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orders, holy

orders, holy [Lat. ordo,=rank], in Christianity, the traditional degrees of the clergy, conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Order. The episcopacy, priesthood or presbyterate, and diaconate were in general use in Christian churches in the 2d cent. In the Roman Catholic tradition a development, beginning in the 3d cent. and culminating in the Middle Ages, resulted in a division of major holy orders (episcopacy, priesthood, diaconate, and subdiaconate) and minor orders (acolyte, exorcist, lector, and doorkeeper), with a special rite of introduction into the clerical state called tonsure. From the late Middle Ages, the minor orders and the major orders of subdiaconate and diaconate were largely ceremonial, considered steps to priestly ordination, and were taken by those who intended to be ordained to the priesthood.

A considerable revision of that schema was undertaken under the direction of Pope Paul VI. In 1967 the diaconate was restored as an independent order with its own ministry (e.g., preaching, baptizing, distributing Holy Communion), and married men began to be received into this order. In 1972 tonsure, minor orders, and subdiaconate were abolished, and a rite of admission to candidacy to the diaconate and priesthood took their place. Thus the Roman Catholic Church, like the Church of England, has three orders—bishop, priest, deacon—and, like the Orthodox Eastern churches, it has permanent deacons who serve in local parishes and assist the priests. For various Protestant clerical systems, see ministry.

Traditionally in the West, the episcopacy has the plenitude of priestly power; bishops—archbishops, patriarchs, and the pope are bishops—alone have the power to ordain to major orders. In the Roman Catholic Church the ordination to the priesthood is considered a sacrament, conferring on the recipient the power to celebrate the eucharist and marking the priest with an indelible character. Like the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, ordination is never repeated. The rite entails the laying on of hands and the recitation of the prayer beginning “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Priests are required to take an oath of obedience to the bishop or superior and a promise of celibacy (already taken at diaconate by those intending to be priests); they are also bound to recite the divine office, the traditional daily prayer of the priest. The diaconate was instituted in the primitive church for the distribution of alms and other material duties (Acts 6.1–6.)

The main administrative life of the Roman Catholic Church is conducted by bishops and their priests called secular clergy. Priests who are members of religious orders are called regular clergy (see monasticism). Monsignor and cardinal are honorary titles and are not identified with any particular office; they are not considered orders.

See also apostolic succession.


See D. N. Power, Ministers of Christ (1969); P. Bradshaw, The Anglican Ordinal (1971); C. R. Meyer, Man of God (1974).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the third rank of ministers in the Orthodox Church.

In the period of early Christianity deacons were persons chosen to direct the economic affairs of the community. Later, with the appearance of bishops, they became intermediaries between the latter and the flock, as well as assistants in the administration of the eparchy. In the second half of the 20th century, they represent the lowest rank of the ecclesiastical hierarchy (after the higher clergy and priests). Within the group itself there are protodeacons (senior deacons), hierodeacons (deacons who are monks), and arch-deacons (in the service of bishops or higher clergy).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. (in the Roman Catholic and other episcopal churches) an ordained minister ranking immediately below a priest
2. (in Protestant churches) a lay official appointed or elected to assist the minister, esp in secular affairs
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Direct English Access and CONtrol. English-like query system. Sammet 1969, p.668.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers, and as in the priesthood, must be men in today's Church.
Well, to begin with, historical documents--canons, liturgical texts and other writings--speak freely and regularly about women deacons, not priests, "ordained" or "blessed." Facts are facts.
Examining Augustine's view of deacons as assistants to bishops in the early church, Koet discusses the origin of the word diakonos: classical and biblical backgrounds; the diaconate in the ancient church: the origin of the term deacon; Augustine, his ecclesiastical career, and his view on ministries; the deacon as messenger; the deacon as evangelist and preacher; and Augustine and the holy deacons of the early church.
figure By PATRICK ALUSHULA Managerial gaffes in key business strategies have proved too costly for once-thriving fashion retailer Deacons East Africa, exposing shareholders and creditors to a potential loss of Sh1.9 billion.This has forced the founder chief executive, with a stake in the same company, to jump out of the heeling ship, a little too late to put on a life jacket even as lenders deny the firm new lines of credit.
The problem, he said, was that they could not figure out how to ordain women as deacons and not as priests.
South Africa's fashion brand, Mr Price, is set to take full ownership of all its local after buying out Deacons franchise operations in East Africa that started in 2007.
Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, will ordain 19 permanent deacons at 10 a.m.
When the Association of Anglican Deacons in Canada (AADC) held its triennial meeting July 27-30 in Victoria, B.C., the role of deacons as ministers to those outside the church was front and centre, according to incoming AADC board president Canon Nancy Ford.
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) reported that 46% of the total global number of deacons was found in the U.S.
It's the latest move in a line of progressive policies and statements for Pope Francis: The Vatican announced Tuesday the pope has set up a commission that will study the possibility of allowing women to become deacons in the Catholic Church.
SIXTEEN new deacons and priests are to be ordained at Coventry Cathedral this weekend.
Little did anyone expect that a Chicago Tribune story about Roman Catholic women deacons (Register-Guard, Aug.