Russian Church mulls stop to practice of blessing nukes

Moscow (AFP) –


The Russian Orthodox Church has proposed a stop to the practice of having priests bless weapons of mass destruction, though sprinkling holy water on planes and ships is still deemed appropriate.

The Church on Monday published a draft document outlining its role in blessing Orthodox Christians who "protect the Fatherland" and "carry out their military duty", inviting internet users to discuss the proposal online.

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 also begun blessing troops, planes and ships, and all sorts of weapons, from Kalashnikov rifles to nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles.

But the document proposed that "blessing any type of weapons the usage of which can inflict an indefinite number of deaths, including weapons with indiscriminate effects or weapons of mass destruction... be removed from pastoral practice."

At the same time, it remains "appropriate" to "bless transport used by soldiers on land, water and in the air", to ask God to protect the men using them, it said.

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 for Russia's armed forces outside Moscow.

It is to be opened on May 9, the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War.

Since 2010 the military has inducted priests into its ranks, including an airborne unit which can deploy with mobile inflatable chapels.