MOSCOW, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Priests gave a special blessing to the people charged with storing and maintaining Russia's nuclear arsenal, a rite considered unthinkable a few years ago.
The ceremony marked the 60th anniversary of the 12th Main Directorate, established by Josef Stalin in 1947 during the nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Serafim of Sarov is the unofficial patron saint of the directorate.
Cooperation between the armed forces and the Orthodox Church has grown in recent years, encouraged by the top military brass and endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Moscow Times reported.
The presiding bishop ended the occasion by reading a message from Patriarch Alexy II.
"I congratulate you on this memorable anniversary," the message said, "and I raise prayers to God and to the venerable Serafim of Sarov that the nuclear weapons created by you and entrusted to you will always be in God's hands and will only be weapons of deterrence and retaliation."