Chaplaincy Developments in Bulgaria

April 10, 2006 by  
Filed under News

Just days before US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice arrived in Bulgaria, our team was called to the ancient Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo where we met with the regional leaders of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association. This was our second meeting with the Association which was officially introduced in 2005 at a similar national convention. We were asked to present the curriculum of a new chaplaincy class to be offered this fall as part of the Theological Institute’s masters program. The need of such education is well understood as the chaplaincy movement in Bulgaria is rapidly gaining influence in the context of Bulgaria-NATO relations. Eastern Orthodox circles are already talking about implementing their own priests into the new army structures, as the government is secretly subsidizing the building of Eastern Orthodox churches in at least two military schools. Meanwhile, active Evangelical chaplains were denied political defense in Brussels with the argument that the lack of legal procedure for training and implementing chaplains within military units, cannot be classified as restriction of religious freedom or intolerance toward Protestant ministers.

Nevertheless, such limitations can hardly limit the spreading wave of chaplaincy advocacy as many organized and independent groups are putting strong pressure for change. In March 2006, the Church of God in Bulgaria held a successful weekend seminar for prison chaplains which involved a number of Bulgarian prison directors. Subsequently, this week Nova TV aired an interview with a well-known evangelical chaplain who has worked for many years with the Sofia prison system. In this context, the chaplaincy meeting in Veliko Tarnovo was one more step closer to an adequate legal system allowing chaplaincy in Bulgaria and more specifically in the Bulgarian Army. We have also released a website dedicated to the work and ministry of the chaplain.

The reform within the Bulgarian Army anticipates the implementation of chaplains. As U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice finishes her visit in Bulgaria to ratify the agreement for NATO bases on Bulgarian soil, this long-expected opportunity for ministry within the Bulgarian Army may finally become a reality.