Agreement on performing religious service in the Army of Serbia signed
His Holiness Irinej, Serbian Patriarch and Minister Sutanovac signed yesterday at the Army Club in Nis an "Agreement on the performance of religious services in the Army of Serbia with the Serbian Orthodox Church." The agreement regulates the mutual relations between the Ministry of Defence and the Serbian Orthodox Church in connection with the conduct of religious services in the Serbian Army. The signing of the Agreement was attended by Their Graces Bishops Irinej of Backa and Vicar Porfirije of Jegar.
Sutanovac said that this document introduced the first Army officers priests, which is in line with the Serbian tradition and experience of modern armies. He recalled that the Serbian Orthodox Church already has officers-priests in the armies of other countries - the Netherlands, the United States and Great Britain.
Patriarch Irenej blessed the Agreement and pointed out that the signing is "historically significant" not only for the SPC, but also for the Army of Serbia. Along with the introduction of chaplains the traditional culture and spirituality in our army will be allowed and the chaplains will bring a higher quality of life and military service as well as patriotism and spirituality. "May it be fortunate and blessed," said Patriarch Irinej and pointed at the symbolism of the Agreement which was signed exactly on St. Vitus Day - the National holiday of the people and the church.
Sutanovac said the religious service was establishing as a need of the Serbian Army and that the priests will have to be highly educated as well as to undergo officer training. According to his words, the members of the Army of Serbia will address representatives of the SOC according to their priestly title. Minister of defence also said that an initial rank for priests was captain, and that teoretically they could get a rank of colonel. He announced that in forthcoming months he would sign similar agreements with representatives of six traditional churches and religious communities.
Sutanovac also attended last night at the Cathedral Church in Nis the St. Vitus's Academy. On that occasion, Serbian Patriarch Irinej presented the Minister the highest honor of Nis Eparchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church - The Order of Saint Constantine for his attitude towards the Church and its people.
Thanking for the medal, Sutanovac said that it was a great honor for him and that he came to Nis "to finish this historical work" with Patriarch - the signing of the performance of religious services in the Army of Serbia.
Source: Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia; Tanjug