Russian Orthodox Church considers dropping practice of blessing nuclear weapons

Caravanserai and AFP


An Orthodox bishop blesses an S-400 missile system at the base of the Russian Southern Military District, January 2017. [Alexei Pavlishak / TASS]

MOSCOW -- The Russian Orthodox Church has proposed a stop to the practice of having priests bless weapons of mass destruction.

Russians often ask priests to bless anything from new cars and flats to Soyuz spaceships in the belief that the gesture bestows divine protection.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, priests have begun blessing troops, planes and ships, and all sorts of weapons, from Kalashnikov rifles to nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles.

But a church document published Monday (February 3) proposed that "blessing any type of weapons that can inflict an indefinite number of deaths, including weapons with indiscriminate effects or weapons of mass destruction... be removed from pastoral practice".


Russian forces fire off an Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile during the Zapad-2017 exercises in Leningrad Province in September 2017. [Russian Ministry of Defence]

Linking religion to belligerence

The Russian military has forged ever closer ties to the church under Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is overseeing the construction of a huge cathedral outside Moscow for Russia's armed forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin identifies as a member of the church but has hardly displayed the pacificism that many observers associate with Christianity.

Putin last October watched as the country's armed forces tested missiles that can carry thermo-nuclear warheads during exercises involving "heightened tensions on Russia's border".

The games came soon after Russia and the United States abandoned the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which limited the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500km.

The United States formally abrogated the historic pact last August, citing years of Russian violations.

"Russia bears sole responsibility for the demise of the treaty," NATO said last August.

Moscow's moves on the nuclear front come as it aggressively tests a number of weapons it has bragged -- without evidence -- are "invincible", even as it professes to be a peaceful country.

Military mishaps

The Kremlin's military build-up during the Putin years has come at a high cost for the Russian population.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's only aircraft carrier, accidentally caught fire on December 12 after undergoing repairs for more than two years in Murmansk and suffered previous damage in October 2018 when a crane crashed onto its deck.

On August 8, an explosion during a test of a nuclear-powered missile killed five Russian nuclear agency personnel near Severodvinsk and released elevated radiation levels.

An ammunition depot in Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk Province, was rocked by explosions August 5 and 9. One person was killed in the first incident and nine injured in the second.

In July, 14 seamen, including seven high-ranking officers, were killed in a fire on a deep submersible in the Barents Sea.

The deadly crash of a Russian-built Mi-8 helicopter in Kazakhstan last March 27, which killed all 13 troops on board, is another example of the plethora of Russian military mishaps.

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7 Comment(s)

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A routine Orthodox hypocrisy


Did Putin have to sit idly by witnessing how NATO forces amassed along Russian borders? Or deploying nuclear weapons in Europe? Would the author prefer to bow to those who never abode by the treaty????


He has been in power for 20 years and has not ruined everything yet, so go ahead and elect him one more time in 2024. Why attack Russia; Putin will do everything by himself to both pensions and hospitals...


What does Putin have to do with it? Take your work seriously, but to err is human


What kind of church is this that blesses weapons of mass destruction? They are complete cuckoo there. Although it is well known the Russian Orthodox Church is not a religion but a terrorist organization.


Do you know how to read? The church proposes stopping blessing nuclear weapons in media. What do you think is wrong about it?


Proposing to itself