‘Poor quality service’: Russian priest mocks archbishop who blessed failed rocket launch
Tuesday’s launch was the second from Russia’s new cosmodrome in the south of the Far Eastern region of Amur. According to a preliminary investigation, the Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket succeeded in delivering its payload to low-Earth orbit, but the Fregat third stage malfunctioned, resulting in the loss of the cargo.
Andrey Kuraev, a Russian Orthodox priest, theologian and popular blogger, used the occasion to poke fun at the local diocese head, Archbishop Lukian, who had blessed the rocket before the launch. Kuraev is a vocal critic of what he sees as lack of morality amongst part of the clergy, including Lukian.
“If a man does something, and the result is bad, he should ask himself whether he does it right. It’s really strange: the Church apparently provides services and is never held responsible for their quality,” he told Moscow radio. “It is an issue of conscience: Lord, why do you not value my prayers? Is it that my relations with you are not as rosy as I believe them to be?”
The diocese responded with an angry rebuke to the tongue-in-cheek remark, saying that a priest’s blessing is no substitute for sound engineering. Svyatoslav Shevchenko, who chairs one of the diocese commissions, branded Kuraev’s comment “populist.”
“A blessing of a car will not protect from a road incident if you drive recklessly,” he told RIA Novosti. “We do address God with our prayers, but a blessing cannot override human factor or technical malfunctions. A baptism is not a guarantee that a person goes to heaven and a wedding does not ensure that the spouses would not part ways. It’s up to the people to work hand in hand with God.”
Blessing an object in Orthodox Christianity is a ritual that symbolizes the owner’s intention to use it to do God’s work. Critics say that many people asking for such a blessing miss this point and perceive it as a ward against bad luck, part of a new fad. They blame the clerics who turn a blind eye to this fact thanks to generous donations they get for their churches in return.
The Russian Orthodox Church has been blessing space rockets before launch since at least 1994, and the dedication has become a sort of a tradition. Not every launch involves a priest, but many do, prompting mockery from some people, who don’t see why a conservative religious institution should have a place in one of Russia’s most complex industries.