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Dimissorial letters (in Latin, litterae dimissoriae) are testimonial letters given by a bishop or by a competent religious superior to his subjects in order that they may be ordained by another bishop. Such letters testify that the subject has all the qualities demanded by canon law for the reception of the order in question, and request the bishop to whom they are addressed to ordain him.
The plural term is often used of a single document because of the influence of the Latin term, since in that language litterae, which literally means letters (of the alphabet) can also mean a letter (in the sense of message).
Before the entry into force of the Code of Canon Law in 1917, the term had a wider sense (see the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia of that period). The conditions for issuing dimissorial letters were also different and were more complicated.
For ordination to the diaconate as a member of the diocesan clergy (i.e. at the service of a diocese), authority to grant dimissorial letters is vested in the bishop of the diocese in to which the candidate will be incardinated. For ordination to the priesthood, this authority is vested in the bishop of the diocese in which the person to be ordained is incardinated as a deacon.An Apostolic Administrator and, provided they have the consent of certain groups, certain other ecclesiastics provisionally in charge of a diocese can also issue such letters.
For ordination to diaconate or priesthood of a member of a religious institute, the major superior of the institute gives the letters, if the person to be ordained is a permanently professed member of the institute; all other members must obtain their dimissorial letters in the same way as the secular clergy do..In a mixed congregation of men (both priests and brothers) only a priest can be elected to be the major superior (superior general) and only a cleric that is superior general can issue a dimissorial letter.
The person who has authority to issue dimissorial letters is obliged to make sure that the testimonials and documents required by canon law have first been obtained.
These include certificates of completion of the prescribed course of studies and, for someone to be ordained a deacon, of baptism, confirmation, and reception of the ministries of reader (liturgy) and acolyte. If the candidate for the diaconate is married, additional certificates are required about his wedding and the consent of his wife to his ordination. For ordination to the priesthood a certificate of ordination to the diaconate is required.
In addition, a testimonial is required from the rector of the candidate's seminary or house of formation concerning his sound doctrine, genuine piety, good moral behaviour, fitness for the exercise of ministry and his physical and psychological health.
A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.
In certain Christian churches, holy orders are ordained ministries such as bishop, priest, or deacon, and the sacrament or rite by which candidates are ordained to those orders. Churches recognizing these orders include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Assyrian, Old Catholic, Independent Catholic and some Lutheran churches. Except for Lutherans and some Anglicans, these churches regard ordination as a sacrament. The Anglo-Catholic tradition within Anglicanism identifies more with the Roman Catholic position about the sacramental nature of ordination.
Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman, and churchman. Less common terms are churchwoman and clergyperson, while cleric and clerk in holy orders both have a long history but are rarely used.
A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state.
Subdeacon is a title used in various branches of Christianity.
Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorized to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination vary by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is undergoing the process of ordination is sometimes called an ordinand. The liturgy used at an ordination is sometimes referred to as an ordination.
Clerical celibacy is the requirement in certain religions that some or all members of the clergy be unmarried. These religions consider that, outside of marriage, deliberately indulging in lustful thoughts and behavior is sinful; clerical celibacy also requires abstention from these.
Minor orders are ranks of church ministry lower than major orders.
Clerical marriage is a term used to described the practice of allowing Christian clergy to marry. This practice is distinct from allowing married persons to become clergy. Clerical marriage is admitted among Protestants, including both Anglicans and Lutherans.
An archdeacon is a senior clergy position in the Syriac Orthodox Church, Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, St Thomas Christians, Eastern Orthodox churches and some other Christian denominations, above that of most clergy and below a bishop. In the High Middle Ages it was the most senior diocesan position below a bishop in the Catholic Church. An archdeacon is often responsible for administration within an archdeaconry, which is the principal subdivision of the diocese. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church has defined an archdeacon as "A cleric having a defined administrative authority delegated to him by the bishop in the whole or part of the diocese." The office has often been described metaphorically as that of oculus episcopi, the "bishop's eye".
In some Christian churches, a reader is responsible for reading aloud excerpts of scripture at a liturgy. In early Christian times the reader was of particular value due to the rarity of literacy.
The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops, priests, and deacons. In the ecclesiological sense of the term, "hierarchy" strictly means the "holy ordering" of the Church, the Body of Christ, so to respect the diversity of gifts and ministries necessary for genuine unity.
A territorial abbey is a particular church of the Catholic Church comprising defined territory which is not part of a diocese but surrounds an abbey or monastery whose abbot or superior functions as ordinary for all Catholics and parishes in the territory. Such an abbot is called a territorial abbot or abbot nullius diœceseos. A territorial abbot thus differs from an ordinary abbot, who exercises authority only within the monastery's walls or to monks or canons who have taken their vows there. A territorial abbot is equivalent to a diocesan bishop in Catholic canon law.
Incardination is the formal term in the Catholic Church for a clergyman being under a bishop or other ecclesiastical superior. It is also sometimes used to refer to laity who may transfer to another part of the church, from say the Western Latin Church to an Eastern Catholic Church or from a territorial diocese to one of the three personal ordinariates for former Anglicans.
The sacrament of holy orders in the Catholic Church includes three orders: bishop, priest, and deacon. In the phrase "holy orders", the word "holy" simply means "set apart for some purpose." The word "order" designates an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordination means legal incorporation into an order. In context, therefore, a group with a hierarchical structure that is set apart for ministry in the Church.
The Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych (SSJK) is a society of traditionalist priests and seminarians originating from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church which is led by the excommunicated priest Basil Kovpak. It is based in Riasne, Lviv, Western Ukraine. In Lviv, the society maintains a seminary, at which currently thirty students reside, and takes care of a small convent of Basilian sisters. The SSJK is affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X and Holy Orders are conferred by the latter society's bishops in the Roman Rite. The SSJK clergymen, however, exclusively follow a version of Slavonic Byzantine Rite in the Ruthenian recension.
The priesthood is one of the three holy orders of the Catholic Church, comprising the ordained priests or presbyters. The other two orders are the bishops and the deacons. Only men are allowed to receive holy orders, and the church does not allow any transgender people to do so. Church doctrine also sometimes refers to all baptised Catholics as the "common priesthood".
Clerical celibacy is the discipline within the Catholic Church by which only unmarried men are ordained to the episcopate, to the priesthood in some autonomous particular Churches, and similarly to the diaconate. In other autonomous particular churches, the discipline applies only to the episcopate.
In the liturgical traditions the Catholic Church the term ordination refers to the means by which a person is included in one of the orders of bishops, priests or deacons. The teaching of the Catholic Church on ordination, as expressed in the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, is that only a Catholic male validly receives ordination, and "that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." As with priests and bishops, the church ordains only men as deacons. The church cannot ordain anyone who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, and may sanction or require therapy for priests who are transsexual, regarding these to be an indicator of mental instability.
The Study Commission on the Women's Diaconate was established in August 2016 by Pope Francis to review the theology and history of the office of deacon in the Roman Catholic Church and the question of whether women might be allowed to become deacons.