Tag Archives: Russian Orthodox Church

Blessing the Bomb?

Blessing a Su-34 and its weapons in Volgodonsk

Blessing a Su-34 and its weapons in Volgodonsk

The debate over the propriety of Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) priests blessing Russian bombs and weapons of mass destruction (OMP) is heating up.

According to Interfaks, first deputy chief of the synod’s public relations and media department Aleksandr Shchipkov has expressed disagreement with a possible ban on the consecration of certain types of armaments.

Early this month Meduza reported the ROC’s Inter-Council Presence (an advisory body that helps draft church policy) suggested ending the practice of consecrating some conventional weapons and OMP. Its proposal will considered until at least June 1. The Presence argued that consecrating armaments doesn’t reflect the church’s traditions and should be “abolished from pastoral practice.”

The debate on blessing bombs apparently began last summer.

Interfaks reported that the proposed ban would stop the consecration of weapons which can kill “untold numbers of people” as well as “indiscriminate weapons and weapons of mass destruction.”

Priest consecrates mobile ICBM launchers

Priest consecrates mobile ICBM launchers

Shchipkov, however, said:

The essential motive of the document’s text really separates the soldier from his weapon, asserting, figuratively speaking, that it’s possible to bless the armor, but not the sword. But the Church can’t bless the man and his mission halfway . . . . Including the topic of banning the blessing of this or that type of weapon on the political agenda is an indirect blow to the people’s trust in the army and to the country’s sovereignty.

Responding to the biblical call to “turn the other cheek” against violence, Shchipkov said, “We have a right to turn our own cheek, but we are obligated to protect the cheek of those close to us.”

He claimed a ban on consecrating arms will be viewed as a sign of weakness by Russia’s enemies. (Seriously? Does he think blessing them makes the country stronger?)

Addressing nuclear weapons specifically, Shchipkov concluded:

It’s not necessary for us to repent an inclination toward the unjustified use of nuclear forces. It remains for us to say only that our policy of reasonable defense sufficiency lies in the mainstream of Christian principles.

We recall that military duty is highly valued in Orthodoxy. A weapon is sanctified by serving just and noble aims just as is any involuntary use of force. The subject of discussion should be the purposes of bearing and employing arms not blessing them. It’s important precisely who and how a weapon is used and with what intentions, but not specifically what he uses. Arms themselves don’t kill, but the people using them do, therefore it’s absurd to evaluate a weapon by the degree of its “morality.”

Wouldn’t want to spin into debating just war theory, etc. Suffice it to say it’s interesting that the Russians are discussing it. The argument’s been going on in the West since the dawn of the nuclear age.

Nevertheless, the image of Russian Orthodox priests sprinkling holy water on ICBM launchers isn’t a particularly good look for them, the Russian military, or the Kremlin. At least to Western eyes. But the average Ivan probably doesn’t worry about it too much.

Because of the ROC’s traditional subservience to the state, look for the church to go as Vladimir Putin indicates. That means more tanks will get sprinkled. 

Mending Fences with the Church?

Serdyukov and the Patriarch

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov met Patriarch Kirill yesterday, and only Rossiyskaya gazeta alluded to the possibility it might be a fence-mending effort following the Seltsy incident several weeks ago.  Serdyukov had met Kirill previously, but the timing of this meeting sure looks like an effort to repair  army-church ties.

Patriarchia.ru, Krasnaya zvezda, and Komsomolskaya pravda reprinted portions of the Patriarch’s comments:

“The Armed Forces are now undergoing a very important phase of reform, and we are attentively following what is happening.” 

“The army in Russia was always a powerful patriotic force influencing the mood of society, and the well-being of people.  The army was always an elite of our society, including intellectual and cultural.  Therefore I am deeply convinced the Armed Forces reform, which assumes an entire series of very important organizational decisions, scientific-technical and simply technical, must include both spiritual and cultural dimensions.”

Defense Minister Serdyukov told the Patriarch: 

“It’s always pleasant for me when there’s a chance to meet with you, to discuss these or other issues connected with reform.”

“This reorganization now being conducted is a deliberate, calculated process and, as the initial results already show, quite effective.”

According to RG and KP, Serdyukov told Kirill about plans to open a center for regimental priest training on the base of one of the military academies, most likely in Moscow.  Alluding to the Seltsy problem, Serdyukov also noted the Defense Ministry now has a working group on the issue of constructing Orthodox Churches in military units.  And Serdyukov repeated yesterday he never gave anyone an order to take down the church on the VDV’s Seltsy training grounds.