Discover the Archdiocese of Military Services

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, provides the RomanCatholic Church's pastoral and spiritual services to those serving in the United States armed forces or other federal services overseas. This military ordinariate is a special diocese that dates back to 1917 and was canonically erected in 1939 by Pope Pius XII for the members and others employed by the five branches of the United States military (Air ForceArmy,Coast GuardMarine Corps, and Navy), for the employees of the U.S. Veterans Health Administration and its patients, and for Americans in government service overseas. The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, was created by Pope John Paul II in 1985 and incorporated under the laws of the State of Maryland that same year.

The diocesan bishop of the archdiocese is the Archbishop for the Military Services. The current archbishop is Timothy P. Broglio. He is assisted by several auxiliary bishops. Together they oversee Catholic priests serving as military chaplains throughout the world. None of the priests of the Archdiocese are incardinated in the Archdiocese. Each of its priests remains incardinated in his diocese or religious institute. The Archdiocese maintains its offices in Washington, D.C., but has no territorial boundaries or "seat". The Archdiocese has no cathedral or bishop's church. Rather, the Archdiocese has jurisdiction wherever American men and women in uniform serve. The jurisdiction of the Archdiocese extends to all United States government property in the United States and abroad, including U.S. military installations, embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions.


Prior to the creation of the Military Ordinariate and then the Archdiocese for the Military Services, the armed forces of the United States was served by an informal corps of volunteer priests. Beginning in 1917, the spiritual care of those in military service fell to the Military Ordinariate, the equivalent of a personal vicariate apostolic, that is, a particular church the membership of which is defined by some personal quality (as in this case being a member or a dependent of a member of the armed services) that is headed by a legate of the pope. Originally, the ordinariate was headed by then-Bishop Patrick J. Hayes, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York who served double duty as papal military vicar for the United States beginning on November 24, 1917.

Hayes was chosen because New York was the primary port of embarkation for U.S. troops leaving for Europe and therefore a convenient contact point for Catholic chaplains serving with them. When Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, died, Hayes was appointed as his successor and simply kept the additional title and duty of military vicar. In November 1939, the Holy See established the Military Vicariate of the United States of America. The post remained an additional duty of the archbishop of New York from Hayes' time until Cardinal Terence Cooke began plans to separate it as its own jurisdiction in the early 1980s, plans he was unable to carry out before his death in 1983. His successor, Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor, a former Navy chaplain, former chief of Navy chaplains (the military's title for its own senior chaplain officer) and former auxiliary bishop for the military, then assisted in creating the separate Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, in 1985 and participated in the selection of its first own archbishop. On July 21, 1986, the military vicariate was elevated to the Military Ordinariate of the Archdiocese for the Military Services of the United States. As of April 2013, about 25% of the U.S. armed forces are Catholic.


Military ordinaries and archbishops

* O'Hara was appointed "military delegate" at the same time that Spellman was appointed "military vicar," essentially making Bishop O'Hara something a bit more than the vicar general under then-Archbishop Spellman's jurisdiction.

Auxiliary bishops


The diocesan chancery is located in Washington, D.C.

Noncombatant status

See: Military chaplain#Noncombatant status

The Geneva Conventions state (Protocol I, 8 June 1977, Art 43.2) that chaplains arenoncombatants: they do not have the right to participate directly in hostilities. Captured chaplains are not considered Prisoners of War (Third Convention, 12 August 1949, Chapter IV Art 33) and must be returned to their home nation unless retained to minister to prisoners of war.


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