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Chaplains are entitled to provide religious services in several public institutions in Poland, including the army, the police, the Prison Service, the Border Guard, the National Revenue Service and the Fire Service. The access to religious services is grounded in art. 53 of the Constitution of 1997, guaranteeing “the right of individuals, wherever they may be, to benefit from religious services” – even though the functionaries of most of these institutions are not, in fact, barracked, and have access to regular clergy and places of worship.

The military

Chaplaincy services: the legal framework
The Act of 17 May 1989 on guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion determines that churches and other religious organisations can administer religious services for people serving in the military (Article 19). It is also guaranteed that people serving in the army can, in accordance with their religion, participate in religious activities and rites, as well as fulfil religious duties and celebrate religious feasts (Article 4). The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church have their own organized structures of the chaplaincy in the army. Their military chaplains are professional soldiers paid by the State.

Catholic Chaplaincy
According to the Concordat (Article 16 para. 2), soldiers have the right to freely participate in Holy Mass on Sundays and feast days, as far as it does not collide with their important professional duties. The head of the military ordinariate (Bishop) is appointed by the Holy See. Basic organisational units of the Ordinariate are military parishes, where service is administered by military chaplains.
Orthodox Chaplaincy
According to Act of 14 July 1991 on the relationship of the State to the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Articles 21-25), the head of the military Ordinariate of the Orthodox Church is appointed by the Minister of National defence after the presentation of his candidature by the Holy Council of Bishops. In every diocese, at least one military chaplain is appointed. Depending on the needs of the military chaplaincy, it is possible to set up military parishes. Soldiers on active military service have the right to participate in holy liturgy outside the territory of the army unit on Sundays and Orthodox feasts if there is an Orthodox church nearby and as far as it does not collide with important professional duties.

Evangelical Chaplaincy
According to the Act of 13 May 1994 on the relationship of the State to the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (Art. 29-31), the head of the Evangelical chaplaincy (the Chief Chaplain of the Army) is appointed by the Minister of national defence in agreement with the Consistory of the Church. On the basis of separate agreements between religious authorities, the Evangelical chaplaincy extends its activity to members of the Reformed Evangelical Church, the Evangelical Methodist Church, the Baptist Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The police

The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church maintain officially recognised chaplaincy structures in the Police. The ca. 200 chaplains work either as volunteers or, much less frequently, are employed by the police as civil employees. In contrast to the military, Border Guard or Prison Service, they do not serve as uniformed police officers (sometimes they hold officer ranks from other services, e.g. the army or Border Guard). The religious services, normally held on Sundays or state or police holidays, take place in churches near the police units or in ecumenical chapels on police premises (this, however, is rare, since most police departments do not have chapels).

The Catholic chaplains are nominated by the Delegate of the Polish Bishops‘ Conference for the Pastoral Care of the Police, and supervised by the Head Chaplain of the Police. The chaplaincies at national, provincial and local police departments are established based on a 2007 agreement between the Police Superintendent and the Church Delegate. The Orthodox chaplains are nominated by the delegate of the Bishop’s Synod of the Polish Autocephalus Orthodox Church (PAOC) for the Pastoral Care of the Uniformed Services, and supervised by the Head Orthodox Chaplain of the Police (Duszpasterstwo Policji; Prawosławne Duszpasterstwo). In addition to the Catholic and Orthodox chaplaincies, there is also an Evangelical (Lutheran) chaplain at the Bielsko-Biała police department, an area with the largest concentration of Lutherans in Poland (see here; note, however, that the Lutheran chaplaincy, in contrast to the Catholic and Orthodox ones, is not mentioned in the official organisational structure of the police).


Clergy of various churches have access to prisons, including the Lutheran, Adventist and Pentecostal Churches, and the Jehovah Witnessess, although only the largest denominations – the Roman Catholic Church and the Polish Autocephalus Orthodox Church (PAOC) maintain permanent chaplaincy structures. The chaplains serve both the prison employees and the inmates. Religious services are held in multidenominational chapels or, if there is no chapel, at general-purpose premises; chaplains may also meet prisoners individually. The provision of religious services in prison (including access by the chaplains, the time and place of services, etc.) is regulated by the executive order of the Minister of Justice (Rozporządzenie 2003).

Catholic chaplains are approved by the Catholic Church authorities and supervised by the Chief Prison Chaplain (Naczelny Kapelan Więziennictwa) of the Roman Catholic Church. Orthodox chaplains are approved by the PAOC and supervised by the Chief Prison Chaplain of the PAOC. Overall, there are some 200 prison chaplains in Poland (Miączyński 2021), approximately half of them contracted by the Prison Service (Służba Więzienna) as civil employees, the other half serving as volunteers.

Border guard, national revenue service, fire service

There are Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran chaplaincies in the Border Guard. The Catholic chaplains represent both the dominant Roman rite and the Byzantine rite (the so-called Greek Catholic or Uniate Catholic church). Overall, there are ca. 20 chaplains, all of them holding Border Guard officer ranks, up to colonel.

Catholic chaplains are also employed in the National Revenue Administration (NRA), part of which is the Customs Service. This is provided for in the 2016 NRA Act, which allows the chief of the service to enter into an agreement with a church for the provision of religious services. A year later, such agreement was signed with the Catholic Church. As of 2021, there were 11 Catholic priest employed in NRA, all of them with the status of uniformed officers (Koślicki 2021).

In the National Fire Service, there are Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran chaplaincies. The heads of national and provincial (voivodeship) divisions are generally Fire Service officers, but most chaplains serve as volunteers.

 Duszpasterstwo Policji Kościoła Rzymskokatolickiego [Police Catholic Chaplaincy] – (Police official website).
 Koślicki, Krzysztof (2021), „Skarbówka do pomocy w rozliczaniu podatków potrzebuje księdza”, 9.01.2021.
 Miączyński, Piotr (2021), „Furia pracowników skarbówki. Wyszło na jaw, że kapelani w KAS zarabiają więcej od nich”,, 7.01.2021.
 Prawosławne Duszpasterstwo Policji [Police Orthodox Chaplaincy], (Police official website).
 Rozporządzenie Ministra Sprawiedliwości z dnia 2 września 2003 r. w sprawie szczegółowych zasad wykonywania praktyk religijnych i korzystania z posług religijnych w zakładach karnych i aresztach śledczych, 2 September 2003 [Ministry of Justice executive order on the organisation and access to religious practices in penitentiary institutions].

D 1 March 2023    AMaciej Potz

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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