Moscow, February 4, Interfax - The inter-council presence of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has drafted a document proposing that the church no longer bless certain types of weapons.
"The blessing of military weapons is not reflected in the traditions of the Orthodox Church, nor is it consistent with the Rite itself, and thus should be excluded from the pastoral practice of using this rite for the 'consecration' of any variety of weapon, including indiscriminate weapons and weapons of mass destruction [WMDs], whose use may result in an uncertain number of deaths," the draft, published on the ROC website, said.
At the same time, it is appropriate to bless ground, water, and air military transport vehicles, as this concerns saving soldiers' lives, not consecrating cannons, projectiles, or bombs, it said.
The rite dates back to a 12th-century Russian tradition of "girdling" a young prince with a sword as a token of his readiness for military service, as well as his readiness to defend his homeland. In those days, princes and warriors had their personal cold weapons blessed by the church as a status symbol and a sign of their readiness to serve.
Unlike the consecration of WMDs, praying for soldiers is an established religious practice performed both at daily services and on special occasions, during conflict, the draft document said. Furthermore, "it has been a church tradition to bless soldiers for military service," it said.
The draft, entitled "On blessing Orthodox Christians for military duty," will now be sent to the ROC dioceses for feedback. Anyone can participate in the debate. The deadline for feedback is June 1.
The inter-council presence is a consultative body which assists ROC leadership with decision-making on the most important issues concerning activities inside and outside the Church.