The military of the Armed Forces and Security Diocese of Portugal / Castrense Ordinariate want chaplains to develop a more ‘daily’ work and not only in ‘service missions’. Another of the requests of the almost one thousand military personnel who responded to the synodal survey promoted by this diocese was the “welcoming of all”, avoiding “arrogance, indifference and the hierarchization of the Church”.
The Diocese of the Armed and Security Forces of Portugal conducted this survey in response to Pope Francis’ request for participation. “So we too, as a Church, although in a very specific environment, such as that of the Armed and Security Forces, wanted to contribute to the understanding of this dialogue and reflection by listening and welcoming impressions, testimonies, and data on the essentiality of the Church, in communion, participation, and mission,” says Major Leonel Castro, coordinator of the synodal team, to the Commission for Communication of the Synod of Bishops.
The synod team of the Armed and Security Forces diocese launched the survey in February. Nearly 1,000 military personnel participated. “In an environment as heterogeneous as ours, with a great diversity of opinions and experiences at different social and cultural levels, my assessment of this work is very positive, and this is evident in the contribution that 958 military personnel made by contributing to the reflection and study,” concludes Leonel Castro.
Castro emphasizes that the surveys were answered: “with a greater incidence from the Air Force sectors, and the most representative age group is between 36 and 50, with a predominantly male response rate”.
The results ‘expressed the need to rejuvenate the group of participants in chaplaincy activities’, the importance of ‘welcoming everyone, regardless of who they are, and, in terms of human formation, ‘the importance of carrying out training, volunteer activities, and other important events to create a spirit of solidarity.
The conclusions presented, also made known to the Portuguese media, speak of an “implicit disillusionment” about the “role of the Church today in society”, of “scandals” that “feed this disillusionment” and of an “apathy among the military community, with a large number of non-practicing members, with no participation in the sacraments”.
Mgr. Rui Valério, bishop of the Diocese of the Armed Forces and Security of Portugal, also shares his views on the survey, the results of which are available in full on the official website: “It can be said, by way of sharing, that if on the one hand, we noticed in people a thirst to participate – a desire that is found even in people far from an active Christian life – on the other hand – a relevant aspect – there was a process of chain motivation, that is, those who participated then motivated others to do the same. And this was beautiful to see because it is in itself a very profound synodal act because it was at the motivational level; and today it is so important that we are able to spread our joy and generate joy, spread our motivation and generate motivation, spread our faith and help our brothers and sisters to adhere to Christ. This is walking together.
The Portuguese bishop also historically contextualized the respect the military has for the Church in this country. “In the case of Portugal, in particular, since the origin of the nation, the presence of the Church in the Armed Forces has been peaceful and consolidated. The Church is relevant in the military sphere and, as such, everything that concerns it also concerns the Armed Forces. There is, in fact, a relationship of respect and consideration, I would even say family, that explains this interest’.
The results, in Portuguese