The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that patients, their families, and the hospital staff require help of priests not only in performing sacraments, but also in providing spiritual and psychological support. Positive experience of cooperation between the Church and medical institutions showed that the institute of hospital priests (chaplains) has been de facto formed in the Russian Federation. However, the status, rights, and obligations of the chaplains in medical and social institutions, and the mechanism of interaction with executives and employees have not been yet defined.

At the same time in the Western states, where the tradition of hospital ministry was not interrupted, the institute of chaplains has existed for many years.

Chaplains are priests who serve outside the parish. Chaplains may serve in the army, police, prison, or hospital. Hospital chaplains have become part of the healthcare system of many Western countries. Thus, the term ‘chaplain’ itself has been enshrined in law.

The conference objectives are:
1. To summarize the international practice of hospital ministry (its legislation, sources of funding, the concept of hospital chaplains, requirements for their education and competences)

2. To discuss the development of mechanisms for implementation of the patient's freedom of conscience in the Russian Federation, in particular, the right to the access to a clergyman

3. To familiarize the public, relevant ministries and departments, representatives of the medical and patient communities and other interested persons with successful foreign and domestic practices of hospital ministry, including ministry during the pandemic

Hospital ministry of the Russian Orthodox Church

Hospital ministry, spiritual and psychological assistance to patients is one of the principal areas of social ministry of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Church publishes manuals, conducts training seminars for priests, and has been organizing pastoral assistance during the coronavirus period. Also, there is consideration on introducing the institution of hospital chaplains in Russia. The Synodal Charity Department published the manual "Why does the hospital need a priest?", based on foreign studies. The book tells about the positive impact of the clergy activity in medical institutions and presents details of the hospital chaplains ministry in the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.

During the pandemic, the Russian Orthodox Church has introduced special groups of priests for pastoral care for patients infected with COVID-19. The Synodal Charity Department sent standard PPE (personal protective equipment) kits to 123 dioceses for priests to visit the sick.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of Orthodox volunteers took special courses and began assisting patients of the largest COVID-hospitals in Moscow.


Charity of the Russian Orthodox Church

Social service of the Russian Orthodox Church comprises more than 4500 church social services and projects in Russia and other countries, including 78 shelters for women in crisis, 227 humanitarian aid centers, over 90 church shelters for the homeless, over 400 projects for assisting disabled people, 231 church centers for drug addicts, over 900 sisterhoods of mercy, over 600 Orthodox organizations and projects helping alcohol addicts and their relatives.

Today the Russian Orthodox Church is one of the leading charity providers in Russia.

Help is provided regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion.

Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry of the Russian Orthodox Church

The Department was established by the Holy Synod on January 31, 1991. The Department coordinates and facilitates activity of the Church social endeavor in all eparchies in Russia and abroad, elaborates and deploys effective methods of helping those in need, organizes exchange of experience and trainings for Church social workers.

The Russian Orthodox Church helps people in need, those who suffer and lack protection. They are orphans, disabled people, lonely and isolated elders, the sick, the homeless, alcohol and drug addicts, poor families with many children, pregnant women, and mothers with children in difficult life situations.