Russian cosmonaut says he has taken relics of saint to space

A cosmonaut who has returned to Earth after a mission on the International Space Station says he took a relic of a Russian Orthodox saint with him.

Sergei Ryzhikov told Russian news agencies on Wednesday that he would give the tiny relic of St. Serafim of Sarov's body to an Orthodox church in Star City outside Moscow, home to the cosmonaut training center.

Ryzhikov, who landed with two other crew members on Monday after six months in space, said he would celebrate the relic's return at a church service in Star City on Thursday.

Space exploration in atheist Soviet society was often portrayed as the debunking the existence of God. Russia has since experienced a religious revival, with the overwhelming majority of Russians now identifying themselves as Russian Orthodox.