Germany Celebrates Reformation With A Robot Pastor

To celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, one church built a robot pastor to dispense God’s blessings in case a real pastor is unavailable.

A church in Germany unveiled the “BlessU-2” robot this weekend, and it can deliver several different Christian blessings in five languages and shine light from its palms, the Daily Mail reports.

The robot priest has a touchscreen chest where the user can select a male or female voice and choose a blessing. The user in the video selects a simple blessing, and the robot raises it’s mechanical hands and turns it’s palms facing out. Lights embedded in the robotic hands turn on, shining toward the user, and the robot recites a common New Testament blessing.

“God bless you and protect you,” the robot says in German. “May God make his face shine upon on you and show you mercy. May God turn his face towards you and grant you his peace.”

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The robo-pastor will not replace pastoral care, but the people behind the creation want to begin a conversation about how machines could be part of religious life.

“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau, which developed the robot, told the Guardian.

“The idea is to provoke debate,” Krebs said. “People from the street are curious, amused and interested. They are really taken with it, and are very positive. But inside the church some people think we want to replace human pastors with machines. Those that are church-oriented are more critical.”

Germany is currently celebrating the 500th anniversary of church reformer Martin Luther’s actions in 1517, when he wrote and published 95 theses pointing out the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church, sparking a reformation in religious practice.

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