September 8th, 2007
The Times | Sep 8, 2007
by Alex Kirby
They flew in from around the world, completing the final leg in a half-full charter from London that must have left an embarrassingly large carbon footprint.
But the leaders of six world religions paused for two minutes here yesterday under a grey sky, with a mirror-calm sea, and on an unseasonably warm day, to pray for the ailing planet.
The Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, the leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians, was joined by Christian bishops and a cardinal, the Grand Rabbi of Paris, Sunni and Shia scholars, and by Hindu, Shinto and Zen Buddhist leaders.
All are taking part in an Arctic Symposium, the seventh such event organised by Bartholomew since 1995 on threatened rivers and seas.
Inevitably, perhaps, the focus this year was climate change. The Patriarch said he had prayed “for the planet and for the Earth, for salvation of life and heart, for the coming generation, and for Creation.” Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of support.
The ceremony was held on a Norwegian cruise ship a few hundred yards from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, the probable source of the iceberg which sank the Titanic in 1912, and one of the fastest-moving in the world.
Dr Robert Correll, a glaciologist, chaired the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, the most authoritative recent scientific review of the region. He said: “A few years ago the glacier was moving at several kilometres a year . . . it’s now heading for the sea at 15km annually, two metres an hour.
“Ice is more permeable than we thought. Melted water is flowing down through cracks in the ice. It’s as if we’re putting oil on the bottom of the glacier.”