Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Should Russian Orthodox Priests Should Bless Weapons of Mass Destruction? Patriarchate Sparks Controversy by Saying ‘No’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 20 – Many Russians and others have been horrified by news reports showing Orthodox priests blessing nuclear weapons, while others believe that such actions are entirely appropriate given the Church’s longstanding support for the country’s national defense. Now, the ROC MP has gotten involved, and the controversy has intensified.

            Earlier this month, the Moscow Patriarchate’s highest commission on church law issued a draft document for comment that says priests should not bless weapons which have the capacity to kill “an indeterminate number of people including arms which are not selective and weapons of mass destruction” (

            According to the document, blessing other kinds of weapons is part and parcel of the church’s responsibility as a guardian of the Russian military and the Russian people. But this call not to allow the blessing of weapons of mass destruction has sparked a controversy that would have received more attention if not for the debates about the Constitutional amendments.

            Now that those debates have ebbed for a time, the issue of whether Orthodox priests should bless weapons of mass destruction is assuming a more central place in the media. Today, a priest who serves in the Strategic Rocket Forces was even interviewed by Novosti about what he says is a mistaken approach by the Patriarchate (

            Father Mikhail says that the proposed ban ignores church teachings and Russian traditions, dangerously promotes the ideas of “pure” and “impure” weaponry, and represents a mistaken Russian effort to ape the decisions of the Roman Catholic Church which recently held a conference at which nuclear weapons were denounced.

            From the point of view of the faith, all weapons have the potential to be bad; but when used to defend the nation from enemies, they also have the capacity to do good, the priest says. Consequently, there is no reason not to bless weapons in the stockpiles of the Russian Federation because these will be used only in that latter way.

            He says that many other priests and likely “not a few also among the bishops” feel as he does. Their opinions should be taken into account – they weren’t in the preparation of the draft document, Father Mikhail says – and the document should be either pulled entirely or rewritten to allow for the blessing of all the fatherland’s weaponry. 

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