The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said Monday that priests should be assigned staff positions within the ranks of the Interior Ministry’s troops following the success of a similar move in the military.
The Russian church leader highlighted the importance of religious work among the Interior Ministry’s personnel who “face death carrying out anti-terrorism operations.”
The number of chaplains in the Russian Armed Forces has almost tripled in the past two years as part of the plan to restore full-scale military priesthood in Russia, which existed from the 18th century to the start of the Soviet era. The plan was announced in 2009 by Russia’s then-president, Dmitry Medvedev.
Two-thirds of the country’s servicemen consider themselves religious, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Some 83 percent are Orthodox Christians, about 8 percent are Muslims, and 9 percent follow other faiths.
However military priests can improve the spiritual climate in the Russian army , only if they are demanding to themselves and maintain high moral lifestyle, said the head of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for the interaction with the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies Archpriest Sergei Privalov.
“Being a confessor , especially a military confessor is not an easy task < … > your spiritual potential and purity of personal life, your self-discipline effects the success of pastoral participation in military team, ” said Privalov.
According to him, one of the important tasks of a priest is to struggle against negative phenomena in military collectives. “The role of the priest, who is expected to work wonders when all the negative should disappear with his appearance, should be dominant,” Privalov said, adding that a priest may need the help of military psychologists, religious team and volunteers.
He also called to do everything as soon as possible for “every believer to have the opportunity of prayer Deisis and participation in the sacraments of the Church.” According to Privalov, in this case we are talking about building churches and chapels, equipment of prayer rooms, opportunities for personnel to participate in religious services.
To date there are about 100 priests in the Armed Forces.