National Directory

Preface I. The Diaconate in the Second Vatican Council and the Post-Conciliar Period: A Historical Overview 1 1. ONE OF THE GREAT LEGACIES of the Second Vatican Council was its renewal and encouragement of the Order of Deacons throughout the entire Catholic Church.The Council’s decisions on the diaconate flowed out of the bishops’ discussions on the sacramental nature of the Church. As noted in the final report of the 1985 extraordinary synod of bishops, the Fathers of the Council present in concise, descriptive, and comple mentary images a comprehensive magisterial teaching: The Church is “mystery,” “sacrament,” “communion,” and “mission.” 2 The Church is “like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race.” 3 “In her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the HolyTrinity.” 4 This “missionary mandate” 5 is the Church’s sacred right and obligation. 6 Through the proclamation of God’s Word, in sac ramental celebrations, and in response to the needs of others, especially in her ministry of charity, “the Church is Christ’s instrument . . . ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ by which Christ is ‘at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men.’” 7 2. Central to the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the Church is the service or ministry bestowed by Christ upon the Apostles and their successors. The office of bishop “is a true service, which in sacred literature is significantly called ‘ diakonia ’ or ministry.” 8 The Council Fathers teach that the bishops, with priests and deacons as helpers,

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