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1. Army chaplaincy

Priests have accompanied the army in all Christian nations and Hungary shares this tradition. Crusaders certainly enjoyed spiritual assistance and bishops had their military duties too – when the medieval Hungarian state collapsed at the battle of Mohács (1526) with the Ottoman Empire, almost the whole episcopate fell as bishops took active part in the battle. In the following centuries, Jesuits played an important role as army pastors. Protestant pastors have appeared too, to assist soldiers. From 1773 the army had vicariate as an organisational unit for Catholic priests serving as army chaplains, as well as Greek Catholic and Orthodox priests. In World War I 2,400 army chaplains were in service, including pastors of various Christian denominations and rabbis.

After the communist takeover, the military chaplaincy was dissolved. The army chaplaincy has been reorganised in 1993-94 for the Catholic, the Reformed, the Lutheran denominations as well as for Jewish members of the armed forces. As the national service was abolished in 2004 the number of soldiers has dropped and the role of the chaplaincy has changed as well. Nowadays, chaplains focus on the pastoral care of soldiers and their families with a special attention to army units serving in missions abroad. The system foresees one pastor for 1,000 soldiers.

On setting up the military ordinariate an agreement was signed with the Holy See (1994) and similar agreements have been concluded with other denominations. After the drastic changes in the structure of the army – especially with regard to the professional character of the army – the Holy See and Hungary have agreed on a memorandum on the interpretation of the Agreement concluded in 1994 on the spiritual assistance provided at the army. The parties have stated that army chaplains are remunerated by the Ministry of Defence and that the bylaws of the Chaplaincy are issued by the Ministry in accordance with the Bishops’ Conference. Details are regulated in governmental decrees.

2. Hospital chaplaincies

At hospitals there is no publicly organized chaplaincy service. Religious communities are free to provide assistance to the sick as well as to the medical staff and they are widely engaged into that. Hospitals are obliged to facilitate the free exercise of religion also by providing space for worship. Religious communities may appoint hospital chaplains but usually all clergymen and a large number of volunteers take part in services provided to the sick. There is no special funding foreseen for these activities. To give an example : the Archdiocese Esztergom-Budapest has established a centralized Catholic assistance for the hospitals of Budapest. There is a hotline available night and day and in case of urgency a Catholic priest is sent to any hospital within an hour. This activity is exclusively organized and funded by the church, hospitals are only expected to facilitate it. Whereas religious services on military premises was unimaginable during the communist rule, hospitalized persons have always enjoyed the possibility of spiritual assistance.

3. Prison chaplaincy

For prison chaplaincy see “Religion in prisons”.

D 9 février 2021    ABalázs Schanda

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