Minor orders

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Minor Orders in the Orthodox Church refers to those set aside for service other than the major orders. These commonly include subdeacons and readers, and in some traditions, cantors. The minor orders are conferred through the form of ordination known as cheirothesia.

In the Eastern church, there were other orders which have fallen into disuse: doorkeepers, exorcists, and acolytes.

In the West after 1054 (i.e., in the Roman Catholic Church), the subdeacon was considered among the major orders after the 13th century, though has now fallen into disuse, as have the orders of doorkeeper and exorcist (since 1972). Only reader and acolyte remain in use. Altar boys and girls in Roman Catholicism have the name of acolyte, but it is an informal role with no cheirothesia required. Any layman approved by his priest can be used as reader or distribute the Eucharist.

Western Rite Orthodox practice may vary.


  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., p. 1090