Acolytes

First attested about 250 at Rome, these were listed after subdeacons among the clergy, and in Cyprian's Epistles in Africa as couriers for letters and gifts. Their Greek title (“attendants”) indicates an origin in the Greek- speaking Roman Church, probably earlier in the century by devolution from the diaconate. For some time observed only in major churches, they later acquired eucharistic functions, especially as candlebearers. They became increasingly prominent in Rome from the seventh century as the chief of the four “minor orders”* of Latin clergy (officially under Innocent III in 1207), with special papal duties. Today their liturgical role is often performed by laity. In the East they appear only briefly as a distinct order (cf. Justinian, Novels, 59), except in the Armenian Church.