VATICAN CITY– The Catholic Church increasingly relies on the ministry of permanent deacons, who must be experts in preaching the word of God and in outreach to the poor, said the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.
As with any ministry, the impact of a permanent deacon’s work depends on his own holiness, his love for Scriptures and his daily concern for the poor, said Cardinal Claudio Hummes in a letter marking the feast of St. Lawrence Aug. 10.
“From a good disciple a good missionary is born,” the cardinal said in his letter to the church’s 36,000 permanent deacons, about 16,500 of whom minister in the United States and Canada.
Preaching the Gospel, he said, “requires of ordained ministers a constant struggle to study it and carry it out, at the same time as one proclaims it to others.”
A deacon needs to base his preaching on his private meditation and prayerful reading of the Bible as well as on theological education in Scripture studies, he said.
Cardinal Hummes said that from the time of the earliest Christian communities deacons were called to spearhead the church’s ministry to the poor, and the poor still must be the deacon’s priority today.
“We must love the poor in a preferential way, as Jesus Christ; to be united with them, to work toward constructing a just, fraternal and peaceful society,” the cardinal said.
“Deacons must identify themselves in a very special way with charity. The poor are part of your daily ambience and the object of your untiring concern,” he said. “One could not understand a deacon who did not personally involve himself in charity and solidarity toward the poor, who again today are multiplying in number.”
In addition to offering deacons his thanks and blessing, Cardinal Hummes also sent his greetings to the wives and children of the many married deacons and thanked them for supporting the ministry of their husbands and fathers.
The text of the cardinal’s letter in English and in Spanish can be found on the congregation’s Web site www.clerus.org.