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Robot priest hands out blessings

A robot priest has begun handing out blessings in Wittenburg.

The Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau have created the blessing robot, called Bless U-2, which offers each person an "auto-blessing" when they move towards it.

The robot is made of a metal box, with two arms, electronic eyes, a digital mouth and a touch screen, where users can choose if they would prefer to be blessed in a male or female voice.

It asks the user to choose their preferred language and then select what blessing they want. It then raises its arms and conducts the blessing as lights flash up the robot's arms. Adopting a smile, the robot then tells the user "God bless and protect you" before reciting a verse from Bible.

Church spokesman Sebastian von Gehren said: "It is an experiment that is supposed to inspire discussion."

The robot - which also allows the user to print off a copy of the verse that had been recited to them - has received mixed views from the congregation.

He added: "One half [of the people] thinks it's great [whilst] the other cannot imagine a blessing from a machine."

However, von Gehren insists these robots won't be replacing pastors any time soon.

Understanding the limits of the robot, he added: "The machine should not replace the blessing of a pastor. In the future there will not be a blessing robot in every church."

And Brunhilde Hoeltz-Mettang, who visited the church, thinks it could be a way to share the Bible with a whole new set of people who might not have otherwise asked for a blessing.

She said: "It's interesting and courageous ... We have to think of new ways, beyond our core communities."

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