Pollution is a sin, say church leaders at sea

John Paul II to join Orthodox church's 'Green Pope' at the end of his Mediterranean voyage to protect Mother Earth

Like a latter-day Noah's Ark, a nine-storey ferry is nosing its way up the Adriatic this weekend on a voyage to ecclesiastical and ecological history.

Spiritually skippered by the Eastern Orthodox "Pope" – and packed with his bishops, Roman Catholic cardinals, top scientists and environmentalists – the 34,000-tonneFestos Palace completes its pilgrimage tomorrow in Venice with an unprecedented joint initiative by the heads of the long-warring Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew will together sign a declaration warning that the world faces an environmental and social crisis, asserting that Christians have a particular responsibility to combat it, welcoming the rise of environmental consciousness and laying the foundations for developing a joint "environmental ethos". Senior clerics say it is the first time that two church leaders have signed a joint declaration of action of this kind.

Originally they were to meet in the magnificent Palazzo Ducale – from which a 13th-century Doge diverted a crusade to sack Constantinople, marking the nadir of relations between the two halves of Christendom – to sign the declaration together. But due to the Pope's failing health and energy, he is now to stay in Rome, from where he will address the Patriarch's party, and simultaneously sign the declarationon television.

Today, in another unprecedented gesture of reconciliation, Patriarch Bartholomew will celebrate mass in the sixth-century Byzantine-style but Catholic Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Classe, near Ravenna. It is thought to be the first time that an Orthodox Patriarch has celebrated a mass in a Catholic church.

The service and the signing come at the climax of a series of floating symposia during the last seven years, the brainchild of the Patriarch, whose enthusiasm for environmental issues has led to him being dubbed the "Green Pope". He first took another ferry through the Aegean to the island of Patmos in 1995 for the 1,900th anniversary of the writing of the Book of Revelation. There the Orthodox Church formally declared pollution to be a sin. Subsequent voyages have included a circumnavigation of the Black Sea and a voyage down the Danube immediately after the Kosovo war.

For the past two years the organisers have been wondering how to involve Pope John Paul II in this crusade. The text to be signed tomorrow is being kept secret, but the Orthodox Church has been discussing whether it should include a joint declaration of the sinfulness of degrading the environment. The Patriarch starkly warned the delegates – who include Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London – that "we witness death approaching on account of trespassing against limits that God placed on our proper use of creation".

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan warned it might too late to prevent catastrophic environmental damage.

"Environmental crises like climate change won't wait while we procrastinate for 'conclusive' scientific data," he said.

As the ferry steamed up the Adriatic, stopping in six countries from Greece to Italy, senior politicians came aboard. Albania's leaders were taken to task for failing to fence a former factory site where children play among deadly lindane and chromium. And yet the delegates also heard how the recently warring nations of the former Yugoslavia were beginning to put together joint initiatives to clean up their environment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: (Senior) IT Business Analyst - London - European projects

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer - Java

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital publishing solution...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness