Espreso. Global

Who are chaplains of Ukrainian army?

25 October, 2023 Wednesday

The slogan of a military chaplain is to be close to the soldiers. How military chaplains appeared in Ukraine; what their service looks like; whether a military chaplain can be a combatant and whether Ukrainian women can serve in military chaplaincy - we explain in our article


What's in the text:

  • Who is a military chaplain and at what legislative level does military chaplaincy exist in Ukraine
  • Who and how appoints a chaplain to the service
  • What are the functions of a military chaplain
  • How many full-time chaplains serve in Ukraine and from which churches/religious organizations
  • Whether women can be military chaplains

Who is a military chaplain and at what  legislative level does military chaplaincy exist in Ukraine?

Military chaplaincy is a profession that already officially exists in Ukraine. A military chaplain is a military officer who is trained to serve with the military at the front. The Law on Military Chaplaincy Service came into force at the end of 2021. This means that clergymen, representatives of Ukrainian churches and religious organizations, are appointed to officer positions in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard, and the State Border Guard Service. They are not involved in dress and ceremonial marches, but must master the military culture. Full-time positions of military priests appeared in 2016, first in the National Guard and then in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Prior to that, clergymen traveled to the front as volunteers to provide pastoral care.

Photo: gettyimages

Who and how appoints a chaplain to the service

A chaplain can be a citizen of Ukraine with a theological education, a clergyman of one of the denominations or religions registered in Ukraine. One can become a military chaplain only on a voluntary basis. However, this requires permission from the Church. If a priest volunteers to be a chaplain, the Church must first recognize his vocation to serve in the military (conditionally fit and ready). The Church also has to take care of the spiritual and priestly formation of the person, bless him to perform chaplaincy service in the army and ensure that the candidate meets the requirements of the Law of Ukraine on military service. Next, the chaplain must obtain a mandate for the right to carry out chaplaincy activities, which is issued by the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience. After checking all the candidate's documents, they issue and send the mandate to the church. The priest receives such permission from the governing center of a religious organization or the Church. Accordingly, the military chaplain is then assigned to a particular military unit.

Photo: gettyimages

What are the functions of a military chaplain? 

A chaplain is a person who must ensure a certain internal, spiritual, and moral state of military personnel, in particular, must meet spiritual and religious needs. Among other things, a chaplain should be a good interlocutor who listens and directs vital energy in the right direction. Of course, in combat conditions, people rethink their life priorities, sometimes come to know God, and therefore want to be baptized or even married if they want to accept Christianity. However, a military officer must support the spirit of the soldiers regardless of their religion or worldview.

There is an exception to the military service of a chaplain: a chaplain cannot receive or use weapons, because he is not a combatant, that is, he has no right to participate directly in hostilities. The chaplain is assigned a military officer who can protect him in case of danger.

Photo: gettyimages

How many full-time chaplains serve in Ukraine and from which churches/religious organizations

Today, more than 160 military chaplains are on the staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. More than 700 positions remain open. Several hundred more clergy and pastors work with the military on a voluntary basis. The largest quota of chaplains belongs to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The UGCC ranks second. Others include Roman Catholics, Protestants, etc. This demand for chaplains is also evidenced by a survey of military personnel, according to military chaplains. However, each chaplain of a particular denomination is appointed in accordance with the request of the military unit. By the way, in Ukraine there are also separate military units that include Muslims. Accordingly, imam chaplains were appointed to them.

Photo: gettyimages

Can women be military chaplains?

A woman can be a military chaplain, but a religious organization or church institution must provide her with a mandate to do so. Therefore, three women have already been appointed to full-time positions of military chaplains, one of them as an officer of the military chaplaincy service in the operational command South. For example, Larysa Kohut is a member of the Association of Professional Chaplains of Ukraine. That is, not only a priest or pastor can be a chaplain in the military. 

Military chaplain Larysa Kohut, photo: gettyimage

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