Orthodox priests in the central Russian city of Tver have been practising an original method of ridding locals of alcohol abuse and fornication: grab some religious relics, jump in a bi-plane, circle overhead and pour holy water onto citizens from the skies while reciting prayers.
Russian news site tnvernews.ru reported that far from being a one-off stunt, Tver priests have been doing this on national Sobriety Day (11 September) for years. Organiser and parish council chair Alexander Goryachev was quoted as saying:
"Together with the icon of the Inexhaustible Chalice we have been flying over Tver since 2006. It's a city relic."
The ritual originated – "believe it or not" Goryachev added helpfully – when a man spontaneously gave up drinking alcohol after spotting a plane in the sky. Since then, two couples from other cities approached the parish claiming to have been reunited thanks to the sobering deliverance of the former Tverian drunk.
Having carried out this airborne ritual for 13 years, with ground-based Sobriety Day processions beginning in Tver just two years before that, the priests have fine-tuned the process considerably. Father Alexander neatly pours the holy water out of the aircraft from a bowl – he won't use an aspergillum (sprinkler) because "the spray just flies back into the plane" – from an altitude of 200-300 metres while his team hold an on-board prayer service.
Father Alexander acknowledged that some people might find this sort of thing, well, a bit funny. "Stop alcohol use, drugs, stop fornication... does it cause laughter? Let them laugh and we will do our job.
"Any disease is from a virus, and a virus is a demon."
Just to make sure everyone understood that his logical reasoning was as sound as his science, he added: "Therefore, any disease is primarily a spiritual disease."
We at The Reg are aware that this event took place a week ago but we've only just sobered up. ®