secular offices. Particular law, however, may determine otherwise, should such derogation prove inopportune.

In those commercial and business activities(60) permitted under particular law, deacons should exhibit honesty and ethical rectitude. They should be careful to fulfil their obligations to civil law where it is not contrary to the natural law, to the Magisterium or to the canons of the Church and to her freedom.(61)

The aforementioned derogation is not applicable to permanent deacons who are incardinated into institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life.(62)

Permanent deacons must make prudent judgements and they should seek the advice of their bishops in more complex instances. Some professions, while of undoubted benefit to the community, can, when exercised by a permanent deacon, in certain circumstances, become incompatible with the pastoral responsibilities of his ministry. The competent authority, bearing in mind the requirements of ecclesial communion and of the fruitfulness of pastoral ministry, shall evaluate individual cases as they arise, including a change of profession after ordination to the permanent Diaconate.

Where there is conflict of conscience, deacons must act in conformity with the doctrine and discipline of the Church, even if this should require of them great sacrifices.

13. As sacred ministers, deacons are required to give complete priority to their ministry and to pastoral charity and “do their utmost to foster among people peace and harmony based on justice”.(63) Active involvement in political parties or trades unions, in accordance with the dispositions of the Episcopal Conference,(64) may be permitted in particular circumstances “for the defence of the rights of the Church or to promote the common good”.(65) Deacons are strictly prohibited from all involvement with political parties or trade(s) union movements which are founded on ideologies, policies or associations incompatible with Church doctrine.

14. Should a deacon wish to absent himself from his diocese for “a considerable period of time”, he should normally obtain the permission of his Ordinary or Major Superior in accordance with the provisions of particular law.(66)

15. Deacons who are professionally employed are required to provide for their own upkeep from the ensuing emoluments.(67)

It is entirely legitimate that those who devote themselves fully to the service of God in the discharge of ecclesiastical office,(68) be equitably remunerated, since “the labourer is deserving of his wage”(Lk10:7) and the Lord has disposed that those who proclaim the Gospel should live by the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor 9:14). This does not however exclude the possibility that a cleric might wish to renounce this right, as the Apostle himself did (1 Cor 9:12), and otherwise make provision for himself.

It is not easy to draw up general norms concerning the upkeep of deacons which are binding in all circumstances, given the great diversity of situations in which deacons work, in various particular Churches and countries. In this matter, due attention must also be given to possible stipulations made in agreements between the Holy See or Episcopal Conferences and governments. In such circumstances, particular law should determine appropriately in the matter.

16. Since clerics dedicate themselves in an active and concrete way to the ecclesiastical ministry, they have a right to sustenance which includes “a remuneration that befits their condition”(69) and to social security.(70)

With regard to married deacons the Code of Canon Law provides that: “married deacons who dedicate themselves full-time to the ecclesiastical ministry deserve remuneration sufficient to provide for themselves and their families. Those, however, who receive remuneration by reason of a secular profession which they exercise or have exercised are to see to their own and to their families’ needs from that income”.(71) In prescribing “adequate” remuneration, parameters of evaluation are also: personal condition, the nature of the office exercised, circumstances of time and place, material needs of the minister (including those of the families of married deacons), just recompense of those in his service — the same general criteria, in fact, which apply to all clerics.

In order to provide for the sustenance of clerics ministering in dioceses, every particular Church is obliged to constitute a special fund which “collects offerings and temporal goods for the support of the clergy”.(72)

Social security for clerics is to be provided by another fund, unless other provision has been made.(73)

17. Celibate deacons who minister full-time in a diocese, have a right to be remunerated according to the general principle of law(74) should they have no other source of income.

18. Married deacons who minister full-time and who do not receive income from any other source are to be remunerated, in accordance with the aforementioned general principle, so that they may be able to provide for themselves and for their families.(75)

19. Married deacons who minister full-time or part-time and who receive income from a secular profession which they exercise or have exercised are obliged to provide for themselves and for their families from such income.(76)

20. It is for particular law to provide opportune norms in the complex matter of reimbursing expenses, including, for example, that those entities and parishes which benefit from the ministry of a deacon have an obligation to reimburse him those expenses incurred in the exercise of his ministry.

Particular law may also determine the obligations devolving on the diocese when a deacon, through no fault of his own, becomes unemployed. Likewise, it will be opportune to define the extent of diocesan liability with regard to the widows and orphans of deceased deacons. Where possible, deacons, before ordination, should subscribe to a mutual assurance (insurance) policy which affords cover for these eventualities.

21. Trusting to the perennial fidelity of God, the deacon is called to live his Order with generous dedication and ever renewed perseverance. Sacred ordination, once validly received, can never be rendered null. Nevertheless, loss of the clerical state may occur in conformity with the canonical norms.(77)



Diaconal functions

22. The Second Vatican Council synthesized the ministry of deacons in the threefold “diaconia of the liturgy, the word and of charity”.(78) In this way diaconal participation through the ordained ministry in the one and triple munus of Christ is expressed. The deacon “is teacher in so far as he preaches and bears witness to the word of God; he sanctifies when he administers the Sacrament of Baptism, the Holy Eucharist and the sacramentals, he participates at the celebration of Holy Mass as a “minister of the Blood”, and conserves and distributes the Blessed Eucharist; he is a guide in as much as he animates the community or a section of ecclesial life.(79) Thus deacons assist and serve the bishops and priests who preside at every liturgy, are watchful of doctrine and guide the people of God.

The ministry of deacons, in the service of the community of the faithful, should “collaborate in building up the unity of Christians without prejudice and without inopportune initiatives”.(80) It should cultivate those “human qualities which make a person acceptable to others, credible, vigilant about his language and his capacity to dialogue, so as to acquire a truly ecumenical attitude”.(81)

Diaconia of the word

23. The bishop, during the rite of ordination, gives the book of the Gospels to the deacon saying: “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become”.(82) Like priests, deacons are commended to all by their conduct, their preaching of the mystery of Christ, by transmitting Christian doctrine and by devoting attention to the problems of our time. The principal function of the deacon, therefore, is to collaborate with the bishop and the priests in the exercise of a ministry(83) which is not of their own wisdom but of the word of God, calling all to conversion and holiness.(84) He prepares for such a ministry by careful study of Sacred Scripture, of Tradition, of the liturgy and of the life of the Church.(85) Moreover, in interpreting and applying the sacred deposit, the deacon is obliged to be directed by the Magisterium of those who are “witnesses of divine and Catholic truth”,(86) the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him,(87) so as to teach and propose the mystery of Christ fully and faithfully.(88)

It is also necessary that he learn the art of communicating the faith effectively and integrally to contemporary man, in diverse cultural circumstances and stages of life.(89)

24. It is for the deacon to proclaim the Gospel and preach the word of God.(90) Deacons have the faculty to preach everywhere, in accordance with the conditions established by law.(91) This faculty is founded on the Sacrament of Ordination and should be exercised with at least the tacit consent of the rector of the churches concerned and with that humility proper to one who is servant and not master of the word of God. In this respect the warning of the Apostle is always relevant: “Since we have this ministry through the mercy shown to us, we are not discouraged. Rather we have renounced shameful, hidden things; not acting deceitfully or falsifying the word of God, but by the open declaration of the truth we commend ourselves to everybody’s conscience in the sight God” (2 Cor 4: 1-2).(92)

25. When the deacon presides at a liturgical celebration, in accordance with the relevant norms,(93) he shall give due importance to the homily, since it “proclaims the marvels worked by God in the mystery of Christ, present and effective in the liturgical celebrations”.(94) Deacons should be trained carefully to prepare their homilies in prayer, in study of the sacred texts, in perfect harmony with the Magisterium and in keeping with the situation of those to whom they preach.

In order to assist the Christian faithful to grow in knowledge of their faith in Christ, to strengthen it by reception of the sacraments and to express it in their family, professional and social lives,(95) much attention must be given to catechesis of the faithful of all stages of Christian living. With growing secularization and the ever greater challenges posed for man and for the Gospel by contemporary society, the need for complete, faithful and lucid catechesis becomes all the more pressing.

26. Contemporary society requires a new evangelization which demands a greater and more generous effort on the part of ordained ministers. Deacons, “nourished by prayer and above all by love of the Eucharist”,(96) in addition to their involvement in diocesan and parochial programmes of catechesis, of evangelization and of preparation for the reception of the Sacraments, should strive to transmit the word in their professional lives, either explicitly or merely by their active presence in places where public opinion is formed and ethical norms are applied — such as the social services or organisations promoting the rights of the family or life. They should also be aware of the great possibilities for the ministry of the word in the area of religious and moral instruction in schools,(97) in Catholic and civil universities(98) and by adequate use of modern means of social communication.(99)

In addition to indispensable orthodoxy of doctrine, these new fields demand specialized training, but they are very effective means of bringing the Gospel to contemporary man and society. (100)

Finally, deacons are reminded that they are obliged to submit, before its publication, written material concerning faith or morals, (101) to the judgement of their Ordinaries. It is also necessary to obtain the permission of the Ordinary before writing in publications which habitually attack the Catholic religion or good morals. They are also bound to adhere to the norms established by the Episcopal Conference (102) when involved in radio or television broadcasts.

In every case, the deacon should hold before him the primary and indefeasible necessity of always presenting the truth without compromise.

27. The deacon will be aware that the Church is missionary (103) by her very nature, both because her origin is in the missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the eternal plan of the Father and because she has received an explicit mandate from the risen Lord to preach the Gospel to all creation and to baptize those who believe (cf. Mk 16, 15-16; Mt 28:19). Deacons are ministers of the Church and thus, although incardinated into a particular Church, they are not exempt from the missionary obligation of the universal Church. Hence they should always remain open to the missio ad gentes to the extent that their professional or — if married — family obligations permit. (104)

The deacon’s ministry of service is linked with the missionary dimension of the Church: the missionary efforts of the deacon will embrace the ministry of the word, the liturgy, and works of charity which, in their turn, are carried into daily life. Mission includes witness to Christ in a secular profession or occupation.

Diaconia of the liturgy

28. The rite of ordination emphasizes another aspect of the diaconal ministry — ministry at the altar. (105)

Deacons receive the Sacrament of Orders, so as to serve as a vested minister in the sanctification of the Christian community, in hierarchical communion with the bishop and priests. They provide a sacramental assistance to the ministry of the bishop and, subordinately, to that of the priests which is intrinsic, fundamental and distinct.

Clearly, this diaconia at the altar, since founded on the Sacrament of Orders, differs in essence from any liturgical ministry entrusted to the lay faithful. The liturgical ministry of the deacon is also distinct from that of the ordained priestly ministry. (106)

Thus, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the deacon does not celebrate the mystery: rather, he effectively represents on the one hand, the people of God and, specifically, helps them to unite their lives to the offering of Christ; while on the other, in the name of Christ himself, he helps the Church to participate in the fruits of that sacrifice.

Since “the liturgy is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed and the font from which all her power flows”, (107) this prerogative of diaconal ordination is also the font of sacramental grace which nourishes the entire ministry. Careful and profound theological and liturgical preparation must precede reception of that grace to enable the deacon to participate worthily in the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals.

29. While exercising his ministry, the deacon should maintain a lively awareness that “every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree”. (108) The liturgy is the source of grace and sanctification. Its efficacy derives from Christ the Redeemer and does not depend on the holiness of the minister. This certainty should cause the deacon to grow in humility since he can never compromise the salvific work of Christ. At the same time it should inspire him to holiness of life so that he may be a worthy minister of the liturgy. Liturgical actions cannot be reduced to mere private or social actions which can be celebrated by anybody since they belong to the Body of the universal Church. (109) Deacons shall observe devoutly the liturgical norms proper to the sacred mysteries so as to bring the faithful to a conscious participation in the liturgy, to fortify their faith, give worship to God and sanctify the Church. (110)

30. According to the tradition of the Church and the provisions of law, (111) deacons “assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries”. (112) They should therefore work to promote liturgical celebrations which involve the whole assembly, fostering the interior participation of the faithful in the liturgy and the exercise of the various ministries. (113)

They should be mindful of the importance of the aesthetical dimension which conveys to the whole person the beauty of what is being celebrated. Music and song, even in its simplest form, the preached word and the communion of the faithful who live the peace and forgiveness of Christ, form a precious heritage which the deacon should foster.

The deacon is to observe faithfully the rubrics of the liturgical books without adding, omitting or changing of his own volition (114) what they require. Manipulation of the liturgy is tantamount to depriving it of the riches of the mystery of Christ, whom it contains, and may well signify presumption toward what has been established by the Church’s wisdom. Deacons, therefore, should confine themselves to those things, and only to those things, in which they are properly competent. (115) For the Sacred Liturgy they should vest worthily and with dignity, in accordance with the prescribed liturgical norms. (116) The dalmatic, in its appropriate liturgical colours, together with the alb, cincture and stole, “constitutes the liturgical dress proper to deacons”. (117)

The ministry of deacons also includes preparation of the faithful for reception of the sacraments and their pastoral care after having received them.

31. The deacon, together with the bishop and priest, is the ordinary minister of Baptism. (118) The exercise of this power requires either the permission of the parish priest, since he enjoys the particular right of baptizing those entrusted to his pastoral care, (119) or the presence of necessity. (120) In preparing for the reception of this sacrament, the ministry of the deacon is especially important.

Holy Eucharist

32. At the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the deacon assists those who preside at the assembly and consecrate the Body and Blood of the Lord — that is the bishop and his priests (121) — according to the norms established by the Institutio Generalis of the Roman Missal, (122) and thus manifests Christ, the Servant. He is close to the priest during the celebration of the Mass (123) and helps him, especially if the priest is blind, infirm or feeble. At the altar he serves the chalice and the book. He proposes the intentions of the bidding prayers to the faithful and invites them to exchange the sign of peace. In the absence of other ministers, he discharges, when necessary, their office too.

The deacon may not pronounce the words of the eucharistic prayer, nor those of the collects nor may he use the gestures which are proper to those who consecrate the Body and Blood of the Lord. (124)

The deacon properly proclaims from the books of Sacred Scripture. (125)

As an ordinary minister of Holy Communion, (126) the deacon distributes the Body of Christ to the faithful during the celebration of the Mass and, outside of it, administers Viaticum (127) to the sick. He is equally an ordinary minister of exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament and of eucharistic benediction. (128) It falls to the deacon to preside at Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest. (129)

33. The pastoral care of families, for which the bishop is primarily responsible, may be entrusted to deacons. In supporting families in their difficulties and sufferings, (130) this responsibility will extend from moral and liturgical questions to difficulties of a social and personal nature, and can be exercised at diocesan or, subject to the authority of the parish priest, local level in promoting the catechesis of Christian marriage, the personal preparation of future spouses, the fruitful celebration of marriage and help offered to couples after marriage. (131)

Married deacons can be of much assistance in promoting the Gospel value of conjugal love, the virtues which protect it and the practice of parenthood which can truly be regarded as responsible, from a human and Christian point of view.

Where deacons have been duly delegated by the parish priest or the local Ordinary, they may assist at the celebration of marriages extra Missam and pronounce the nuptial blessing in the name of the Church. (132) They may also be given general delegation, in accordance with the prescribed conditions, (133) which may only be subdelegated, however, in the manner specified by the Code of Canon Law. (134)

34. It is defined doctrine, (135) that the administration of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is reserved to bishops and priests since this sacrament involves the forgiveness of sins and the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist, but, the pastoral care of the sick may be entrusted to deacons. Active service to alleviate the suffering of the sick, catechesis in preparation for the reception of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, preparing the faithful for death in the absence of a priest, and the administration of Viaticum according to the prescribed rites, are means by which deacons may bring the love of the Church to the suffering faithful. (136)

35. Deacons have an obligation, established by the Church, to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours with which the entire Mystical Body is united to the prayer Christ the Head offers to the Father. Mindful of this obligation, they shall celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours every day according to the approved liturgical books and in the manner determined by the respective Episcopal Conference. (137) Furthermore, they should strive to promote participation by the greater Christian community in this Liturgy, which is never private, but an action proper to the entire Church, (138) even when celebrated individually.

36. The deacon is the minister of sacramentals, that is of “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments (and) signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the Church’s intercession”. (139)

The deacon may therefore impart those blessings most closely linked to ecclesial and sacramental life which are expressly permitted to him by law. (140) It is for the deacon to conduct exequies celebrated outside of Holy Mass, as well as the rite of Christian burial. (141)

When a priest is present or available, however, such tasks must be given to him. (142)

The Diaconia of Charity

37. In virtue of the Sacrament of Orders, deacons, in communion with the bishop and the diocesan presbyterate, participate in the same pastoral functions, (143) but exercise them differently in serving and assisting the bishop and his priests. Since this participation is brought about by the sacrament, they serve God’s people in the name of Christ. For this reason, they exercise it in humility and charity, and, according to the words of St Polycarp, they must always be “merciful, zealous and let them walk according to the truth of the Lord who became servant of all”. (144) Their authority, therefore, exercised in hierarchical communion with the bishop and his priests, and required by the same unity of consecration and mission, (145) is a service of charity which seeks to help and foster all members of a particular Church, so that they may participate, in a spirit of communion and according to their proper charisms, in the life and mission of the Church.

38. In the ministry of charity, deacons should conform themselves in the likeness of Christ the Servant, whom they represent and, above all, they should be “dedicated to works of charity and to administration”. (146) Thus, in the prayer of ordination, the bishop implores God the Father that they may be “full of all the virtues, sincere in charity, solicitous towards the weak and the poor, humble in their service… may they be the image of your Son who did not come to be served but to serve”. (147) By word and example they should work so that all the faithful, in imitation of Christ, may place themselves at the constant service of their brothers and sisters.

Diocesan and parochial works of charity, which are among the primary duties of bishops and priests are entrusted by them, as attested by Tradition, to servants in the ecclesiastical ministry, that is, to deacons. (148) So too is the service of charity in Christian education; in training preachers, youth groups, and lay groups; in promoting life in all its phases and transforming the world according to the Christian order. (149) In all of these areas the ministry of deacons is particularly valuable, since today the spiritual and material needs of man, to which the Church is called to respond, are greatly diversified. They should, therefore, strive to serve all the faithful without discrimination, while devoting particular care to the suffering and the sinful. As ministers of Christ and of his Church, they must be able to transcend all ideologies and narrow party interests, lest they deprive the Church’s mission of its strength which is the love of Christ. Diaconia should bring man to an experience of God’s love and move him to conversion by opening his heart to the work of grace.

The charitable function of deacons “also involves appropriate service in the administration of goods and in the Church’s charitable activities. In this regard, deacons “discharge the duties of charity and administration in the name of the hierarchy and also provide social services”. (150) Hence, deacons may be appointed to the office of diocesan oeconomus (151) and likewise nominated to the diocesan finance council. (152)

The canonical mission of permanent deacons

39. The three contexts of the diaconal ministry, depending on circumstances, may absorb, to varying degrees, a large proportion of every deacon’s activity. Together, however, they represent a unity in service at the level of divine Revelation: the ministry of the word leads to ministry at the altar, which in turn prompts the transformation of life by the liturgy, resulting in charity. “If we consider the deep spiritual nature of this diaconia, then we shall better appreciate the inter-relationship between the three areas of ministry traditionally associated with the diaconate, that is, the ministry of the word, the ministry of the altar and the ministry of charity. Depending on the circumstances, one or other of these may take on special importance in the individual work of a deacon, but these three ministries are inseparably joined in God’s plan for redemption”. (153)

40. Throughout history the service of deacons has taken on various forms so as to satisfy the diverse needs of the Christian community and to enable that community to exercise its mission of charity. It is for the bishops alone, (154) since they rule and have charge of the particular Churches “as Vicars and legates of Christ”, (155) to confer ecclesiastical office on each deacon according to the norm of law. In conferring such office, careful attention should be given to both the pastoral needs and the personal, family (in the case of married deacons), and professional situation of permanent deacons. In every case it is important, however, that deacons fully exercise their ministry, in preaching, in the liturgy and in charity to the extent that circumstances permit. They should not be relegated to marginal duties, be made merely to act as substitutes, nor discharge duties normally entrusted to non-ordained members of the faithful. Only in this way will the true identity of permanent deacons as ministers of Christ become apparent and the impression avoided that deacons are simply lay people particularly involved in the life of the Church.

For the good of the deacon and to prevent improvisation, ordination should be accompanied by a clear investiture of pastoral responsibility.


41. While assuming different forms, the diaconal ministry, ordinarily finds proper scope for its exercise in the various sectors of diocesan and parochial pastoral action.

The bishop may give deacons the task of co-operating with a parish priest in the parish (156) entrusted to him or in the pastoral care of several parishes entrusted in solidum to one or more priests. (157)

Where permanent deacons participate in the pastoral care of parishes which do not, because of a shortage, have the immediate benefit of a parish priest, (158) they always have precedence over the non-ordained faithful. In such cases, it is necessary to specify that the moderator of the parish is a priest and that he is its proper pastor. To him alone has been entrusted the cura animarum, in which he is assisted by the deacon.

Deacons may also be called to guide dispersed Christian communities in the name of the bishop or the parish priest. (159) “This is a missionary function to be carried out in those territories, environments, social strata and groups where priests are lacking or cannot be easily found. In particular, in those areas where no priest is available to celebrate the Eucharist, the deacon brings together and guides the community in a celebration of the word with the distribution of Holy Communion which has been duly reserved. (160) When deacons supply in places where there is a shortage of priests, they do so by ecclesial mandate”. (161) At such celebrations, prayers will always be offered for an increase of vocations to the priesthood whose indispensable nature shall be clearly emphasized. Where deacons are available, participation in the pastoral care of the faithful may not be entrusted to a lay person or to a community of lay persons. Similarly where deacons are available, it is they who preside at such Sunday celebrations.

The competence of deacons should always be clearly specified in writing when they are assigned office.

Those means which encourage constructive and patient collaboration between deacons and others involved in the pastoral ministry should be promoted with generosity and conviction. While it is a duty of deacons to respect the office of parish priest and to work in communion with all who share in his pastoral care, they also have the right to be accepted and fully recognised by all. Where the bishop has deemed it opportune to institute parish pastoral councils, deacons appointed to participate in the pastoral care of such parishes are members of these councils by right. (162) Above all else, a true charity should prevail which recognises in every ministry a gift of the Spirit destined to build up the Body of Christ.

42. Numerous opportunities for the fruitful exercise of the ministry of deacons arise at diocesan level. Indeed, when they possess the necessary requirements, deacons may act as members of diocesan bodies, in particular diocesan pastoral councils (163) and diocesan finance councils, and take part in diocesan synods. (164)

They may not, however, act as members of the council of priests, since this body exclusively represents the presbyterate. (165)

In the diocesan curia deacons in possession of the necessary requirements, may exercise the office of chancellor, (166) judge, (167) assessor, (168) auditor, (169) promotor iustitiae, defensor vinculi (170) and notary. (171)

Deacons may not, however, be constituted judicial vicars, adjunct judicial vicars or vicars forane, since these offices are reserved for priests. (172)

Other areas in which deacons may exercise their ministry include diocesan commissions, pastoral work in specific social contexts — especially the pastoral care of the family — or among particular groups with special pastoral needs, such as ethnic minorities.

In the exercise of the above offices, the deacon should recall that every action in the Church should be informed by charity and service to all. In judicial, administrative and organizational matters, deacons should always strive to avoid unnecessary forms of bureaucracy, lest they deprive their ministry of pastoral meaning and value. Those deacons who are called to exercise such offices should be placed so as to discharge duties which are proper to the diaconate, in order to preserve the integrity of the diaconal ministry.



Contemporary context

43. The Church, gathered together by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit according to the providence of God the Father, lives and proclaims the Gospel in concrete historical circumstances. While present in the world, she is nonetheless a pilgrim (173) on the way to the fullness of the Kingdom. (174) “The world which she has in mind is the whole human family seen in the context of everything which envelopes it: it is the world as the theatre of human history, bearing the marks of its travail, its triumphs and failures, the world, which in the Christian vision has been created and is sustained by its Maker, which has been freed from the slavery of sin by Christ, who was crucified and rose again in order to break the stranglehold of the evil one, so that it might be fashioned anew according to God’s design and brought to its fulfilment”. (175)

The deacon, as a member and minister of the Church, should be mindful of this reality in his life and ministry. He should be conversant with contemporary cultures and with the aspirations and problems of his times. In this context, indeed, he is called to be a living sign of Christ the Servant and to assume the Church’s responsibility of “reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, so that, in language intelligible to every generation, she may be able to answer the ever-recurring questions which men ask about this present life and of the life to come and how one is related to the other”. (176)

Vocation to holiness

44. The universal call to holiness has its origin in the “baptism of faith” by which all are “truly made sons of God and sharers in the divine nature and thus are made holy”. (177)

By the Sacrament of Holy Orders, deacons receive a “a new consecration to God” through which they are “anointed by the Holy Spirit and sent by Christ” (178) to serve God’s people and “build up the Body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).

From this stems the diaconal spirituality with its source in what the Second Vatican Council calls “the sacramental grace of the diaconate”. (179) In addition to helping the deacon to fulfil his functions this also affects his deepest being, imbuing it with a willingness to give his entire self over to the service of the Kingdom of God in the Church. As is indicated by the term “diaconate” itself, what characterizes the inner feelings and desire of those who receive the sacrament, is the spirit of service. Through the diaconate, what Jesus said of his mission is continually realized: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). (180) Thus, through his ministry, the deacon lives the virtue of obedience: in faithfully carrying out those duties assigned to him, the deacon serves the episcopate and the presbyterate in the munera of Christ’s mission and what he does is truly pastoral ministry, for the good of the faithful.

45. Hence, the deacon should accept with gratitude the invitation to follow Christ the Servant and devote himself to it throughout the diverse circumstances of life. The character received in ordination conforms to Christ to whom the deacon should adhere ever more closely.

Sanctification is a duty binding all the faithful. (181) For the deacon it has a further basis in the special consecration received. (182) It includes the practice of the Christian virtues and the various evangelical precepts and counsels according to one’s own state of life. The deacon is called to live a holy life because he has been sanctified by the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Orders and has been constituted by the same Spirit a minister of Christ’s Church to serve and sanctify mankind. (183)

For deacons the call to holiness means “following Jesus by an attitude of humble service which finds expression not only in works of charity but also in imbuing and forming thoughts and actions”. (184) When “their ministry is consistent with this spirit (deacons) clearly highlight that quality which best shows the face of Christ: service (185) which makes one not only ‘servants of God’ but also servants of God in our own brethren”. (186)

The Relations of Holy Order

46. By a special sacramental gift, Holy Order confers on the deacon a particular participation in the consecration and mission of Him who became servant of the Father for the redemption of mankind, and inserts him in a new and specific way in the mystery of Christ, of his Church and the salvation of all mankind. Hence the spiritual life of the deacon should deepen this threefold relationship by developing a community spirituality which bears witness to that communion essential to the nature of the Church.

47. The primary and most fundamental relationship must be with Christ, who assumed the condition of a slave for love of the Father and mankind. (187) In virtue of ordination the deacon is truly called to act in conformity with Christ the Servant.

The eternal Son of the Father “emptied himself assuming the form of a slave” (Phil 2:7) and lived this condition in obedience to the Father (John 4:34) and in humble service to the brethren (John 13:4-15). As servant of the Father in the work of salvation Christ constitutes the way, the truth and the life for every deacon in the Church.

All ministerial activity is meaningful when it leads to knowing, loving and following Christ in his diaconia. Thus deacons should strive to model their lives on Christ, who redeemed mankind by his obedience to the Father, an obedience “unto death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

48. Indissolubly associated with this fundamental relationship with Christ is the Church (188) which Christ loves, purifies, nourishes and cares for (cf. Eph 5, 25:29). The deacon cannot live his configuration to Christ faithfully without sharing His love for the Church “for which he cannot but have a deep attachment because of her mission and her divine institution”. (189)

The Rite of Ordination illustrates the connection which comes about between the bishop and the deacon: the bishop alone imposes hands on the candidate and invokes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on him. Every deacon, therefore, finds the point of reference for his own ministry in hierarchical communion with the bishop. (190)

Diaconal ordination also underlines another ecclesial aspect: it communicates a ministerial sharing in Christ’s diaconia with which God’s people, governed by the Successor of Peter and those Bishops in communion with him, and in co-operation with the presbyterate, continues to serve the work of redemption. Deacons, therefore, are called to nourish themselves and their ministry with an ardent love for the Church, and a sincere desire for communion with the Holy Father, their own bishops and the priests of their dioceses.

49. It must not be forgotten that the object of Christ’s diaconia is mankind. (191) Every human being carries the traces of sin but is called to communion with God. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that all who believe in Him might not die but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It was for this plan of love, that Christ became a slave and took human flesh. The Church continues to be the sign and instrument of that diaconia in history.

In virtue of the Sacrament of Orders deacons are at the service of their brothers and sisters needing of salvation. As mankind can see the fullness of the Father’s love by which they are saved in the words and deeds of Christ the Servant, so too this same charity must be apparent in the life of the deacon. Growth in imitation of Christ’s love for mankind — which surpasses all ideologies — is thus an essential component of the spiritual life of every deacon.

A “natural inclination of service to the sacred hierarchy and to the Christian community” (192) is required of those who seek admission to the diaconate. This should not be understood “in the sense of a simple spontaneity of natural disposition…it is rather an inclination of nature inspired by grace, with a spirit of service that conforms human behaviour to Christ’s. The sacrament of the diaconate develops this inclination: it makes the subject to share more closely in Christ’s spirit of service and imbues the will with a special grace so that in all his actions he will be motivated by a new inclinationto serve his brothers and sisters”. (193)

Aids to the Spiritual Life

50. The aforementioned points of reference emphasize the primacy of the spiritual life. The deacon, mindful that the diaconia of Christ surpasses all natural capacities, should continually commit himself in conscience and in freedom to His invitation: “Remain in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit unless it remain in the vine, so also with you unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).

Following Christ in the diaconate is an attractive but difficult undertaking. While it brings satisfaction and rewards, it can also be open to the difficulties and trials experienced by the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to live this ministry to the full, deacons must know Christ intimately so that He may shoulder the burdens of their ministry. They must give priority to the spiritual life and live their diaconia with generosity. They should organize their ministry and their professional and, when married, family obligations, so as to grow in their commitment to the person and mission of Christ the Servant.

51. Progress in the spiritual life is achieved primarily by faithful and tireless exercise of the ministry in integrity of life. (194) Such ministry not only develops the spiritual life but promotes the theological virtues, a disposition to selflessness, service to the brethren and hierarchical communion. What has been said of priests, mutatis mutandis, also applies to deacons: “Through the sacred actions they perform every day….they are set on the right course to perfection of life. The very holiness of priests is of the greatest benefit for the fruitful fulfilment of their ministry”. (195)

52. The deacon should always be mindful of the exhortation made to him in the Rite of Ordination: “Receive the Gospel of Christ of which you are the herald; believe what you preach, teach what you believe and put into practice what you teach”. (196) For a worthy and fruitful proclamation of the word of God, deacons should “immerse themselves in the Scriptures by constant sacred reading and diligent study. For it must not happen that anybody becomes ‘an empty preacher of the word of God to others, not being a hearer of the word in his own heart’ (197) when he should be sharing the boundless riches of the divine word with the faithful committed to his care, especially in the sacred Liturgy”. (198)

Moreover, deacons, under the guidance of those in the Church who are true teachers of divine and Catholic truth, (199) should strive to deepen their knowledge of the word, so as to hear its call and experience its saving power (cf. Rom 1:16). Their sanctification is based on their consecration and on their mission. This is true also with regard to the word and they should be conscious that they are its ministers. As members of the hierarchy, the actions and public pronouncements of deacons involve the Church. Consequently, it is essential for pastoral charity that deacons should ensure the authenticity of their own teaching. Likewise, in the spirit of the profession of faith and the oath of fidelity, (200) taken prior to ordination, they should preserve their own clear and effective communion with the Holy Father, the episcopal order and with their own bishops, not only with regard to the articles of the Creed, but also with regard to the teaching of ordinary Magisterium and the Church’s discipline. Indeed, “such is the force and power of the word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigour, and the children of God for their strength, food for the soul, and for a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life”. (201) The closer deacons come to the word of God, therefore, the greater will be their desire to communicate it to their brothers and sisters. God speaks to man in Sacred Scripture: (202) by his preaching, the sacred minister fosters this salvific encounter. Then, lest the faithful be deprived of the word of God through the ignorance or indolence of its ministers, deacons should devote themselves to preach the word tirelessly and yet be mindful that the exercise of the ministry of the word is not confined to preaching alone.

53. Likewise, when the deacon baptizes or distributes the Body and Blood of Christ or serves at the celebration of the other sacraments and sacramentals, he confirms his identity in the Church: he is a minister of the Body of Christ, both mystical and ecclesial. Let him remember that, when lived with faith and reverence, these actions of the Church contribute much to growth in the spiritual life and to the increase of the Christian community. (203)

54. With regard to the spiritual life, deacons should devote particular importance to the sacraments of grace whose purpose “is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God”. (204)

Above all, they should participate with particular faith at the daily celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice, (205) possibly exercising their own proper liturgical munus, and adore the Lord, present in the Sacrament, (206) because in the Blessed Eucharist, source and summit of all evangelization, “the whole spiritual good of the Church is contained”. (207) In the Blessed Eucharist they truly encounter Christ who, for love of man, became an expiatory victim, the food of life eternal and friend of all who suffer.

Conscious of his own weakness and trusting the mercy of God the deacon should regularly approach the Sacrament of Penance, (208) in which sinful man encounters Christ the Redeemer, receives forgiveness of sin and is impelled towards the fullness of charity.

55. In performing the works of charity entrusted to them by their bishops, deacons should always be guided by the love of Christ for all men instead of personal interests and ideologies which are injurious to the universality of salvation or deny the transcendent vocation of man. They should be ever conscious that the diaconia of charity necessarily leads to a growth of communion within the particular Churches since charity is the very soul of ecclesial communion. Deacons are thus obliged to foster fraternity and co-operation with the priests of their dioceses and sincere communion with their bishops.

Prayer life

56. The deacon shall always remain faithful to the Lord’s command: “But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man” (Lk 21:36 cf. Phil 4:6-7).

Prayer, which is a personal dialogue with God, confers the strength needed to follow Christ and serve the brethren. In the light of this certainty, deacons should form themselves according to the various types of prayer: the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, as prescribed by the various Episcopal Conferences, (209) should inform their whole prayer life since deacons, as ministers, intercede for the entire Church. Such prayer is carried over into the lectio divina, arduous mental prayer and the spiritual retreat prescribed by particular law. (210)

The habit of penance should also be taken to heart together with other means of sanctification which foster personal encounter with God. (211)

57. Participation in the mystery of Christ the Servant necessarily directs the deacon’s heart to the Church and her most holy Mother. Christ indeed cannot be separated from the Church which is his Body. True union with Christ the Head cannot but foster true love for His body which is the Church. This love will commit the deacon to work diligently to build up the Church by faithful discharge of his ministerial duties, through fraternity and hierarchical communion with his own bishop and with the presbyterate. The deacon should be concerned for the entire Church: the universal Church, the principle and perpetually visible foundation of whose unity is the Roman Pontiff, the Successor of St Peter, (212) as well as the particular Church which “adhering to its pastor and united by him in the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and the Eucharist…. in which the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is present. (213)

Love for Christ and for His Church is profoundly linked to love of the Blessed Virgin Mary, handmaid of the Lord. With her unique title of Mother, she was the selfless helper of her divine Son’s diaconia (cf. John 19:25-27). Love of the Mother of God, based on faith and expressed in daily recitation of the Rosary, imitation of her virtues and trust in her, are indeed signs of authentic filial devotion. (214)

With deep veneration and affection Mary looks on every deacon. Indeed, “the creature who more than any other who has lived the full truth of vocation is Mary the Virgin Mother, and she did so in intimate communion with Christ: no one has responded with a love greater than hers to the immense love of God”. (215) This love of the Virgin Mary, handmaid of the Lord, which is born and rooted in the word, will cause deacons to imitate her life. In this way a Marian dimension is introduced into the Church which is very close to the vocation of the deacon. (216)

58. Regular spiritual direction is truly of the greatest assistance to deacons. Experience clearly shows how much can be gained in sincere and humble dialogue with a wise spiritual director, not only in the resolution of doubts and problems which inevitably arise throughout life, but also in employing the necessary discernment to arrive at better self-knowledge and to grow in faithful fellowship of Christ.

Spirituality of deacons and states of life

59. In contrast with the requirement for the priesthood, not only celibate men, in the first place and widowers, may be admitted to the permanent Diaconate but also men who live in the Sacrament of Matrimony. (217)

60. With gratitude, the Church recognises the gift of celibacy which God gives to some of her members and, in different ways, both in the East and West, she has linked it to the ordained ministry with which it is always particularly consonant. (218) The Church is conscious that this gift, accepted and lived for the sake of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 19:12), directs the whole person of the deacon towards Christ who devoted Himself in chastity to the service of the Father so as to bring man to the fullness of the Kingdom. Loving God and serving the brethren by this complete choice, so far from impeding the personal development of deacons, fosters man’s true perfection which is found in charity. In celibate life, indeed, love becomes a sign of total and undivided consecration to Christ and of greater freedom to serve God and man. (219) The choice of celibacy is not an expression of contempt for marriage nor of flight from reality but a special way of serving man and the world.

Contemporary man, very often submerged in the ephemeral, is particularly sensitive to those who are a living witness of the eternal. Hence, deacons should be especially careful to give witness to their brothers and sisters by their fidelity to the celibate life the better to move them to seek those values consonant with man’s transcendent vocation. “Celibacy ‘for the sake of the Kingdom’ is not only an eschatological sign. It also has a great social significance in contemporary life for service to the People of God”. (220)

In order to conserve this special gift of God throughout life for the benefit of the entire Church, deacons should not depend excessively on their own resources, but should be faithful to the spiritual life and the duties of their ministry in a spirit of prudence and vigilance, remembering that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41).

They should be particularly careful in their relationships with others lest familiarity create difficulties for continence or give rise to scandal. (221)

They must finally be aware that in contemporary society, it is necessary to exercise careful discernment when using the means of social communications.

61. The Sacrament of Matrimony sanctifies conjugal love and constitutes it a sign of the love with which Christ gives himself to the Church (cf. Eph. 5:25). It is a gift from God and should be a source of nourishment for the spiritual life of those deacons who are married. Since family life and professional responsibilities must necessarily reduce the amount of time which married deacons can dedicate to the ministry, it will be necessary to integrate these various elements in a unitary fashion, especially by means of shared prayer. In marriage, love becomes an interpersonal giving of self, a mutual fidelity, a source of new life, a support in times of joy and sorrow: in short, love becomes service. When lived in faith, this family service is for the rest of the faithful an example of the love of Christ. The married deacon must use it as a stimulus of his diaconia in the Church.

Married deacons should feel especially obliged to give clear witness to the sanctity of marriage and the family. The more they grow in mutual love, the greater their dedication to their children and the more significant their example for the Christian community. “The nurturing and deepening of mutual, sacrificial love between husband and wife constitutes perhaps the most significant involvement of a deacon’s wife in her husband’s public ministry in the Church”. (222) This love grows thanks to chastity which flourishes, even in the exercise of paternal responsibilities, by respect for spouses and the practice of a certain continence. This virtue fosters a mutual self-giving which soon becomes evident in ministry. It eschews possessive behaviour, undue pursuit of professional success and the incapacity to programme time. Instead, it promotes authentic interpersonal relationships, OIC, and the capacity to see everything in its proper perspective.

Special care should be taken to ensure that the families of deacons be made aware of the demands of the diaconal ministry. The spouses of married deacons, who must give their consent to their husband’s decision to seek ordination to the diaconate, (223) should be assisted to play their role with joy and discretion. They should esteem all that concerns the Church, especially the duties assigned to their husbands. For this reason it is opportune that they should be kept duly informed of their husbands’ activities in order to arrive at an harmonious balance between family, professional and ecclesial responsibilities. In the children of married deacons, where such is possible, an appreciation of their father’s ministry can also be fostered. They in turn should be involved in the apostolate and give coherent witness in their lives.

In conclusion, the families of married deacons, as with all Christian families, are called to participate actively and responsibly in the Church’s mission in the contemporary world. “In particular the deacon and his wife must be a living example of fidelity and indissolubility in Christian marriage before a world which is in dire need of such signs. By facing in a spirit of faith the challenges of married life and the demands of daily living, they strengthen the family life not only of the Church community but of the whole of society. They also show how the obligations of family life, work and ministry can be harmonized in the service of the Church’s mission. Deacons and their wives and children can be a great encouragement to others who are working to promote family life”. (224)

62. It is necessary to reflect on the situation of the deacon following the death of his wife. This is a particular moment in life which calls for faith and Christian hope. The loss of a spouse should not destroy dedication to the rearing of children nor lead to hopelessness. While this period of life is difficult, it is also an opportunity for interior purification and an impetus for growth in charity and service to one’s children and to all the members of the Church. It is a call to grow in hope since faithful discharge of the ministry is a way of reaching Christ and those in the Father’s glory who are dear to us.

It must be recognised, however, that the loss of a spouse gives rise to a new situation in a family which profoundly influences personal relationships and in many instances can give rise to economic difficulties. With great charity, therefore, widowed deacons should be helped to discern and accept their new personal circumstances and to persevere in providing for their children and the new needs of their families.

In particular, the widowed deacon should be supported in living perfect and perpetual continence. (225) He should be helped to understand the profound ecclesial reasons which preclude his remarriage (cf. 1 Tim 3:12), in accordance with the constant discipline of the Church in the East and West. (226) This can be achieved through an intensification of one’s dedication to others for the love of God in the ministry. In such cases the fraternal assistance of other ministers, of the faithful and of the bishop can be most comforting to widowed deacons.

With regard to the widows of deacons, care should be taken, where possible, by the clergy and the faithful to ensure that they are never neglected and that their needs are provided for.




63. The continuing formation of deacons is a human necessity which must be seen in continuity with the divine call to serve the Church in the ministry and with the initial formation given to deacons, to the extent that these are considered two initial moments in a single, living, process of Christian and diaconal life. (227) Indeed, “those who are ordained to the diaconate are obliged to ongoing doctrinal formation which perfects and completes what they received prior to ordination”, (228) so that, by a periodic renewal of the “I am” pronounced by deacons at their ordination, the vocation “to” the diaconate continues and finds expression as vocation “in” the diaconate. On the part of both the Church which provides ongoing formation and of deacons who are its recipients, such formation should be regarded as a mutual obligation and duty arising from the nature of the vocational commitment which has been assumed.

The continuing need to provide and receive adequate, integral formation is an indispensable obligation for both bishops and deacons.

Ecclesiastical norms regarding ongoing formation (229) have constantly emphasised the obligatory nature of such formation for the apostolic life and stressed the need for it to be global, interdisciplinary, profound, scientific and propedeutic. Application of these norms is all the more necessary in those instances where initial formation did not adhere to the ordinary model.

Continuing formation should be informed with the characteristics of fidelity to Christ, to the Church and to “continuing conversion” which is a fruit of sacramental grace articulated in the pastoral charity proper to every moment of ordained ministry. This formation is similar to the fundamental choice, which must be reaffirmed and renewed throughout the permanent diaconate by a long series of coherent responses which are based on and animated by the initial acceptance of the ministry. (230)


64. Inspired by the prayer of ordination, ongoing formation is based on the need of every deacon to love Christ in such manner as to imitate him (“may they be images of your Son”). It seeks to confirm him in uncompromising fidelity to a personal vocation to ministry (“may they fulfil faithfully the works of the ministry”) and proposes a radical, sincere following of Christ the Servant (“may the example of their lives be a constant reminder of the Gospel… may they be sincere…solicitous…and vigilant”).

The basis and motivation of this formation, therefore, “is the dynamism of the order itself”, (231) while its nourishment is the Holy Eucharist, compendium of the entire Christian ministry and endless source of every spiritual energy. St Paul’s exhortation to Timothy can also be applied, in a certain sense, to deacons: “I remind you to fan into a flame the gift of God that you have” (2 Tim 1:6; cf. 1 Tim 4:14-16). The theological demands of their call to a singular ministry of ecclesial service requires of them a growing love for the Church, shown forth by their faithful carrying out of their proper functions and responsibilities. Chosen by God to be holy, serving the Church and all mankind, the deacon should continually grow in awareness of his own ministerial character in a manner that is balanced, responsible, solicitous and always joyful.


65. From the perspective of the deacon, primary protagonist and primary subject of the obligation, ongoing formation is first and foremost a process of continual conversion. It embraces every aspect of his person as deacon, that is to say, consecrated by the Sacrament of Order and placed at the service of the Church, and seeks to develop all of his potential. This enables him to live to the full the ministerial gifts that he has received in diverse circumstances of time and place and in the tasks assigned to him by the bishop. (232) The solicitude of the Church for the permanent formation of deacons would, however, be ineffective without their co-operation and commitment. Thus formation cannot be reduced merely to participating at courses or study days or other such activities: it calls for every deacon to be aware of the need for ongoing formation and to cultivate it with interest and in a spirit of healthy initiative. Books approved by ecclesiastical authority should be chosen as material for reading; periodicals known for their fidelity to the Magisterium should be followed; time should be set aside for daily meditation. Constant self-formation which helps him to serve the Church ever better is an important part of the service asked of every deacon.


66. From the perspective of the bishops (233) (and their fellow workers in the presbyterate), who bear responsibility for formation, ongoing formation consists in helping the deacon to overcome any dualism that might exist between spirituality and ministry and, more fundamentally, any dichotomy between their civil profession and diaconal spirituality and “respond generously to the commitment demanded by the dignity and the responsibility which God conferred upon them through the sacrament of Orders; in guarding, defending, and developing their specific identity and vocation; and in sanctifying themselves and others through the exercise of their ministry”. (234)

Both dimensions are complementary and reciprocal since they are founded, with the help of supernatural gifts, in the interior unity of the person.

The assistance which formators are called to offer deacons will be successful in as much as it responds to the personal needs of each deacon, since every deacon lives his ministry in the Church as a unique person placed in particular circumstances.

Personalized assistance to deacons also assures them of that love with which mother Church is close to them as they strive to live faithfully the sacramental grace of their calling. It is thus of supreme importance that each deacon be able to choose a spiritual director, approved by the bishop, with whom he can have regular and frequent contact.

The entire diocesan community is also, in some sense, involved in the formation of deacons. (235) This is particularly true of the parish priest or other priests charged with formation who should personally support them with fraternal solicitude.


67. Personal concern and commitment in ongoing formation are unequivocal signs of a coherent response to divine vocation, of sincere love for the Church and of authentic pastoral zeal for the Christian faithful and all men. What has been said of priests can also be applied to deacons: “ongoing formation is a necessary means of reaching the object of one’s vocation which is service of God and one’s people”. (236)

It must be seen in continuity with initial formation since it pursues the same ends as initial formation and seeks to integrate, conserve and deepen what was begun in initial formation.

The essential availability of the deacon to others is a practical expression of sacramental configuration to Christ the Servant, received through ordination and indelibly impressed upon the soul. It is a permanent reminder to the deacon in his life and ministry. Hence permanent formation cannot be reduced merely to complementary education or to a form of training in better techniques. Ongoing formation cannot be confined simply to updating, but should seek to facilitate a practical configuration of the deacon’s entire life to Christ who loves all and serves all.


68. Ongoing formation must include and harmonize all dimensions of the life and ministry of the deacon. Thus, as with the permanent formation of priests, it should be complete, systematic and personalized in its diverse aspects whether human, spiritual, intellectual or pastoral. (237)

69. As in the past, attention to the various aspects of the human formation of deacons is an important task for Pastors. The deacon, aware that he is chosen as a man among men to be at the service of the salvation of all, should be open to being helped in developing his human qualities as valuable instruments for ministry. He should strive to perfect all those aspects of his personality which might render his ministry more effective.

To fulfil successfully his vocation to holiness and his particular ecclesial mission, he should, above all, fix his gaze on Him who is true God and true man and practice the natural and supernatural virtues which conform him more closely to the image of Christ and make him worthy of the respect of the faithful. (238) In their ministry and daily life particularly, deacons should foster in themselves kind-heartedness, patience, affability, strength of character, zeal for justice, fidelity to promises given, a spirit of sacrifice and consistency with tasks freely undertaken. The practice of these virtues will assist in arriving at a balanced personality, maturity and discernment.

Conscious of the example of integrity in his social activity, the deacon should reflect on his ability to dialogue, on correctness in human relationships and on cultural discernment. He should also give careful consideration to the value of friendship and to his treatment of others. (239)

70. Ongoing spiritual formation is closely connected with diaconal spirituality, which it must nourish and develop, and with the ministry, which is sustained by “a truly personal encounter with Jesus, a relationship with the Father and a profound experience of the Spirit”. (240) Hence, deacons should be encouraged by the Pastors of the Church to cultivate their spiritual lives in a responsible manner, for it is from this life that springs up that love which sustains their ministry and makes it fruitful, and prevents its reduction to mere “functionalism” or bureaucracy.

In particular, the spiritual formation of deacons should inculcate those attitudes related to the triple diaconia of word, liturgy and charity.

Assiduous meditation on Sacred Scripture will achieve familiarity and worshipful dialogue with the living God and thus an assimilation of the revealed word.

A profound knowledge of Tradition and of the liturgical books will help the deacon to discover continually the riches of the divine mysteries and thus become their worthy minister. A solicitude for fraternal charity will impel him to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and provide living signs of the Church’s love.

All of this requires careful planning and organization of time and resources. Improvisation should be avoided. In addition to spiritual direction, deacons should try to pursue study courses on the great themes of the theological tradition of Christian spirituality, intensive sessions in spirituality and pilgrimages to places of spiritual interest.

While on retreat, which should be at least every other year, (241) deacons should work out a spiritual programme which they should periodically share with their spiritual directors. This programme should include a period of daily eucharistic adoration and provide for exercises of Marian devotion, liturgical prayer, personal meditation and the habitual ascetical practices.

The centre of this spiritual itinerary must be the Holy Eucharist since it is the touchstone of the deacon’s life and activity, the indispensable means of perseverance, the criterion of authentic renewal and of a balanced synthesis of life. In this way, the spiritual formation of the deacon will reveal the Holy Eucharist as Passover, in its annual articulation in Holy Week, in its weekly articulation on Sunday and in its constant articulation at daily Mass.

71. The insertion of deacons into the mystery of the Church, in virtue of Baptism and their reception of the first grade of the Sacrament of Orders, requires that ongoing formation strengthen in them the consciousness and willingness to live in intelligent, active and mature communion with their bishops and the priests of their dioceses, and with the Supreme Pontiff who is the visible foundation of the entire Church’s unity.

When formed in this way, they can become in their ministry effective promoters of communion. In situations of conflict they, in particular, should make every effort to restore peace for the good of the Church.

72. The doctrine of the faith should be deepened by suitable initiatives such as study days, renewal courses and the frequentation of academic institutions. For the same reason, it would be particularly useful to promote careful, in-depth and systematic study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

It is necessary that deacons have an accurate knowledge of the Sacraments of Holy Orders, the Holy Eucharist, Baptism and Matrimony. They must develop a knowledge of those aspects of philosophy, ecclesiology, dogmatic Theology, Sacred Scripture, and Canon Law which most assist them in their ministry.

Such courses, while aimed at theological renewal, should also lead to prayer, ecclesial communion and greater pastoral efforts in response to the urgent need for new evangelization.

Under sure guidance, the documents of the Magisterium should be studied in common, and in relation to the needs of the pastoral ministry, especially those documents in which the Church responds to the more pressing moral and doctrinal questions. Thus, with a sense of communion, deacons will be enabled to achieve and express due obedience to the Pastor of the universal Church and to diocesan bishops, as well as to promote fidelity to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.

In addition, it is of the greatest use and relevance to study, appropriate and diffuse the social doctrine of the Church. A good knowledge of that teaching will permit many deacons to mediate it in their different professions, at work and in their families. The diocesan bishop may also invite those who are capable to specialize in a theological discipline and obtain the necessary academic qualifications at those pontifical academies or institutes recognized by the Apostolic See which guarantee doctrinally correct formation.

Deacons should pursue systematic study not only to perfect their theological knowledge but also to revitalize constantly their ministry in view of the changing needs of the ecclesial community.

73. Together with study of the sacred sciences, appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that deacons acquire a pastoral methodology (242) for an effective ministry. Permanent pastoral formation consists, in the first place, in constantly encouraging the deacon to perfect the effectiveness of his ministry of making the love and service of Christ present in the Church and in society without distinction, especially to the poor and to those most in need. Indeed it is from the pastoral love of Christ that the ministry of deacons draws its model and inspiration. This same love urges the deacon, in collaboration with his bishop and the priests of his diocese, to promote the mission of the laity in the world. He will thus be a stimulus “to become ever better acquainted with the real situation of the men and women to whom he is sent, to discern the call of the Spirit in the historical circumstances in which he finds himself, and to seek the most suitable methods and the most useful forms for carrying out his ministry today”, (243) in loyal and convinced communion with the Supreme Pontiff and with his own bishop.

The effectiveness of the apostolate sometimes calls also for group work requiring a knowledge and respect of the diversity and complementarity of the gifts and respective functions of priests, deacons and the lay faithful, within the organic nature of ecclesial communion.

Organization and means

74. The diversity of circumstances in the particular Churches makes it difficult to give an exhaustive account of how best to organize the suitable ongoing formation of permanent deacons. Yet it is necessary that all such formation be accomplished by means which accord with theological and pastoral clarity.

A few general criteria, easily applicable to diverse concrete circumstances, may be mentioned in this respect.

75. The primary locus of ongoing formation for deacons is the ministry itself. The deacon matures in its exercise and by focusing his own call to holiness on the fulfilment of his social and ecclesial duties, in particular, of his ministerial functions and responsibilities. The formation of deacons should, therefore, concentrate in a special way on awareness of their ministerial character.

76. Permanent formation must follow a well planned programme drawn up and approved by competent authority. It must be unitary, divided into progressive stages, and at the same time, in perfect harmony with the Magisterium of the Church. It is better that the programme should insist on a basic minimum to be followed by all deacons and which should be distinct from later specialization courses.

Programmes such as this should take into consideration two distinct but closely related levels of formation: the diocesan level, in reference to the bishop or his delegate, and the community level in which the deacon exercises his own ministry, in reference to the parish priest or some other priest.

77. The first appointment of a deacon to a parish or a pastoral area is a very sensitive moment. Introducing the deacon to those in charge of the community (the parish priest, priests), and the community to the deacon, helps them not only to come to know each other but contributes to a collaboration based on mutual respect and dialogue, in a spirit of faith and fraternal charity. The community into which a deacon comes can have a highly important formative effect, especially when he realizes the importance of respect for well proven traditions and knows how to listen, discern, serve and love as Jesus Christ did.

Deacons in their initial pastoral assignments should be carefully supervised by an exemplary priest especially appointed to this task by the bishop.

78. Periodic meetings should be arranged for deacons which treat of liturgical and spiritual matters, of continuous theological renewal and study, either at diocesan or supra-diocesan level.

Under the bishop’s authority and without multiplying existent structures, periodic meeting should be arranged between priests, deacons, religious and laity involved in pastoral work both to avoid compartmentalization or the development of isolated groups and to guarantee co-ordinated unity for different pastoral activities.

The bishop should show particular solicitude for deacons since they are his collaborators. When possible he should attend their meetings and always ensure the presence of his representative.

79. With the approval of the diocesan bishop, a realistic programme of ongoing formation should be drawn up in accordance with the present dispositions, taking due account of factors such as the age and circumstances of deacons, together with the demands made on them by their pastoral ministry.

To accomplish this task, the bishop might constitute a group of suitable formators or seek the assistance of neighbouring dioceses.

80. It is desirable that the bishop set up a diocesan organization for the co-ordination of deacons,to plan, co-ordinate and supervise the diaconal ministry from the discernment of vocation, (244) to the exercise of ministry and formation — including ongoing formation. This organization should be composed of the Bishop as its president, or a priest delegated by him for this task, and a proportionate number of deacons. This organization should not be remiss in maintaining the necessary links with the other diocesan organizations.

The Bishops should regulate the life and activity of this organization by the issuance of appropriate norms.

81. In addition to the usual permanent formation offered to deacons, special courses and initiatives should be arranged for those deacons who are married. These courses should involve, where opportune, their wives and families. However, they must always be careful to maintain the essential distinction of roles and the clear independence of the ministry.

82. Deacons should always be appreciative of all those initiatives for the ongoing formation of the clergy promoted by Conferences of bishops or various dioceses — spiritual retreats, conferences, study days, conventions, theological and pastoral courses. They should avail themselves of such initiatives especially when they concern their own ministry of evangelization, worship and loving service.

The Sovereign Pontiff, Pope John Paul II, has approved this present Directory and ordered its publication.

Rome, at the Office of the Congregations, 22 February 1998, Feast of the Chair of Peter.

Darío Card. Castrillón Hoyos


+ Csaba Ternyák

Titular Archbishop of Eminenziana





Who as teacher of faith, by your obedience to the word of God, has co-operated in a remarkable way with the work of redemption, make the ministry of deacons effective by teaching them to hear the Word and to proclaim it faithfully.


Teacher of charity, who by your total openness to God’s call, has co-operated in bringing to birth all the Church’s faithful, make the ministry and the life of deacons fruitful by teaching them to give themselves totally to the service of the People of God.


Teacher of prayer, who through your maternal intercession has supported and helped the Church from her beginnings, make deacons always attentive to the needs of the faithful by teaching them to come to know the value of prayer.


Teacher of humility, by constantly knowing yourself to be the servant of the Lord you were filled with the Holy Spirit, make deacons docile instruments in Christ’s work of redemption by teaching them the greatness of being the least of all.


Teacher of that service which is hidden, who by your everyday and ordinary life filled with love, knew how to co-operate with the salvific plan of God in an exemplary fashion, make deacons good and faithful servants, by teaching them the joy of serving the Church with an ardent love.





Joint declaration


I. The Ordained Ministry

II. The Diaconate

III. The Permanent Diaconate



1. The paths of formation

2. Reference to a sure theology of the diaconate

3. The ministry of the deacon in different pastoral contexts

4. Diaconal spirituality

5. The role of Episcopal Conferences

6. Responsibility of Bishops

7. The permanent diaconate in institutes of consecrated life and in societies of apostolic life

I. Those involved in the formation of permanent deacons

1. The Church and the Bishop

2. Those responsible for formation

3. Professors

4. The formation community of permanent deacons

5. Communities of origin

6. Aspirant and candidate

II. Characteristics of candidates for the permanent diaconate

1. General requirements

2. Requirements related to the candidate’s state of life

a) Unmarried

b) Married

c) Widowers

d) Members of institutes of consecrated life and of societies of apostolic life

III. The path of formation towards the permanent diaconate

1. The presentation of aspirants

2. The propaedeutic period

3. The liturgical rite of admission to candidacy for ordination as deacon

4. Time of formation

5. Conferral of the ministries of lector and acolyte

6. Diaconate ordination

IV. The dimensions of the formation of permanent deacons

1. Human formation

2. Spiritual formation

3. Doctrinal formation

4. Pastoral formation



1. The Juridical Status of Deacons

Sacred minister


2. The Diaconal Ministry

Diaconal functions

Diaconia of the word

Diaconia of the liturgy

The diaconia of charity

The canonical mission of permanent deacons

3. The Spirituality of the Deacon

Contemporary context

Vocation to holiness 0

The relations of Holy Order

Aids to the spiritual life

Spirituality of deacons and states of life

4. Continuing Formation of Deacons






Organization and means

Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary


(3) Second Vatican Council,Lumen gentium, 18.

(4) Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1581.

(5) Cf. ibidem, n. 1536.

(6) Cf. ibidem, n. 1538.

(7) Ibidem, n. 875.

(8) Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 28.

(9) Cf. ibidem, n. 20; CIC, canon 375, § 1.

(10) Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 876.

(11) Cf. ibidem, n. 877.

(12) Cf. ibidem, n. 878.

(13) Ibidem, n. 879.

(14) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 29; Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Ad pascendum(15 August 1972), AAS 64 (1972), p. 534.

(15) Moreover, he also describes several of the sixty who collaborated with him as deacons: Timothy (1 Thes 3:2), Epophros (Col 1:7), Tychicus (Col 3:7; Eph 6:2).

(16) Cf. Epistula ad Philadelphenses, 4; Epistula ad Smyrnaeos, 12, 2: Epistula ad Magnesios, 6, 1; F. X. Funk (ed.) Patres Apostolici, Tubingae 1901; pp. 266-267; 286-287; 234-235; 244-245.

(17) Cf. Didascalia Apostolorum (Syriac), capp. III, XI: A. Vööbus (ed.) The Didascalia Apostolorum (Syriac with English translation), CSCO, vol. I, n. 402 (t. 176), pp. 29-30; vol. II, n. 408 (t. 180), pp. 120-129; Didascalia Apostolorum, III, 13 (19), 1-7: F. X. Funk (ed.),Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, Paderborn 1906, I, pp. 212-216.

(18) Cf. canons 32 and 33 of the Council of Elvira (300303): PL 84, 305; canons 16 (15), 18, 21 of the first Council of Arles. CCL, 148, pp. 12-13; canons 15, 16, and 18 of the Council of Nicea:Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, bilingual edition of G. Alberigo, G.L. Dossetti, Cl. Leonardi, P. Prodi, cons. of H. Jedin, ed. Dehoniane, Bologna 1991, pp. 13-15.

(19) In the first period of Christianity, every local Church needed a number of deacons proportionate to her numbers so that they might be known and helped (cf. Didascalia Apostolorum, III, 12 (16): F. X. Funk, ed. cit., I, p. 208). In Rome Pope St Fabian (236-250) divided the City into seven zones (or “regiones”, later called “diaconiae”) in charge of each of which was placed a deacon (“regionarius”) for the promotion of charity and assistance to the poor. Analogous diaconal structures were to be found in many cities of the east and west during the third and fourth centuries.

(20) Cf. Council of Trent, Session XXIII, Decreta de Reformatione, canon 17: Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. cit., p. 750.

(21) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, 29.

(22) AAS 59 (1967), pp. 697-704.

(23) AAS 60 (1968), pp. 369-373.

(24) AAS 64 (1972), pp. 534-540.

(25) Ten canons speak explicitly of permanent deacons: 236; 276, § 2, 3o; 288; 1031, §§ 2-3; 1032, § 3; 1035, § 1; 1037; 1042, 1o; 1050, 3o.

(26) Cf. CIC, canon 1031, § 1.

(27) Paul VI, Apostolic Letter, Sacrum diaconatus ordinem (18 June 1968): AAS 59 (1967), p. 698.

(28) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 29; Decree Ad gentes, 16; Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 17; Allocution of John Paul II of 16 March 1985, n. 1:Insegnamenti, VIII, 2 (1985), p. 648.

(29) Catechesis of John Paul II at the General Audience of 6 October 1993, n. 5, Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 954.

(30) “A particularly felt need behind the decision to restore the permanent diaconate was that of a greater and more direct presence of sacred ministers in areas such as the family, work, schools etc. as well as in the various ecclesial structures”. Catechesis of John Paul II at the General Audience of 6 October 1993 n. 6, Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 954.

(31) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 29b.

(32) Cf. ibidem, Decree Ad gentes, 16.

(33) Ibidem, Decree Ad gentes, 16. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1571.


(1) Cf Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem (18 June 1967): AAS 59 (1967), pp. 697-704. The Apostolic Letter, at Ch. II, which is dedicated to younger candidates, prescribes: “6. Young men who are to be trained for the office of deacon should go to a special institution where they can be tested, trained to live a truly evangelical life, and instructed on how to perform usefully the duties of their future state. 9. The period of preparation for the diaconate as such should run for a period of at least three years. The course of studies should be arranged in such a way that the candidates make orderly and gradual progress toward gaining an understanding of the various duties of the diaconate and toward being able to carry them out effectively. The whole course of studies might well be so planned that in the last year special training will be given in the principal functions to be carried out by the deacon. 10. In addition, there should be practice in teaching the fundamentals of the Christian religion to children and others of the faithful, in teaching people to sing sacred music and lead them in it, in reading the books of Scripture at gatherings of the faithful, in giving talks to the people, in administering those sacraments which deacons may administer, in visiting the sick and, in general, in carrying out the ministries which may be required of them”. The same Apostolic Letter, at Chapter III, which is dedicated to older candidates, prescribes: “14. It is desirable for these deacons, too, to acquire a good deal of doctrine, as was said in nos. 8, 9 and 10 above, or at least for them to have the knowledge which the episcopal conference may judge they will need to fulfil their functions properly. They should therefore be admitted to a special institution for a certain length of time in order to learn all they will have to know to carry out worthily the office of deacon. 15. But if for some reason this cannot be done, then the candidate should be entrusted to some priest of outstanding virtue who will take a special interest in him and teach him, and who will be able to testify to his maturity and prudence”.

(2) The Circular Letter of the Congregation indicated that courses must take into consideration the study of sacred scripture, dogma, moral, canon law, liturgy, “technical training, in order to prepare the candidates for certain activities of the ministry, such as psychology, catechetical pedagogy, public speaking, sacred song, organisation of Catholic groups, ecclesiastical administration, keeping up to date the registers of baptism, confirmation, marriage, deaths, etc.”.

(3) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum (15 August 1972), VII b): AAS 64 (1972), p. 540.

(4) Cf John Paul II, Post-synodal Ap. Exhort. Pastores dabo vobis (25 March 1992), 12: AAS 84 (1992), pp. 675-676.

(5) Cf Ecum. Council Vat. II, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, 28; 29.

(6) The Pontificale Romanum – De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, Editio typica altera, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1990, p. 101, cites at n. 179 of the “Praenotanda”, relative to the ordination of deacons, the expression “in ministerio Episcopi ordinantur” taken from theTraditio apostolica, 8 (SCh, 11bis, pp. 58-59), as taken from the Constitutiones Ecclesiae Aegypticae III, 2: F. X. Funk (ed.), Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, II, Paderbornae 1905, p. 103.

(7) “(They should be) compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all” (St Polycarp, Epist. ad Philippenses, 5, 2: F. X. Funk [ed.], Patres Apostolici, I, Tubingae 1901, pp. 300-302).

(8) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, Introduction: l.c., pp. 534-538.

(9) Cf Pontificale Romanum – De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, n. 207:ed. cit., pp. 115-122.

(10) Cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1570.

(11) Ibidem, n. 1588.

(12) Cf Ecum. Council Vat. II, Decr. Christus Dominus, 15.

(13) Cf C.I.C., can. 266.

(14) Cf Ecum. Council Vat. II, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, 29.

(15) Cf Pontificale Romanum – De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, n. 210: ed. cit., p. 125.

(16) Cf Ecum. Council Vat. II, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, 29.

(17) Cf ibidem.

(18) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, I, 1: l.c., p. 699.

(19) Cf C.I.C., can. 276, § 2, 3o.

(20) Cf ibidem, can. 1031, § 3.

(21) Ecum. Council Vat. II, Decr. Optatam totius, 1.

(22) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, VII, 32: l.c., p. 703.

(23) Ibidem, VII, 35: l.c., p. 704.

(24) Ecum. Council Vat. II, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, 64.

(25) Ibidem, 8.

(26) Equivalent to the Diocesan Bishop in this regard are those to whom the following have been entrusted: territorial prelature, territorial abbey, apostolic vicariate, apostolic prefecture and a stably erected apostolic administration (cf C.I.C., cans. 368; 381, § 2) as well as the personal prelature (cfC.I.C., cans. 266, § 1; 295) and the military ordinariate (cf John Paul II, Apost. Const. Spirituali militum curae [21 April 1986], art. I, § 1; art. II, § 1: AAS 78 [1986], pp. 482; 483).

(27) Cf C.I.C., cans. 1025; 1029.

(28) This also includes the director of the specific house of formation, wherever it exists (cf C.I.C., can. 236, 1o).

(29) John Paul II, Post-synodal Ap. Exhort. Pastores dabo vobis, 68: l.c., pp. 775-776.

(30) Ibidem, 69: l.c., p. 778.

(31) Ibidem, 36: l.c., pp. 715-716.

(32) Catechismus ex decreto Concilii Tridentini ad Parochos, pars II, c. 7, n. 3, Turin 1914, p. 288.

(33) Didachè, 15, 1: F. X. Funk (ed.), Patres Apostolici, I, o.c., pp. 32-35.

(34) St Polycarp, Epist. ad Philippenses, 5, 1-2: F. X. Funk (ed.), Patres Apostolici, I, o.c., pp. 300-302.

(35) C.I.C., can. 1029. Cf can. 1051, 1o.

(36) Cf Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, II, 8: l.c., p. 700.

(37) Cf C.I.C., cans. 285, §§ 1-2; 289; Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, III, 17:l.c., p. 701.

(38) C.I.C., can. 1031, § 2. Cf Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, II, 5; III, 12: l.c., pp. 699; 700. Can. 1031, § 3 prescribes that “Bishops’ Conferences may issue a regulation which requires a later age”.

(39) Cf C.I.C., cans. 1040-1042. The irregularities (perpetual impediments) listed by can. 1041 are: 1) any form of insanity or other psychological infirmity, because of which he is, after experts have been consulted, judged incapable of properly fulfilling the ministry; 2) the offences of apostasy,heresy or schism; 3) attempted marriage, even a civil marriage; 4) wilful homicide or actuallyprocured abortion; 5) grave mutilation of self or others, and attempted suicide; 6) illicit completion of acts of order. The simple impediments, listed by can. 1042, are: 1) the exercise of an office or administration forbidden to, or inappropriate to, the clerical state; 2) the state of being a neophyte (except when the Ordinary decides otherwise).

(40) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, II, 4: l.c., p. 699. Cf Ecum. Council Vat. II, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, 29.

(41) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, III, 13: l.c., p. 700.

(42) Ibidem, III, 11: l.c., p. 700. Cf C.I.C., cans. 1031, § 2; 1050, 3o.

(43) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, III, 16: l.c., p. 701; Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, VI: l.c., p. 539; C.I.C., can. 1087.

(44) The Circular Letter, Prot. n. 26397 of 6 June 1997, of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments envisages that one only of the following conditions be sufficient for obtaining dispensation from the impediment found in can. 1087: the great and proven usefulness of the ministry of the deacon to the diocese to which he belongs; that he has children of such a tender age as to be in need of motherly care; that he has parents or parents in law who are elderly and in need of care.

(45) Cf Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, VII, 32-35: l.c., pp. 703-704.

(46) Cf Idem, Ap. Lett. Ecclesiae sanctae (6 August 1966), I, 25, § 1: AAS 58 (1966), p. 770.

(47) Cf C.I.C., can. 1026.

(48) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, Introduction; cf I a): l.c., pp. 537-538. Cf C.I.C., can. 1034, § 1. The rite for admission among the candidates for Holy Order is found in the Pontificale Romanum – De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, Appendix, II: ed. cit., pp. 232ff.

(49) Cf C.I.C., cans. 1016; 1019.

(50) Cf ibidem, can. 1034, § 1; Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, I a): l.c., p. 538.

(51) Cf C.I.C., can. 236 and numbers 41-44 of the present Ratio.

(52) C.I.C., can. 236, 1o. Cf Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, II, 6: l.c., p. 699.

(53) Ibidem, II, 7: l.c., p. 699.

(54) C.I.C., can. 236, 2o.

(55) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, III, 15: l.c., p. 701.

(56) C.I.C., can. 1035, § 1.

(57) Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, II: l.c., p. 539; Ap. Lett. Ministeria quaedam (15 August 1972), XI: AAS 64 (1972), p. 533.

(58) Idem, Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, Introduction: l.c., p. 538.

(59) Cf Idem, Ap. Lett. Ministeria quaedam, VIII a): l.c., p. 533.

(60) Cf Pontificale Romanum – De Institutione Lectorum et Acolythorum, Editio typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1972.

(61) Cf Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Ministeria quaedam, X: l.c., p. 533; Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, IV: l.c., p. 539.

(62) C.I.C., can. 1035, § 2.

(63) Ibidem, can. 1036. Cf Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, V: l.c., p. 539.

(64) Cf C.I.C., can. 1050.

(65) Cf ibidem, cans. 1050, 3o; 1031, § 2.

(66) Ibidem, can. 1051, 1o.

(67) Ibidem, can. 1051, 2o.

(68) Cf ibidem, can. 1028. For the obligations which ordinands assume with the diaconate, see canons 273-289. In addition, for married deacons, there is the impediment to contracting new marriages (cf can. 1087).

(69) Cf ibidem, can. 1037; Paul VI, Ap. Lett. Ad pascendum, VI: l.c., p. 539.

(70) Cf Pontificale Romanum – De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, n. 177: ed. cit., p. 101.

(71) Cf C.I.C., can. 833, 6o; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Professio fidei et Iusiurandum fidelitatis in suscipiendo officio nomine Ecclesiae exercendo: AAS 81 (1989), pp. 104-106; 1169.

(72) C.I.C., can. 1015, § 1.

(73) Cf ibidem, can. 1019.

(74) Pontificale Romanum – De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, cap. III,De Ordinatione diaconorum: ed. cit., pp. 100-142.

(75) Cf C.I.C., cans. 1010-1011.

(76) Ibidem, can. 1039.

(77) John Paul II, Post-synodal Ap. Exhort. Pastores dabo vobis, 43: l.c., p. 732.

(78) Ibidem: l.c., pp. 732-733.

(79) Cf ibidem: l.c., p. 733.

(80) Idem, Encycl. Lett. Redemptor hominis (4 March 1979), 10: AAS 71 (1979), p. 274.

(81) Cf Idem, Post-synodal Ap. Exhort. Pastores dabo vobis, 44: l.c., p. 734.

(82) Cf ibidem: l.c., pp. 734-735.

(83) Cf Idem, Ap. Exhort. Familiaris consortio (22 November 1981): AAS 74 (1982), pp. 81-191.

(84) Idem, Post-synodal Ap. Exhort. Pastores dabo vobis, 44: l.c., p. 735.

(85) Cf the presentation of the Book of the Gospels, in Pontificale Romanum – De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, n. 210: ed. cit., p. 125.

(86) This refers to the Apostolic Letter of Paul VI, Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, n. 22: l.c., pp. 701-702.

(87) Cf Congregation for Catholic Education, Circ. Lett. Come è a conoscenza (16 July 1969), p. 2.

(88) Cf ibidem, p. 3.

(89) John Paul II, Post-synodal Ap. Exhort. Pastores dabo vobis, 57: l.c., p. 758.

(90) Cf Congregation for Catholic Education, Circ. Lett. Come è a conoscenza, p. 3.

(91) Cf Ecum. Council Vat. II, Decr. Presbyterorum ordinis, 10; Decr. Ad gentes, 20.

(92) Didascalia Apostolorum, III, 13 (19), 3: F. X. Funk (ed.), Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, I, o.c., pp. 214-215.


(34) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 28a.

(35) Cf. CIC, canon 1034, § 1; Paul VI, Ad Pascendum, I, a: l.c., 538.

(36) Cf. CIC, canons 265-266.

(37) Cf. CIC, canons 1034, § 1, 1016, 1019; Apostolic Constitution Spirituali Militum Curae, VI, §§ 3-4; CIC, canon 295, § 1.

(38) Cf. CIC, canons 267-268c § 1.

(39) Cf. CIC, canon 271.

(40) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VI, 30: l.c., 703.

(41) Cf. CIC, canon 678, §§ 1-3; 715; 738; cf. also Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VII, 33-35: l.c., 704.

(42) Letter of the Secretariat of State to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Prot. N. 122.735, of 3 January 1984.

(43) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Christus Dominus, n. 15; Paul VI Apostolic LetterSacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, 23; l.c., 702.

(44) Pontificale Romanum, De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, n. 201, (editio typica altera), Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1990, p. 110; cf. CIC, canon 273.

(45) “Those dominated by an outlook of contestation or of opposition to authority cannot adequately fulfil the functions of the diaconate. The diaconate can only be conferred on those who believe in the value of the pastoral mission of bishops and priests and in the assistance of the Holy Spirit who helps them in their activities and in the decisions they take. It should be recalled that the deacon must ?profess respect and obedience to the bishop’. The service of the deacon is directed to a particular Christian community for which he should develop a profound attachment both to its mission and divine institution” (Catechesis of John Paul II at the General Audience of 20 October 1993, n. 2,Insegnamenti, XVI, 2, [1993], p. 1055).

(46) CIC, canon 274, § 2.

(47) “Among the duties of the deacon there is that of ?promoting and sustaining the apostolic activities of the laity’. Being more present and active in the secular world than priests, deacons should strive to promote greater closeness between ordained ministers and activities of the laity for the common service of the Kingdom of God” (Catechesis of John Paul II at the General Audience of 13 October 1993, n. 5, Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 [1993], pp. 1002-1003); cf. CIC, canon 275.

(48) Cf. CIC, canon 282.

(49) Cf. CIC, canon 288 referring to canon 284.

(50) Cf. CIC, canon 284; Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests of the Congregation for the Clergy (31 January 1994), pp. 66-67. Clarification of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts on the binding character of article 66 (22 October 1994) in Sacrum Ministerium, 2 (1995), p. 263.

(51) Cf CIC, canon 669.

(52) Cf. CIC, canon 278, §§ 1-2, explicating canon 215.

(53) Cf. CIC, canon 278, § 3 and canon 1374; also the declaration of the German Bishops’ Conference “The Church and Freemasonry” (28 February 1980).

(54) Congregation for the Clergy, Quidam Episcopi (8 March 1982), IV: AAS 74 (1982), pp. 642-645.

(55) Cf. CIC, canon 299, § 3, and canon 304.

(56) Cf CIC, canon 305.

(57) Cf. Allocution of John Paul II to the Bishops of Zaïre on “Ad Limina” visit, 30 April 1983,Insegnamenti, VI, 1 (1983), pp. 112-113. Allocution to Permanent Deacons (16 March 1985),Insegnamenti, VIII, 1 (1985), pp. 648-650. Cf. also idem. Allocution at the ordination of eight new Bishops in Kinshasa (4 May 1980), 3-5 Insegnamenti, 1 (1980), pp. 1111-1114; Catechesis at the General Audience of 6 October 1983 Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1983), pp. 951-955.

(58) Lumen Gentium, 33; cf. CIC, canon 225.

(59) Cf. CIC, canon 288, referring to canon 285, §§ 3-4.

(60) Cf. CIC, canon 288 referring to canon 286.

(61) Cf. CIC, canon 222, § 2, and also canon 225, § 2.

(62) Cf. CIC, canon 672.

(63) Cf. CIC, canon 287, § 1.

(64) Cf. CIC, canon 288.

(65) Cf. CIC, canon 287, § 2.

(66) Cf. CIC, canon 283.

(67) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, 21: l.c., 701.

(68) Cf. CIC, canon 281.

(69) “Since clerics dedicate themselves to the ecclesiastical ministry, they deserve the remuneration that befits their condition, taking into account the nature of their office and the conditions of time and place. It is to be such that it provides for the necessities of their life and for the just remuneration of those whose services they need” (CIC, canon 281, § 1).

(70) “Suitable provision is likewise to be made for such social welfare as they may need in infirmity, sickness or old age” (CIC, canon 281, § 2).

(71) CIC, canon 281, § 3. The canonical term “remuneration” as distinct from civil law usage, denotes more than a stipend in the technical sense of this term. It connotes that income, due in justice, which permits a decent upkeep, congruent with the ministry.

(72) Ibid., canon 1274, § 1.

(73) Ibid., canon 1274, § 2.

(74) Ibid., canon 281, § 1.

(75) Cf. ibidem, canon 281, § 3.

(76) Cf. ibid., canon 281, § 3.

(77) Cf. ibid., canons 290-293.

(78) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 29.

(79) John Paul II, Allocution to permanent deacons (16 March 1985), n. 2: Insegnamenti, VIII, 1 (1985), p. 649; cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen Gentium, 29; CIC, canon 1008.

(80) Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity Directory on the applications of the principles and norms on ecumenism, (25 March 1993), 71: AAS 85 (1993), p. 1069; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communionis notio (28 May 1992), AAS 85 [1993], pp. 838f.

(81) Ibid., 70: l.c., p. 1068.

(82) Pontificale Romanum, n. 210: ed. cit., p. 125: “Accipe Evangelium Christi, cuius praeco effectus es; et vide, ut quod legeris credas, quod credideris doceas, quod docueris imiteris”.

(83) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 29. “Deacons are also to serve the People of God in the ministry of the word, in union with the bishop and his presbyterium”(CIC, canon 757); “By their preaching, deacons participate in the priestly ministry” (John Paul II, Allocution to Priests, Deacons, Religious and Seminarians in the Basilica of the Oratory of St. Joseph, Montreal, Canada (11 September 1984), n. 9: Insegnamenti, VII, 2 (1984), p. 436.

(84) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4.

(85) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 25; Congregation for Catholic Education, circular letter Come è a conoscenza; CIC, canon 760.

(86) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 25a; Dogmatic ConstitutionDei Verbum, 10a.

(87) Cf. CIC, canon 753.

(88) Cf. ibid., canon 760.

(89) Cf. ibid., canon 769.

(90) Cf Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, n. 61: Missale Romanum, Ordo lectionis Missae,Praenotanda, n. 8, 24 and 50: ed. typica altera, 1981.

(91) Cf. CIC, canon 764.

(92) Congregation for the Clergy, Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Tota Ecclesia (31 January 1994), nn. 45-47: l.c., 43-48.

(93) Cf. Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, nn. 42, 61; Congregation for the Clergy, Pontifical Council for the Laity, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Congregation for Bishops, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, Instruction concerning some questions on the collaboration of the lay faithful in the ministry of priests, Ecclesiae de Mysterio (15 August 1997), art. 3.

(94) Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 35; cf. 52; CIC, canon 767, § 1.

(95) Cf. CIC, canon 779; cf. Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis, (15 agosto 1997) n. 216.

(96) Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975): AAS 68 (1976), pp. 576.

(97) Cf. ibid., canons 804-805.

(98) Cf. ibid., canon 810.

(99) Cf. ibid., canon 761.

(100) Cf. ibid., canon 822.

(101) Cf. ibid., canon 823, § 1.

(102) Ibid., canon 831, §§ 1-2.

(103) Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad Gentes, 2a.

(104) Cf. CIC, canons 784, 786.

(105) Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad Gentes, 16; Pontificale Romanum, n. 207: ed. cit., p. 122 (Prex Ordinationis).

(106) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 29.

(107) Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10.

(108) Ibid., 7d.

(109) Cf. ibid., 22, 3; CIC, canons 841, 846.

(110) Cf. CIC, canon 840.

(111) Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1570; cf. Caeremoniale Episcoporum, nn. 23-26.

(112) “Deacons have a share in the celebration of divine worship in accordance with the provisions of law” (CIC, canon 835, § 3).

(113) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 26-27.

(114) Cf. CIC, canon 846, § 1.

(115) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitutions Sacrosanctum Concilium, 28.

(116) Cf. CIC, canon 929.

(117) Cf. Institutio generalis Missalis Romani, nn, 81b, 300, 302; Institutio generalis Liturgiae Horarum, n. 255; Pontificale Romanum, nn. 23, 24, 28, 29, editio typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1977, pp. 29 and 90; Rituale Romanum, n. 36, editio typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1985, p. 18; Ordo Coronandi Imaginem Beatae Mariae Virginis, n. 12, editio typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1981, p. 10; Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for celebrations in the absence of a priest, Christi Ecclesia, n 38, in “Notitiae” 24 (1988), pp. 388-389; Pontificale Romanum, nn. 188: (“Immediate post Precem Ordinationis, Ordinati stola diaconali et dalmatica induuntur quo eorum ministerium abhinc in liturgia peragendum manifestatur”) and 190; ed. cit., pp. 102, 103; Caeremoniale Episcoporum, n. 67, editio typica, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1995, pp. 28-29.

(118) CIC, canon 861, § 1.

(119) Cf. ibid., canon 530, n. 1o.

(120) Cf. ibid., canon 862.

(121) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, V, 22, 1: l.c., 701.

(122) Cf. Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, nn. 61; 127-141.

(123) Cf. CIC, canon 930, § 2.

(124) Cf. ibid., canon 907; Congregation for the Clergy etc., Instruction Ecclesiae de Mysterio (15 August 1997), art. 6.

(125) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, V, 22, 6: l.c., 702.

(126) Cf. CIC, canon 910, § 1.

(127) Cf. ibid., canon 911, § 2.

(128) Cf. ibid., canon 943 and also Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, V, 22, 3: l.c., 702.

(129) Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for celebrations in the absence of a priest,Christi Ecclesia, n. 38: l.c., 388-389; Congregation for the Clergy etc., Instruction Ecclesiae de Mysterio (15 August 1997), art. 7.

(130) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 73: AAS 74 (22 November, 1982), pp. 107-171.

(131) Cf. CIC, canon 1063.

(132) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution Lumen Gentium 29; CIC, canon 1108, §§ 1-2;Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonii, ed. typica altera 1991, 24.

(133) Cf. CIC, canon 1111, §§ 1-2.

(134) Cf. ibidem, canon 137, §§ 3-4.

(135) Exultate Deo of the Council of Florence (DS 1325); Doctrina de sacramento extremae unctionis of the Council of Trent, cap. 3 (DS 1697) and cap. 4 de extrema unctione (DS 1719).

(136) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem II, 10: l.c.,699; Congregation for the Clergy etc., Instruction, Ecclesiae de Mysterio (15 August 1997), art. 9.

(137) Cf. CIC, canon 276, § 2, n. 3o.

(138) Cf. Institutio Generalis Liturgiae Horarum, nn. 20; 255-256.

(139) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium 60; CIC, canon 1166 and canon 1168; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1667.

(140) Cf. CIC, canon 1169, § 3.

(141) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem V, 22, 5: l.c., 702; also Ordo Exsequiarum, 19; Congregation for the Clergy etc., Instruction Ecclesiae de Mysterio (15 August 1997), art. 12.

(142) Cf. Rituale Romanum – De Benedictionibus, n. 18 c.: ed. cit, p. 14.

(143) Cf. CIC, canon 129, § 1.

(144) St. Polycarp, Epist. ad Philippenses, 5, 2; F. X. Funk (ed.), I, p. 300; cited in Lumen Gentium, 29.

(145) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem l.c., 698.

(146) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 29.

(147) Pontificale Romanum – De ordinatione Episcopi, presbyterorum et diaconorum, n. 207, p. 122 (Prex Ordinationis).

(148) Hippolytus, Traditio Apostolica, 8, 24; S. Ch. 11 bis pp. 58-63, 98-99; Didascalia Apostolorum (Syriac), chapters III and IX; A. Vööbus (ed) The “Didascalia Apostolorum” in Syriac (original text in Syriac with an English translation), CSCO vol. I, n. 402 (tome 176), pp. 29-30; vol. II, n. 408 (tome 180), pp. 120-129; Didascalia Apostolorum, III (19), 1-7: F. X. Funk (ed.), Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, Paderbornae 1906, I, pp. 212-216; Second Vatican Council, Decree Christus Dominus, 13.

(149) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 40-45.

(150) Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, V, 22, 9; l.c., 702. Cf. John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 13 October 1993, n. 5: Insegnamenti XVI, 2 (1993), pp. 1000-1004.

(151) Cf. CIC, canon 494.

(152) Cf. CIC, canon 493.

(153) Cf. John Paul II, Address to the permanent deacons of the USA, Detroit (19 September 1987), n. 3, Insegnamenti, X, 3 (1987), p. 656.

(154) Cf. CIC, canon 157.

(155) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 27a.

(156) Cf. CIC, canon 519.

(157) Cf. CIC, canon 517, § 1.

(158) Cf. CIC, canon 517, § 2.

(159) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, V, 22, 10; l.c., 702.

(160) Cf. CIC, canon 1248 § 2; Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for celebrations in the absence of the priest, Christi Ecclesia, 29, l.c., 386.

(161) John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 13 October 1993, n. 4: InsegnamentiXVI, 2 (1993), p. 1002.

(162) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, V, 24; l.c., 702; CIC, canon 536.

(163) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, V, 24; l.c., 702; CIC, canon 512, § 1.

(164) Cf. CIC, canon 463, § 2.

(165) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 28; Decree Christus Dominus, 27; Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7; CIC, canon 495, § 1.

(166) CIC, canon 482.

(167) CIC, canon 1421, § 1.

(168) CIC, canon 1424.

(169) CIC, canon 1428, § 2.

(170) CIC, canon 1435.

(171) CIC, canon 483, § 1.

(172) CIC, canon 1420, § 4, canon 553 § 1.

(173) Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2.

(174) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 5.

(175) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 2b.

(176) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 4a.

(177) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 40.

(178) Second Vatican Council, Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, 12a.

(179) Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad Gentes, 16.

(180) John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 20 October 1993, n. 1: Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 1053.

(181) “All of Christ’s faithful, each according to his or her own condition, must make a wholehearted effort to lead a holy life and to promote the growth of the Church and its continual sanctification” (CIC, canon 210).

(182) These “being at the service of the ministers of Christ and of the Church must keep themselves from all vice and be pleasing to God and dedicate themselves to those works considered good in the sight of man” (cf. 1 Tit 3; 8-18 and 12-13): Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 41; Cf. also Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VI, 25: l.c., 702.

(183) “Clerics have a special obligation to seek holiness in their lives because they are consecrated to God by a new title through the reception of orders, and they are stewards of the mysteries of God in the service of His people” (CIC, canon 276, § 1).

(184) John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 20 October 1993, n. 2: Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 1054.

(185) John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 20 October 1993, n. 1. Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 1054.

(186) John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 20 October 1993, n. 1: Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 1054.

(187) John Paul II allocution of 6 March 1985, n. 2: Insegnamenti, VIII, 1 (1985), p. 649. Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 3, 21: l.c., 661, 688.

(188) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 16: l.c., 681.

(189) John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 20 October 1993, n. 2: Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 1055.

(190) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, V, 23: l.c., 702.

(191) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), nn 13-17: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 282-300.

(192) Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, II, 8: l.c., 700.

(193) John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 20 October 1993, n. 2: Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 1054.

(194) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, nn. 14 & 15: CIC, canon 276, § 2, n. 1o.

(195) Second Vatican Council, Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, 12.

(196) Pontificale Romanum – De Ordinatione Episcopi, presbyterorum et diaconorum, n. 210; ed. cit., p. 125.

(197) St Augustine, Sermones, 179, 1: PL 38, 966.

(198) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum 25; cf. Paul VI, Apostolic LetterSacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VI, 26, 1; l.c., 703; CIC, canon 276, § 2, n. 2o.

(199) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 25a.

(200) Cf. CIC, canon 833; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Professio fidei et iusiurandum fidelitatis in suscipiendo officio nomine Ecclesiae exercendo: AAS 81 (1989), pp. 104-106 and 1169.

(201) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 21.

(202) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7.

(203) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7.

(204) Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 59a.

(205) Cf. CIC, canon 276, § 2, n. 2; Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VI, 26, 2: l.c., 703.

(206) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VI, 26, 2: l.c., 703.

(207) Second Vatican Council, Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5b.

(208) Cf. canon 276, § 2, n. 5o; Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VI, 26, 3:l.c., 703.

(209) Cf. CIC, canon 276, § 2, n. 3o.

(210) Cf. CIC, canon 276, § 2, n. 4o.

(211) Cf. CIC, canon 276, § 2, n. 5o.

(212) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 23a.

(213) Second Vatican Council, Decree Christus Dominus, 11; CIC, canon 369.

(214) Cf. CIC, canon 276, § 2, n. 5o; Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VI, 26, 4: l.c., 703.

(215) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 36, quotingPropositio 5 of the Synodal fathers: l.c., 718.

(216) Cf. John Paul II, Allocution to the Roman Curia, 22 December 1987: AAS 80 (1988), pp. 1025-1034; Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, 27: AAS 80 (1988), p. 1718.

(217) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 29b.

(218) His rationibus in mysteriis Christi Eiusque missione fundatis, coelibatus …omnibus ad Ordinem sacrum promovendis lege impositum est”: Second Vatican Council, Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16; cf. CIC, canon 247, § 1; canon 277, § 1, canon 1037.

(219) Cf. CIC, canon 277, § 1; Second Vatican Council, Decree Optatam Totius, 10.

(220) John Paul II, Letter to Priests on Holy Thursday, 8 April 1979, 8: AAS 71 (1979), p. 408.

(221) Cf. canon 277, § 2.

(222) John Paul II, Allocution to the permanent deacons of the U.S.A. in Detroit (19 September 1987), n. 5: Insegnamenti, X, 3 (1987), p. 658.

(223) Cf. CIC, canon 1031, § 2.

(224) John Paul II, Allocution to the permanent deacons of the USA in Detroit, 19 September 1987, n. 5; Insegnamenti, X, 3 (1987), pp. 658-659.

(225) Cf. CIC, canon 277, § 1.

(226) Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, III, 16: l.c., 701: Apostolic LetterAd Pascendum, VI: l.c., 539; CIC, canon 1087. Provision is made for possible exceptions to this discipline in the circular letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, N. 26397, of 6 June 1997, n. 8.

(227) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 42.

(228) John Paul II, Catechesis at the General Audience of 20 October 1993, n. 4: Insegnamenti, XVI, 2 (1993), p. 1056.

(229) Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, II, 8-10; III, 14-15: l.c., 699-701; Apostolic Letter Ad Pascendum, VII: l.c., 540; CIC, canons 236, 1027, 1032 § 3.

(230) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 70: l.c., 780.

(231) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 70: l.c., 779.

(232) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 76; 79: l.c., 793; 796.

(233) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Christus Dominus, 15; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 79: l.c., 797.

(234) Congregation for the Clergy, Tota Ecclesia, Directory for the ministry and life of priests (31 January 1994), n. 71: p. 76.

(235) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 78: l.c., 795.

(236) Congregation for the Clergy, Directory for the ministry and life of priests Tota Ecclesia, 71: p. 76.

(237) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, 71: l.c., 783; Congregation for the Clergy, Directory for the ministry and life of priests, Tota Ecclesia, n. 74, p. 78.

(238) Cf. St Ignatius of Antioch: “Deacons, who are ministers of Christ Jesus, must be acceptable to all in every respect. They are not servants of food and drink. They are ministers of the Church of God” (Epist. ad Trallianos, 2, 3: F. X. Funk, o.c., I, pp. 244-245).

(239) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, 72: l.c., 783; Congregation for the Clergy, Directory for the ministry and life of priestly, Tota Ecclesia, 75, ed. cit., pp. 75-76.

(240) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, 72: l.c., 785.

(241) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, VI, 28: l.c., 703; CIC, canon 276, § 4.

(242) Cf. CIC, canon 279.

(243) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, 72: l.c., 783.

(244) Cf. CIC, canon 1029.

To get the complete document please visit: