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Church creates 'robot priest' to bless visitors in Martin Luther town

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Church creates 'robot priest' to bless visitors in Martin Luther town
Photo: DPA
16:43 CEST+02:00
The Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau has built a robot to give out blessings to visitors in Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt as it celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The robot's Bible verse-reading and blessing abilities were unveiled for the first time in Wittenberg for the Church Congress events, which took place between last Wednesday and Sunday, according to Tag 24.

The robot, named “BlessU-2”, can deliver the blessings in seven different languages, including the German dialect of Hessisch.

Visitors for the Church Congress could choose between 31 different Bible verses from four different categories. The Bible verse was then read out by an automated voice, with a blessing then being printed out for the visitor to keep. 

“It's an experiment that can prompt discussion,” said Sebastian von Gehren of the regional church.

The machine was built as an attraction for visitors coming to the church for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year. Martin Luther reportedly nailed his 95 theses to a door of a church in Wittenberg in 1517, leading to the birth to Protestantism.

The town is very popular amongst tourists, and is likely to receive many pilgrims for the 500th anniversary celebrations on the official October 31st anniversary date.

SEE ALSO: How 'Luther town' is cashing in on the Protestant Reformation

The robot was constructed using a metal box with a monitor in it, two arms, and a head with eyes and a digital mouth. Von Gehren said that the church deliberately chose not to make the robot look human.

BlessU-2 has received different reactions from people.

“One half thinks it's brilliant, but the other half just cannot imagine getting a blessing from a machine,” said von Gehren.

He added that the people who don't normally have anything to do with the church found it particularly good, saying that “Some people from Wittenberg now come every day, morning and evening.”

“It's interesting and very brave. We do need to think about new ways of reaching beyond our core church community,” said Brunhilde Hoeltz-Mettang, a visitor to the church.

While the robot is meant to aid prayer and act as an attraction for newcomers to the church, von Gehren assured people that it will not be taking over services any time soon.

“The machine isn't meant to replace the blessings made by regular priests. There will not be a blessings-robot in every church in the future.”

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