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Russian Police Ask Priests to Carry Guns in a Bid to Foil Addicted Thieves Targeting Churches

posted 11:44 PM EST, Thu March 20, 2008
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Russian Police Ask Priests to Carry Guns in a Bid to Foil Addicted Thieves Targeting Churches © Photo: Izarbeltza

Rising crime and alcoholic desperation have put Church Iconography at risk. Russian police admit that they can't help, and ask priests to start carrying guns.

The towns around Moscow comprise what is known as Russia's Golden ring, the birthplace of the Orthodox Church movement, and home to many thousands of valuable religious relics. For the last several years, Russian police have compiled reports on robberies to these Moscow area Orthodox Churches.  Police say that the alcoholic and drug addicted thieves are getting bolder, that incidents are increasing, and acknowledge that due to the poor state of rural roads, they rarely get to the scene of a crime before thieves are gone.

The solution, as explained by police Spokesperson Yelena Kirshanova - "The police are recommending to priests that they should apply, as private individuals, to the interior ministry's offices and request a license to own firearms for self-defense."

Father Andrei Kazarin, of the Kostrina Diocese near Moscow was unimpressed by the police proposal, saying, "It's nonsense for priests to have a gun." He mused that a churchwarden could maybe carry a gun, but then clarified his statement saying, "We don't believe in shooting anybody. Human life is more important than an icon."

In the face of mounting theft from outlying churches, religious leaders had organized a centralization of valuable relics to more secure churches in larger towns. Unfortunately, what had been hoped would stop the robbery has simply provoked increasingly brazen and violent raids into these central and sometimes fortified churches.

Last year in the Urals a priest was killed by thieves stealing icons. Some commentators have called these religious thefts symbolic of the moral emptiness of modern Russia.

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