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Archdeacon

Archdeacon

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An archdeacon is a senior clergy position in Anglicanism
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

, Syrian Malabar Nasrani
Syrian Malabar Nasrani
The Syrian Malabar Nasrani people, also known as Saint Thomas Christians, "'Nasrani Mappila'" and Nasranis, are an ethnoreligious group from Kerala, India, adhering to the various churches of the Saint Thomas Christian tradition...

, Chaldean Catholic, and some other Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

s, above that of most clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 and below a bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

. In the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

 it was the most senior diocesan position below a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. An archdeacon is often responsible for administration within an archdeaconry, which is the principal subdivision of the diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

. The office has often been described metaphorically as that of oculus episcopi, the bishop's eye.

Catholic Church



In the Catholic Church, the post of archdeacon, generally a priest, was once one of great importance as a senior official of a diocese. It has fallen into disuse, and its duties are now part of the work of such officials as the auxiliary and/or coadjutor bishops, the vicar general
Vicar general
A vicar general is the principal deputy of the bishop of a diocese for the exercise of administrative authority. As vicar of the bishop, the vicar general exercises the bishop's ordinary executive power over the entire diocese and, thus, is the highest official in a diocese or other particular...

, the episcopal vicar, and the vicar forane/dean
Dean (religion)
A dean, in a church context, is a cleric holding certain positions of authority within a religious hierarchy. The title is used mainly in the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.-Anglican Communion:...

/archpriest
Archpriest
An archpriest is a priest with supervisory duties over a number of parishes. The term is most often used in Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholic Churches, although it may be used in the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church instead of dean or vicar forane.In the 16th and 17th centuries, during...

.

History


In 11th-century England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, a diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 was meant to be about 3,000 square miles (8,000 km²). This would have implied that every part was reachable within a single day's ride. In practice, some dioceses were much larger, taking up to five days in some cases to go end to end. Additionally, some had topographical considerations that greatly limited travel within them (meaning that much shorter distances could be covered in a single day than in other areas). The response to the demands of such distances and terrain, and the increasing demands of church business, was territorial subdivision. The primary unit of subdivision of a diocese was the archdeaconry. An ecclesiastical council held at Windsor
Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is an affluent suburban town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family....

 in 1070 ordered "that bishops should appoint archdeacons in their churches".

Function


An Archdeacon, generally an ordained priest, acted as the bishop's representative with the duty of supervising parish priests and churches, for example ensuring they had proper training in how to celebrate Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 and use the proper equipment.

The office of archdeacon no longer exists in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, although there are still members of the clergy who hold the title of archdeacon as an honorary title, such as Archdeacon Kevin Donnelly of the Diocese of Down and Connor in Ireland.

Anglican Communion


Archdeacons serve the church within a diocese by taking particular responsibility for buildings, including church buildings, the welfare of clergy and their families and the implementation of diocesan policy for the sake of the Gospel.

An archdeacon is usually styled The Venerable instead of the usual clerical style of The Reverend
The Reverend
The Reverend is a style most often used as a prefix to the names of Christian clergy and ministers. There are sometimes differences in the way the style is used in different countries and church traditions. The Reverend is correctly called a style but is often and in some dictionaries called a...

. In the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 the position of an archdeacon can only be held by a priest who has been ordained for at least six years. In some other Anglican churches archdeacons can be deacons instead of priests.

In some parts of the Anglican Communion where women cannot be consecrated as bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s, the position of archdeacon is effectively the most senior office a female cleric can hold: this being the current situation, for example, in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. Very rarely, "lay archdeacons" have been appointed, most notably in the case of the former Anglican Communion Observer to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagoloa-Leota, who retained her title having served as Archdeacon of Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

.

Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches


In the Eastern Christian churches (Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 and Eastern Catholic Churches), an archdeacon is the senior deacon within a diocese and has responsibility for serving at hierarchical services (those at which the bishop is present and presiding). He has responsibility for ensuring the smooth running of the service by directing the clergy and servers as appropriate. As such, he usually travels with the ruling bishop to various parts of the diocese, and will sometimes act as his secretary and cell attendant, ensuring that he is able to balance his monastic life with his hierarchical duties. The archdeacon wears the double orarion
Orarion
The Orarion is the distinguishing vestment of the deacon and subdeacon in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches. It is a narrow stole, usually four to five inches wide and of various lengths, made of brocade, often decorated with crosses embroidered or appliquéd along its...

, which is twice the length of the usual orarion, and wraps under the right arm as well as hanging from the left shoulder. An archdeacon may come from either the monastic or married clergy.

A protodeacon also wears the double orarion, although he is distinguished from the archdeacon in that he is the senior deacon at a cathedral or other principal church within a diocese and serves as the principal deacon when a number of deacons serve together.

Syrian Malabar Nasrani


An archdeacon was the “prince and head of the Christians of Saint Thomas” and had such titles as “Archdeacon and Gate of All India, Governor of India.” Portuguese colonists stopped this practice among the Catholic Syrian Christians
Syrian Christians
Syrian Christians may refer to*the Christian minority in Syria*in older publications, the Syriac Christians*in a South Asian context, the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala....

 and Pulikkottil Mar Dionysias stopped this amongst the Orthodox Syrian Christians in 1816.

According to the traditional structure, the Indian diocese of the Church of the East was governed by a metropolitan sent by the Catholicos Patriarch, from Seleucia-Ctesiphon. At the same time, on the local level, in India, church affairs were governed by the Malabar Assembly. There was also an indigenous head of the Church of Malabar, which, according to historians, means the “head of the caste”, that is the head of the St Thomas Christians but also the “Archdeacon of All India”. Apparently, in his person an indigenous function, characteristic of the St Thomas Christian community, was combined with an existing function of the Church of the East. Patriach Timothy (780–826) of Persia called him the head of the faithful in India.

History


According to the canons of the Eastern churches, an archdeacon is the highest priestly rank: he is the head of all the clerics belonging to a bishopric; he is responsible for the whole worship of the cathedral church and represents the will of the bishop in his absence. One clearly understands how the appointment of an indigenous Archdeacon of All India served the needs of the ecclesiastical organisation of the Church of the East. While the Catholicos Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon reserved for himself the right to send his own prelates originating from Iraq to the Indian diocese, the continuous governance of his Indian flock was secured by the indigenous Archdeacon serving as the head of all the priests in Malabar and representing the bishop’s will.

However, from the local point of view, the rank of an archdeacon was more important than this; not only was he the most important priest of the community, but he also fulfilled the role of an Ethnarch. He was the “prince and head of the Christians of Saint Thomas” and had such titles as “Archdeacon and Gate of All India, Governor of India.” The origin and the meaning of the term “gate” is mysterious. One might suppose that it is a Christological title: “I am the Gate of the sheep” (Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

10:7).

While originally an archdeacon in the Church of the East was elected by the bishop according to merit, the office of the Archdeacon of India seems to have been hereditary. It was the privilege of the Pakalomattam family, at least from the sixteenth century onwards. Indeed, we know about a number of Pakalomattam Archdeacons, beginning with 1502, when Metropolitan John of India appointed George Pakalomattam. The name of the family varies, and the family seems to be identical with the Parambil family, translated into Portuguese as De Campo.

An archdeacon had all the attributes of a secular leader and was normally escorted by a number, sometimes several thousands, of soldiers. It is important to note that while there could be several bishops appointed for the Malabar Diocese, there was always only one archdeacon, a custom contrary to the canons of the Church of the East. This situation is best explained by the fact that from the point of view of the East Syrian Church structure the archdeacon was an ecclesiastical function, but from that of the St Thomas Christian community it was also a socio-political, princely function, representing the unity of the Christian nation, or caste(s), of Hendo (India).

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