USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, Mediterranean Sea — Sailors and Marines aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) were given the opportunity to participate in religious services with chaplains from French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91) June 13 in Truman's chapel.
The religious services with French Roman Catholic chaplain Pascal Frey and Jewish chaplain Meyer Malka allowed two allied nations to connect on a spiritual level.
"The French have an amazing relationship with the United States, and a great opportunity presented itself while we were in Marseille to have them conduct services here," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Ianucci, Truman's Roman Catholic chaplain. "I think it really meant a lot to the Sailors who got to join one of their spiritual leaders today."
Truman's Jewish lay leader, Navy Lt. Zac Stang, agreed.
"It went wonderfully today," said Stang. "I think any time you have people with similar faiths, even people from different countries, it brings people together and helps us understand one another on a personal level. These services can give us a common ground on which to build a relationship through our faith."
Since there are no rabbis sboard Truman, and very few in the military, both Stang and Ianucci said it was a blessing to have a rabbi offer a Jewish service to the crew.
Chaplains in the French navy wear no rank insignia on their uniforms. This helps the chaplains to connect on a more personal level with their shipmates.
"We have the rank of the people to whom we are speaking," said Frey. "At eight this morning I was a seaman, and a few hours later I was a pilot."
Frey added that even though a language barrier exists between France and America, people can share their faiths through the church service rituals.
"As Catholics, we can walk into any church in the world and feel at home," Ianucci said. "We may not understand the language being spoken, but we know how Mass works, and that helps us to connect with everybody else in the church. Our faith keeps us grounded and makes us realize that we're part of something bigger, and we know that our families back home are doing the same thing. That can bring us a sense of peace in our lives."
"It solidifies relationships when you are able to pray together," added Ianucci. "It creates a holy bond between whoever is gathered for the same service. When you are able to do a religious service that way, all boundaries are put aside."