The Russian Orthodox Church is debating an end to the surprising practice of blessing large scale weapons, including nuclear missiles. Russian priests currently sprinkle holy water on nuclear missiles as part of an long-held tradition which sees Orthodox priests bless soldiers and their weapons. However, this may be about to change, as some priests feel that intercontinental ballistic nuclear weapons belong in a different category from individual firearms. The Russian military and the Russian Orthodox church have long enjoyed a close relationship.
This has seen many of the country’s military conflicts perceived as forms of crusades.
The nuclear arsenal even has its own patron saint.
St. Seraphim’s remains were reportedly discovered in a Russian town housing several nuclear facilities.
The new initiative to stop blessing nuclear weapons consequently faces strong opposition among members of the clergy.
High-ranking Russian Orthodox priest Vsevolod Chaplin has even referred to the country’s WMD as “guardian angels.”
Religion News Service (RNS) has quoted Chaplin once saying: “Only nuclear weapons protect Russia from enslavement by the West.”
One priest, Dmitry Tsorionov, parted from the more militant aspects of the Orthodox Church after seeing men willingly sign up to fight Russia’s wars “under the banner of Christ.”
But he now wishes to see a less bellicose attitude among the clergy.
He told RNS: “It was not uncommon to see how church functionaries openly flirted with these toxic ideas.
“It was only then that I finally realised what the blessing of military hardware leads to.”
Bishop Savva Tutunov of the Moscow Patriarchate said that it would be more appropriate to bless only the warrior who is defending their country, and their own personal weapon–instead of bombs.
“One can talk about the blessing of a warrior on military duty in defence of the fatherland,” said Tutunov.
“At the end of the corresponding ritual, the personal weapon is also blessed — precisely because it is connected to the individual person who is receiving the blessing.
By the same reasoning, weapons of mass destruction should not be sanctified,” he said.
The proposal to end the blessings for larger weapons has yet to be approved by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Weapons systems, including Topol-class intercontinental ballistic missiles, are frequently blessed by members of the Russian Orthodox clergy during military parades and other events.
These blessings are seen as a way of spiritually protecting the country.
In 2007, Russia’s nuclear weapons were consecrated in a service at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.