The Military Chaplaincy of Today

The current Military Chaplaincy system was established within the Czech military by order of the Minister of Defence on 3 June 1998. Its birth was preceded by almost two years of talks with Christian churches in the Czech Republic. The talks ended in an agreement between the Ministry of Defence, the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Czech Bishops Conference on rules, which pertain to the calling of churchmen to serve in the military.

The Czech Military Chaplaincy serves in full unity with all Christian churches, which are in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic. This unity is confirmed in an agreement between the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Czech Bishops Conference. The ecumenical spirit of this unity is unique, both in relation to the corps of military chaplains itself, and in its spiritual care for soldiers. This unity is quite different from other militaries, and from that which existed in the former Czechoslovak Military Chaplaincy, which was abolished following the coup d'état of 1948.

The Military Chaplaincy of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic works in favour of all service members and it is explicitly of an ecumenical nature. Military chaplains are always ready to provide help and cooperation, predominantly in the sphere of life problems, personnel or relationship crises and similar issues to any person of the defence sector, that is to both professional soldiers and civilians.

The military chaplain reports directly to the commander of his parent unit in which he serves. He is an adviser to the commander regarding the chaplaincy, ethical or moral values, and religious issues. He supports the commander in his responsibility to protect the human dimension of life of any soldier and civilian. Through his relations with commanders and soldiers, he is an advocate for human rights, particularly as they are related to religious freedom and all situations related to military service duties.

The chaplain conducts religious services for all Christian denominations associated with the Czech Bishops Conference and the Ecumenical Council of Churches. Though the chaplain's first priority is his service within the defence section, he is also dedicated to cooperation with representatives of churches and religious societies. He cooperates with chaplains of other nations' armed forces, military surgeons, psychologists and social workers, within a framework of coordinated activities.

The first chaplain in the history of the Czech military was Tomáš Holub, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. After three months of training he was deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1996 to serve as chaplain to the 6th Mechanised Battalion in IFOR mission. In 1998, he was appointed as Chief Chaplain of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic. At the end of September 2006, he handed over his post to Jan Kozler, a priest of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church.

Authors: Major Pavel Kočvara, spokesman of the Military Academy at Vyskov, and Mira Třebická, Press and Information Service MoD

Posted: October 23, 2006