February 3, 2010

Russian Church to Appoint 400 Priests as Military Chaplains

Moscow, February 3, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church will appoint about 400 priests for service as armed forces chaplains in fulfillment of a directive of the chief of the General Staff late last year that instituted chaplaincy positions in the military, the website of Patriarch Kirill cited the Primate as saying.

There is a plan to set up centers to provide clergy with three-month training for chaplaincy service, the Patriarch told a Bishops' Meeting in Moscow.

The clergy to be sent to the military will include both clerics with experience of service in the armed forces and young priests who are fit to serve in field conditions.

Under a directive by the chief of the General Staff effective from December 1, 2009, the commander of an armed forces unit is to have a civilian aide who is a cleric and ministers to religious servicemen.

Russian military units abroad have become the first to acquire chaplains - 13 priests went to serve there in December.

The command of the North Caucasus Military District had a military clergy department set up in October 2009. Patriarch Kirill asked the bishops of the Southern Federal District to name candidates to fill 30 chaplaincy positions in the district's military units.

The Armed Forces Sociological Center says more than 70% of Russia's military personnel consider themselves religious. About 80% of them identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, about 13% as Muslims, about 3% as Buddhists, and 4% as followers of other faiths. There are 530 churches on the premises of military units.