Current Status of Chaplaincy in Bulgaria

This update on the current status of Chaplaincy in Bulgaria became necessary in light of the recent parliament vote (October 5, 2014) and consecutive talks on Bulgaria’s national security and upcoming defense reforms. While the government enters a post-election mode to appoint all cabinet members, the legal question about chaplaincy in Bulgaria still remains open. A decade after entering NATO and the European Union as a fully ratified member, Bulgaria is the only country within both organizations without military (or any otherwise legalized) chaplaincy.

About the same amount of time has passed since we established the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association with the publication of its strategic program “Underground Chaplaincy in Bulgaria” and the establishment of our Masters Program in Chaplaincy Ministry in Sofia. Since that time, many international organizations have contributed to the chaplaincy restoration process with research and historic publications or occasional chaplaincy seminars and conferences across the country. Among them are Military Chaplain Fellowship (MCF), Military Ministries International (MMI), Ministry to the Military, various (IAEC), Chaplaincy Commissions and many others.

However, with these investments of time and resources in the cause, changes within Bulgaria’s law are still to be made and our military personnel remain without active duty chaplains. This result simply proves once again that restoring chaplaincy in Bulgaria cannot and should not be an external process dictated by organizational agendas which are separated from the people. On the contrary, the necessary changes must emerge from grassroots, from among the people, in order to be fully politically realized as both necessity and empowerment.

In this process, the role of the local church is also detrimental. It is certainly a great effort that individual ministers and their teams visit prisoners on weekly or monthly basis. It is also admirable that emergency outfits formed by church members quickly respond to what now seems a constant chain of disastrous events (flooding, earthquakes, freezing weather, etc.). But if the bottom line of results does not affect the changes within the system that can make chaplaincy legally available within both military and civil organization all otherwise attractive efforts are simply futile. They not only miss the mark, but exhaust time and resources of the church and are overall obstructive to the goal at hand.

Therefore, changes within the current status of chaplaincy in Bulgaria must be sought once again with a unifying strategy that uses small but crucial milestones to promote change within the current legal and army systems. Otherwise, the restoration of chaplaincy will be forced again in the periphery of political and social issues and will never become a real priority.

More Publications on the Topic and History of Events: