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The diaconate is one of three ordained offices in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches. The other two offices are those of priest and of bishop.

The word deacon (and deaconess) is derived from the Greek word diakonos (διακονος), which is often translated servant or more specifically waiter. The office of deacon originated in the selection of seven men (among them Saint Stephen) to assist with the pastoral and administrative needs of the early church. (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 6)

In Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches, deacons assist priests in their pastoral and administrative duties, but (in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) report directly to the bishop. They have a distinctive role in the liturgy, their main tasks being to read the Gospel and assist in the administration of the Eucharist. In Orthodox churches, the deacon also censes the icons and people, calls the people to prayer, prays the "litanies" or series of petitions, and has a role in the dialog of the Anaphora.

In the Roman Catholic church, the vestment most particularly associated with the deacon is the Dalmatic. In the Orthodox Church, a deacon wears the sticharion, the orarion, and the epimanikia.

In Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, deacons often work directly in ministry to the marginalized inside and outside the church: the poor, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned.

In the Anglican church, deacons are permitted to marry, as are priests. In the Catholic and Orthodox churches, a deacon may not marry after being ordained, but a married man may be ordained a deacon. See clerical celibacy.

In the modern Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, ordination to the diaconate has often been regarded as a transitional stage before ordination to the priesthood. However, in recent years greater recognition has been given to the distinctive role of permanent deacons who do not become priests.

It is also an office in many Protestant denominations.

In United Methodism, it is one of two ordained clergy offices, the other being that of Elder. Deacons are ordained to Word and Service and assist Elders (who are ordained to Word, Sacrament, and Order) in equipping the saints for ministry.

Deacons are also appointed or elected in other Protestant denominations, though this is less commonly seen as a step towards the Ministry. The role of deacon in these denominations varies a great deal from denomination to denomination; often, there will be more emphasis on administrative duties than on pastoral or liturgical duties. In some denominations, deacons duties are only financial management and practical aid and relief. Elders handle pastoral and other administrative duties.

For the role of Deacon in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon), see Priesthood (Mormonism).

Deacon is also the designation of an American sounding rocket. The Deacon was launched 90times from 1947 to 1957 from Wallops Island. The Deacon has a maximum flight height of 20 kilometers and a pay load ability of 17 kilograms. The takeoff thrust of the Deacon amounts to 27 kN, the takeoff weight 93 kg, the diameter 0.16 m and the length 3.28 m.

Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:37:53
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