Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- ) in a spacecraft mockup at Zvezdnogo Gorodoka (“Star Town”).
To fly into space… that’s exactly what His Holiness Patriarch Kirill said he wanted to do…
Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias recently visited the Yuri Gagarin Research Test Centre for Cosmonaut Training, and he interacted with the cosmonauts working there. Fr Georgi Roshchin, a spokesman for the patriarch, said, “To see the earth from the porthole of a spaceship isn’t just a childhood dream of the patriarch’s. The desire of Patriarch Kirill to make a flight into space shows his support for the cosmonauts; they have a hard job, both in orbit and at the training centre. He expressed his support for all the efforts made by the government and all those involved in our space programme. This is a tremendously complex operation”. However, His Holiness is a long-time aviation buff; he’s keen on flying. In his youth, he completed 19 training flights in a MiG aircraft; he performed aerobatic manoeuvres, besides making many parachute jumps, as well.
Many critics of Patriarch Kirill’s desire to fly into space say that it’s ridiculous. They say that only a few decades ago, the terms “space exploration” and “religion” were diametric opposites. Besides, sceptics say, to try to unite both the Church and Outer Space is a mere whimsy. Fr Georgi brushed aside such doubts, arguing, “The Church closely monitors space research and development, and endorses the work done in this field. Space exploration is useful, as it opens up new knowledge about the physical world for us, and it helps people to find new uses in the world around them. For example, we have taken plants into space to see how they behave under different conditions, we study what is beyond our planetary system, and we explore the solar system and galaxies, indeed, the entire universe. All of this may help us in solving many problems that face mankind today. Therefore, the Church looks at such research work with approval. Most importantly, there is a moral dimension, as well, as some claimed that the cosmonauts in space never saw God. Such a perspective on Christian belief is rather simplistic”. At present, an Orthodox priest blesses all rockets and orbital vehicles before they go into orbit. In addition, the ISS has religious items, crosses, icons, and the Bible. It has become a tradition to take icons of the saints into orbit. It is likely that sending priests into space will become a good tradition, too.
2 December 2010
Voice of Russia World Service