Catholic Military Chaplains provide spiritual support, pastoral care, and moral guidance to Catholic servicemen, women and their families.
The scale of the First World War brought a heightened demand for their presence on the battlefields, camps and service hospitals. Over 800 Catholic priests worked with the British forces between 1914 and 1918. Catholic Chaplains were known for their closeness to the troops. One of the most famous chaplains was the saintly Irish Jesuit Fr William Doyle, who on the day of his death during the Battle of Passchendaele (16th August 1917) was seen hurrying ‘all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy.’
Military chaplains minister to military personnel and, in most cases, their families and civilians working for the military. In some cases, they will also work with local civilians within a military area of operations. There are no geographical boundaries to their work, the Chaplain will go wherever the Force goes anywhere in the World. Chaplains are non-combatants: they do not have the right to participate directly in hostilities and they do not bear arms.
In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defence employs chaplains, but their authority comes from their “sending” church. Roman Catholic Priests and Deacons may apply to their Diocesan Bishop or Religious Superior to become a Chaplain to one of the three British Armed Forces.
Royal Navy chaplains undertake a 16-week bespoke induction and training course, including a short course at Britannia Royal Naval College, and specialist fleet time at sea alongside a more experienced chaplain. Naval chaplains called to service with the Royal Marines undertake a commando course at Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, Lympstone and if successful serve with a front-line Royal Marines unit.
British Army chaplains undertake seven-weeks training at The Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre Amport House and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Royal Air Force chaplains must complete 12 weeks Specialist Entrant course at the RAF College Cranwell followed by a Chaplains’ Induction Course at Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre Amport House of a further 2 weeks.
Any priest or deacon wishing to find out more about Military Chaplaincy can either visit: www.rcbishopricforces.org.uk or contact the Bishopric offices on 01252 348234