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Russian Orthodox priest baptizes soldiers in body bags

Viktor Ivanov, an archpriest from Ufa who came to the war zone in Ukraine to “offer support” to Russian soldiers, has baptized them using black polythene body bags. He recounts the ceremony on his VKontakte page, adding a geotag to his photo suggesting that the ritual took place in Zaporizhzhia.

According to Ivanov, the soldiers did not mind. The men had approached him, asking to be baptized. Unable to find any bowl or basin for the ritual, they suggested using body bags.

“‘Do you have any basins?’ I asked hopefully, well aware of the fact that such items were considered a luxury in trenches. But who knows? ‘We’ll look around!’ responded the stocky guy with a matching hopefulness. However, much as we’d expected, we did not find even a single basin. ‘Are there any polythene bags?’ I asked with a bigger hope. ‘There should be!’ and the guys were off to fetch them. Eventually, we had all we needed,” Ivanov shared.

Black polythene bags that the Russian army uses for dead bodies were transformed into “baptism vessels”. “Everyone realizes where they are and what could happen, so they accept it as a given, as a reality in which the attributes of death do not instill fear,” the archpriest reassured.

“We placed an empty ammunition box on a felled tree and covered it with polythene from the inside. We then installed a large icon of Our Lady of Kazan on the same tree trunk and brought a cardboard box for the feet, also waterproofing it with a bag. ‘Well,’ I said thoughtfully, ‘while I have baptized people in basins, it is my first time with polythene bags!’” the archpriest writes in his post.

He also refers to a certain symbolism of the setup: “The ceremony of baptism can be regarded as the person’s ‘death’ for the realm of sin, so they were baptized in ‘burial’ bags. A new person is born – Christ’s warrior – and they immersed their hands in the ammunition box. The Lord's grace for Christians is like ammunition for soldiers. The more, the better! This was how two new Christians were born: Sergei and Ioann.”

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