|Pope Francis greeting Deacon Mark Woods and his wife Jane|
In his address to the deacons, Francis recalled the new commandment that Jesus entrusted to the apostles during the Last Supper – "just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another". "By loving each other, the disciples continue the mission for which the Son of God came into the world", the Pope explained. "And they understand, helped by the Holy Spirit, that this commandment implies service to their brothers and sisters."
However, in order to take care of people and their needs in a practical sense, the apostles chose a number of "deacons", or servants. "Deacons express in a particular way Jesus' commandment: imitate God in the service of others, imitate God Who is love and is driven even to serve us. God's way of acting, with patience, benevolence, compassion and willingness to better us, must also distinguish all the ministries: bishops as successors of the apostles, priests, their collaborators, and, in the concrete work of 'serving tables', deacons. Deacons are the face of the Church in everyday life, of a community that lives and journeys in the midst of the people, and where the great are not those who command, but rather those who serve."
Deacon Mark said he was inspired by both the pontiff's commitment to the diaconate and the attention he paid to others. “I was most impressed how closely the pope listened to both the addresses from the Bishop Protector, Rt Rev Gebhard Fürst and the President, Deacon Klaus Kiessling of the International Diaconate Centre. He also blessed my wife, Jane, and I personally and a Bible I had with me from a friend.”
“Pope Francis showed his commitment to the diaconate around the world in meeting with us and in encouraging us to be servants acting in love,” he added.
The International Diaconate Centre was formed in 1965 in the wake of Vatican II to encourage and support the development of the diaconate worldwide. Since that time there are now deacons in more than 50 per cent of dioceses in the world. In England and Wales the last diocese without deacons, Salford, has announced it is hoping to begin deacon formation in the coming years. The Diocese of Arundel & Brighton has had deacons for over 40 years.
You can see additional photos of the audience on the Vatican photo website (http://www.photovat.com/ for 4 June).