New Ark sails into green and dreadful revelation
Modern-day prophets predict environmental apocalypse. Geoffrey Lean reports from on board FB Preveli, off Ephesus
Sunday 24 September 1995
Convened by the Eastern Orthodox "Pope", the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st, and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the pilgrimage has marked a breakthrough in relations between religion and ecology. For the first time leaders of the Christian church have declared pollution and the destruction of the environment to be a sin, at a symposium aboard the ferry as it sails towards the island where the imprisoned St John the Divine had the vision that forms the final book of the Bible.
The pilgrimage, calling at Athens, Istanbul and Ephesus as well as Patmos has the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury,George Carey, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, US Vice President Al Gore, Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, and Boutros Boutros- Ghali, the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Some 200 leading scientists, environmentalists, politicians and clerics,including much of the hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church, are on board and participating in the symposium.
Patriarchs in black stovepipe hats and long white beards mingle with the likes of David Bellamy, the almost equally hirsute environmentalist and television presenter, and Tim Worth, former chairman of the Clinton- Gore presidential campaign and now Under-Secretary of State for international environmental issues.
A detailed exposition of the latest science on global warming by Sir John Houghton, the chairman of the Royal Commission on environmental pollution and adviser to John Major, is closely followed by a female chief from Western Samoa - who is also head of the rugby union board - sprinkling water on the Eastern Orthodox Pope in a traditional Pacific blessing.
The newly elected Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, rubs shoulders with composer John Tavener who is staging a performance of his oratorio on the Apocalypse in the ancient theatre of Ephesus tonight.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Etchegarry, the head of two pontifical councils, dines with a member of the Ibalot-Igorot, indigenous people of the Philippines, and the leading industrialists of Muslim Turkey
The Ecumenical Patriarch - an approachable, bespectacled somewhat tubby figure who refers to the ferry as "a latter day Ark " - warns that damage to the environment may be about to precipitate an apocalypse
Ecological catastrophe is "a great threat," he says, "a great danger not only for the faithful of our Church but for the whole of human kind".
Over a dinner of lobster and locally caught fish, the Patriarch pointed in the air with a self-deprecating smile when I asked him how he had become interested in the environment
"By inspiration," he said. He is determined to put the issue towards the top of his church's agenda, describing it as a matter of "life and death". He brackets pollution with "nuclear destruction" as a possible cause of the end of the world.
Both he and his leading theologian, Metropolitan John of Pergamum, say that Christianity's focus on humans and their mastery over nature has greatly contributed to the crisis. The Metropolitan, who also serves as "foreign minister" to the Patriarch and other leading Greek Orthodox clerics, described pollution and environmental destruction as a "sin"
"We are used to regarding sin mainly in social terms" the Metropolitan told the symposium as the ferry sailed past the barren eroded hills of the Dardenelles.
"But there is also a sin against nature. Evil is not only a matter for human beings but affects the entire Creation. Any pain or suffering inflicted on non-human beings is no less evil than it is when applied to humans.
"This morality still awaits to find its place in our Christian consciences."
He added "The Book of Revelation is full of references to the consequences of evil for the natural environment .The ecological crisis, more than any other problem of humanity,reveals the truth that the world forms one unity and one community and that even the slightest violation of nature in one paret of the world leads inevitably to consequence affecting in the rest of the world."
Prince Philip,who has not himself joined the pilgrimage,sent a message warning that "humanity is facing an apocalypse of its own making", while Bishop Chartres spoke of the "havoc wrought by military and economic elites that devastate the earth and sea".
The theology of the Greek Orthodox Church is particularly environment- friendly, more so than other churches. It emphasises the sacredness of all living things, as well as the importance of looking after bodies which it believes go to heaven as well as souls. But it was the last Patriarch, Dimitrios who died in 1991, that began to "green" the church.
Both he and the present Patriarch, were particularly upset by pollution of the Black Sea, now one of the most endangered in the world. Over the past decade pollution entering the Black Sea from the Danube alone has increased tenfold. The sea's once abundant fisheries have been decimated while cholera epidemics sweep around its shores.
The pilgrimage was also envisaged as a way of building bridges between historically hostile Greece and Turkey - but here it is likely to prove less successful. Fundamentalist Muslims in Turkey have furiously attacked the enterprise as a Greek plot and though prominent Turks joined the pilgrimage in Istanbul the Greek government increased the temperature by having one of its warships give the Ro-Ro ferry a 21 gun salute as it entered disputed waters in the Aegean.
The Greek Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou, and some of his Cabinet colleagues will join the celebration of the anniversary in Patmos. Meanwhile his controversial wife Dimitra - "Mimi" - threatens to add her own twist to an already tortuous situation by setting off to the island for the anniversary in her own boat, with her own entourage, to bolster her career.
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
It takes a platoon of chefs, litres of brandy and rum, and almost 100kg of dried fruit
Jennifer Lawrence: 'It should be illegal to call someone fat on TV'
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Paul Walker death caused by speed alone
DNA from a 50,000 year old toe shows Neanderthals were highly inbred
Devyani Khobragade: India-US row escalates over arrest of diplomat in New York
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: QA .NET Agile UNIX LIN...
£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: C# ASP.NET SQL Develop...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET SQL Developer (Software Developer, Softw...
£500 - £650 per day: Harrington Starr: Excellent opportunity for Murex Subject...