Russia restores full-scale military priesthood
MOSCOW, December 8 (RIA Novosti) - Some 30 priests will be sent to serve at Russia's military bases as part of a program aimed at restoring full-scale military priesthood, a spokesman for the Russian Holy Synod said on Tuesday.
In July, after a meeting with heads of Russia's main confessions, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the defense ministry to restore military priesthood, which existed from the 18th century to the start of the Soviet era.
"A total of 30 priests have already been selected for serving at our military bases, including in the North Caucasus," archpriest Dmitry Smirnov said during a press conference at Moscow's Danilov Monastery, adding "the first 13 people will depart this month."
"Of course, there are some specific requirements... as for their state of health, intellectual and cultural development level... they should be the best of the best," he said.
At the first stage, only Orthodox priests will be sent to serve at military bases, the archpriest added.
Rastam Valeyev from the Russian Muslim authority said Muslim religious organizations were also ready to prepare clerics for serving in the Russian army.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said at the press conference that, "We all believe this important step will yield its good results in the near future."
Chaplains serve in the armies of all large military powers, except North Korea, China and Russia.
According to the Russian defense ministry, two thirds of the country's servicemen consider themselves religious. Some 83% of them are Orthodox, about 8% are Muslims, and 9% represent other confessions.
There are about 400 priests currently serving at Russia's military bases. A quarter of them hold military awards for serving in hot spots.
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