Military chaplain

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Pastor during the ISAF mission
British minister in the Royal Navy during World War II

Military chaplains are clergymen entrusted with the pastoral care of soldiers . The term military chaplain includes all persons who are active in the pastoral care of soldiers.

Depending on the custom, they were also referred to as field preachers ( Protestant ) or field chaplains ( Catholic ), Austrian (outdated) also field curate . These were, among others, terms for the Christian clergy assigned to a military association for military chaplaincy .

In today's Catholic and Protestant military chaplaincy, there are military chaplains - mostly military pastors and their superiors such as B. Military Ordinary or Military Dean or Military Bishop - responsible for the religious care of soldiers.

These tasks are performed by field rabbis for Jewish soldiers , and by military imams for Muslim soldiers .

Position of the military chaplains in individual states


Field preachers were subordinate to the field provost of their denomination. In the time of National Socialism they were called field chaplains or Wehrmacht pastors. Starting with the Reich Concordat of 1933, they were subordinate to their Roman Catholic or Protestant “ military bishop ”. During the Second World War , the clergymen serving on the basis of voluntary reporting or military service were called war pastors aK (for the duration of the war).

In the Bundeswehr , priests, pastoral officers and pastors act as military chaplains . You are responsible for the church care of soldiers and their families in full or part time. This group of people belongs to the jurisdiction of the military bishop and therefore not to the local community, but to the respective regional military church community, which is headed by a military chaplain. The military chaplain has no military rank, is not a soldier or combatant and is under the special protection of international martial law. He is a member of the Bundeswehr in the organizational area of military chaplaincy , temporary federal civil servant and is therefore paid from the Bundeswehr budget . When deployed, he wears - like the soldiers - the field suit with a cross instead of a rank badge.

In order to enable the military chaplain to function independently and unhindered, he is in no way integrated into the hierarchy of the armed forces. A parish assistant is available to support him. The superior of the military chaplain is the military dean in the respective military area , who in turn reports to the military vicar general (Catholic) or military general dean (Protestant). In terms of civil service law, only the Federal Minister of Defense then follows, who, however, has to preserve the church's self-determination. At the head of the military chaplaincy is the respective military bishop on the church side.

The military chaplains are released for this service (usually for at least 6 years) by their regional churches or dioceses. This is intended to ensure more intensive care for soldiers and their families in Germany. Since the involvement in the local parish is usually much stronger than the bond with the responsible military chaplain, the jurisdiction regulation is mostly neglected by the families - as far as it is known at all. Military chaplains take part in exercises and missions abroad by the Bundeswehr.

On May 28, 2020, the German Bundestag unanimously decided that the Bundeswehr should introduce military rabbis for the approximately 300 soldiers of the Jewish faith . Ten rabbis in the Bundeswehr will take on pastoral responsibility as temporary officials. If necessary, the number can be increased. The selection of rabbis is expected to begin in autumn 2020. Branch offices of the rabbinate are planned in Hamburg and Munich, and later also in Frankfurt / Main and Leipzig.


In Austria resp. Austria-Hungary already had military chaplains for all major faiths (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Protestant, Israelite, Islamic) before the First World War .

In the Austrian Armed Forces lay people are involved through parish councils and the Working Group of Catholic Soldiers, as well as at diocesan level through the pastoral council. In some places the garrisons have their own churches ( garrison churches ) at their disposal, and a local parish church is often also used.


In the Swiss Army , Feldprediger (Fpr) was the previous name for army chaplain (Asg).


The “Aumôniers militaires” belong to the officer corps of their unit / staff and are generally addressed as “Monsieur (or Madame) l'aumônier” in accordance with the regulations in correspondence. They are also equipped with special badges of rank.

  • Catholic military chaplains of the land and air forces are addressed as “padre” according to the regulations, but “mon père” is usually used. On board ships, the clergyman is referred to as "Monseigneur" or "Bohut".
  • Protestant military pastors are called "Pasteur".
  • Israelite pastors are called "Monsieur le rabbin"
  • Islamic clergymen are addressed as "monsieur" until a settlement based on traditional customs is in place.

Position of the military chaplains in individual denominations

Roman Catholic Canon Law

Military chaplains are not pastors and do not lead a parish , but a pastoral care district; this is called the “military parish” in Austria. A military parish is independent of the respective civil parish and is led by a military pastor , supported by pastoral officers if necessary . Under canon law it is viewed as a personal parish within the framework of categorical pastoral care (pastoral care for a certain group of believers).

See also


  • Practical manual for field ministers, or, instruction on the full scope of their duties and rights . Himburgische Buchhandlung, 1802 ( digitized in the Google book search).

Web links

Commons : chaplains  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Dagmar Pöpping : The Wehrmacht Pastoral Care in the Second World War. In: Manfred Gailus , Armin Nolzen (ed.): Quarreled “Volksgemeinschaft”. Belief, Denomination and Religion in National Socialism. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-525-30029-9 , p. 258 ff. ( Limited preview in the Google book search).
  2. ↑ The way for military rabbis is clear , Jüdische Allgemeine, May 28, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  3. Overview of military pastoral care at, accessed on February 26, 2018
  4. ^ Alfred E. Hierold: Art. Military Pastoral Care. In: Joseph Listl , Heribert Schmitz , Hubert Müller (eds.): Handbook of Catholic Church Law. 2. fundamentally rework. Edition. Pustet, Regensburg 1999, ISBN 3-7917-1664-6 , p. 557.
  5. history. Retrieved February 18, 2018 .
  6. compass. Soldier in the world and in the church. Retrieved February 18, 2018 .