Last month, I gathered with 70 Chiefs of Chaplains and key religious leaders from over 30 nations in Ljubljana, Slovenia for the 27th International Chief of Chaplains Conference.
This year Chaplains examined the expanding intervention of their militaries in human crises that are driven by natural disasters, pandemic events, political conflict or terrorism. When the military is called to respond in these situations, faith can be a powerful support, and the chaplain’s role is vital. Chaplains must speak to the life and death issues, war and peace, remembrance and awakening. As EUCOM Command Chaplain, I opened the conference by noting that at the core of any intervention are the issues of human dignity, compassion, care and restoring hope.
The Slovenia Chief of Defence, Major General Andrej Osterman, provided the opening address. Among the special guests addressing the conference were GEN Breedlove, SACEUR, who personally interacted with the Chaplains in Q&A on a commander’s perspective to chaplains. The Italian Military Archbishop, Msgr. Santo Marciano, provided insight into the Italian refugee crisis response and pastoral care for migrants and military, and said that the “Parable of the Good Samaritan is the basic choice to build the homeland.” Damir Črnčec, Associate Professor of National and International Security and Intelligence at the Graduate School of Government and European Studies, addressed the predictors of past and future crisis. LTC Gianni Martin, EUCOM J5, presented an insightful look at human crisis following his experiences on an assignment in Nepal when the April 2015 earthquake devastated the country. “The crisis of conscience, faith, and morality come into play” when the earth shakes beneath you.
The International Military Chief of Chaplains Conference is the largest gathering of Military Chiefs of Chaplains in the world. Over the last 27 years the conference has been held in more than 21 countries. The IMCCC was initiated and has been coordinated by the EUCOM Chaplains Office since 1990 to foster cooperation and communication among international Chaplains. The Slovenian Chaplains and Armed Forces hosted this year; and we look forward to co-hosting the 28th IMCCC in Portsmouth, England with our UK Chaplain partners.
Finally, let me extend a warm welcome to all the participants and may this international conference be a paragon of vision and cooperation, a paragon of reflection on meaning of today’s understanding of the chaplain’s role in our changing world, society and life.