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

Deacons assist priests in their pastoral and administrative duties, but (in 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's main tasks include censing the icons and people, calling the people to prayer and praying the "litanies" or series of petitions.

Deacons are permitted to marry. In the Orthodox church, a deacon may not marry after being ordained, but may be ordained if he is already married. He would of course remain married.

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.

Deacons are also appointed or elected in many Protestant denominations, though this is less commonly seen as a step towards the Ministry. The role of deacon in protestant denominations often varies a great deal from denomination to denomination; often, there will be more emphasis on administrative duties than on pastoral or liturgical duties.

For the role of Deacon in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS/Mormon) see Priesthood3

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