Russian Orthodox Church priest blamed for crash of satellite after blessing

A Russian Orthodox Church priest is now at the center of a debate after a satellite he blessed crashed into the Atlantic shortly after it was launched from a cosmodrome in Russia's Far East on Nov. 28

(REUTERS / Stringer)The Souyz-2 spacecraft with Meteor-M satellite and 18 additional small satellites launches from Russia's new Vostochny cosmodrome, near the town of Tsiolkovsky in Amur region, Russia November 28, 2017.

Andrei Kurayev, a well-known theologian, said the archbishop who gave the blessing ought to also be held responsible for the crash. In addition, he suggested that the Russian Orthodox Church should be "held liable" for the services it holds, The Moscow Times relayed.

"It is very strange that the church seemingly offers services but is never held liable for the quality of these services," Kurayev told the Gorovit Moskva radio station.

In response to Kurayev's accusations, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin chalked up the theologian's idea to "quasi-Christian paganism."

Another priest also said the Church could not be held responsible for the satellite crash as it could not do miracles.

"Let's put it this way: if you bless a car that has an empty gas tank, it won't start," the priest explained to RIA Novosti, Russia's state-run news agency.  "We address our prayers to God, but that doesn't rule out the possibility of human error or breakages."

On Tuesday, Russian space agency Roscosmos said it could not communicate with the newly launched Meteor-M satellite as it seemed the latter had been unable to reach its assigned orbit, Reuters reported.

The agency added that 18 smaller satellites had also lifted off along with the Meteor-M, and these were owned by scientific, research, and commercial firms based in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Russia, Norway, Sweden, and Japan. 

The Vostochny spaceport, where the Meteor-M satellite was launched, is the country's first civilian rocket launch site. It was built to eliminate Russia's dependence on the Baikonur cosmodrome which is being leased from Kazakhstan. The new spaceport launched its first rocket in April last year, but not before a technical problem postponed the event for a day.