The Russian Orthodox Church continues to pray for relief from the heat and drought that has gripped Russia for two months, and one archbishop condemned some retailers for profiteering from the extreme weather conditions.

“That air conditioners sell for 50,000 roubles [$1,650] instead of 10,000, when people are dying of the heat is immoral and cruel,” said Archbishop Feofan of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, speaking at a youth camp at Pyatigorsk, in the Stavropol region. “Sell them at the old price at least. This is God’s command, and compassion for one’s neighbor.”

The cleric acknowledged that Russia has a market economy that sets the price of goods. However, he said, “This is not always justified, especially at critical moments in life.”

In an encyclical on Aug. 1, Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church had called for continuous prayers and special church-wide collections. 

Monks at the Svyato-Nikolo-Tikhonovsky Monastery in the Ivanovo region urged that water be blessed in churches and used on the fires, the Interfax news agency reported.

“The blessed water, together with the help of aviation and other means … must be sprinkled over burning forests and villages,” the monks appealed.

In Voronezh, a region hit by some of the worst of the forest fires that have swept across Russia, Metropolitan Sergius held a prayer service on Aug. 9 to entreat God for rain.

Afterwards Orthodox Christians gathered to start a five-day procession around the region by car, bearing relics of St Mitrofan, a local saint.

Metropolitan Sergius said that prayers raised up during processions in July were heard and brought some relief in the form of rain, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda reported. 

Monks at one of the most important monasteries in Orthodoxy, the Kiev Monastery of the Caves in Ukraine, which has suffered from temperatures near 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), are also praying for rain, the press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate reports. 

The rector of a cathedral in Dnepropetrovsk was reported by a local news Web site saying that while eliminating parts of church services to shorten them due to the heat is considered a mortal sin, the choir is singing faster to speed things up.

The Russian Orthodox Church has  raised more than 6.6 million rubles ($200,000) in a drive to raise funds for victims,, the Web site of the Moscow Patriarchate’s charity department, reported.

Smog generated by the fires enveloped Moscow for more than a week, exacerbating the impact of the heat wave that has suffocated the Russian capital with temperatures above 86 degrees since June. 

Moscow received some respite on Aug. 10 as rain came, lifting the smog, while forecasters said the air might remain clear for a few days.

The Rev. Mikhail Ryazantsev told the Interfax news agency that air conditioning has been problematic at Christ the Savior Cathedral, where he is sacristan. The cathedral, which was built under the patronage of Moscow’s powerful mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has sophisticated climate control systems.

Priests at Moscow churches without air conditioning said that despite the heat and smoke the number of worshippers had not declined beyond the usual summer drop-off.

“People are not complaining,” the Rev. Sergei Rybko told Interfax. “When you serve, and pray, you don’t especially notice this smoke and heat. It should be noted that donations have risen significantly in the days since his Holiness the Patriarch announced a collection for the victims of the fire.”

Editor’s note: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission workers serving in Moscow are Alan and Ellen Smith and Bob and Stacy Bronkema. — Jerry L. Van Marter