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In the Roman Catholic Church, a transitional deacon is a celibate man who has been ordained a deacon and who intends to become a priest. Transitional deacons are usually ordained to the diaconate after they complete their third year at the theological seminary.
For several centuries, all Roman Catholic deacons were in this transitional stage between layman and priest. The role of permanent deacon, usually a married man who is unable to remarry after ordination if his wife predeceases him, was revived after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
In the Old Catholic churches, whose formal existence stems from the First Vatican Council in 1870, a transitional deacon may generally be celibate, engaged in a relationship or married. In many groups within the Old Catholic church, only men could be ordained deacon. Women would not be a deacon but in fact a female deaconess, which is still laity,and not related to the office of priesthood. Liturgically, the role of deacon is the same as the Roman Church, with some differences possibly being found in each group.
In the Anglican tradition (such as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America), a transitional deacon is similar except that, in keeping with the differences in the requirements for priesthood from the Roman Catholic church, they may be a man or woman and may be married. Another historical difference is that an Anglican transitional deacon had to first be a graduate of an approved seminary, theological college or distance education program. Today, however, many dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America are changing that and allowing ordination of transitional deacons during the final year of seminary. The Episcopal Church also ordains individuals as vocational deacons (see Anglican ministry).