Swiss reverse glaciers prayers
15th August 2009
For 350 years local villagers have prayed for the glacier to retreat, now they want to pray for it to grow. They’re asking The Pope for special permission.
Since 1678 the villagers of Fiesch and Fieschertal in the Valais canton have offered prayers to stop Europe’s highest and biggest glacier expanding.
Their prayers appear to have been answered, but rather too well, as the shrinking glacier is now deemed to be threatening the community.
They are asking The Pope if they can change a prayer that they have been saying down the centuries.
In 1678 the villagers vowed to live virtuously and to pray against the growth of the glacier and the flooding of Lake Märjelen, which formed on the east side of the glacier.
The prayer was sent to Pope Innocent XI in Rome for his official approval via the bishop of Sion and the pope’s ambassador in Bern.
Since 1862 the locals have also held an annual five-hour procession to Ernerwald chapel on July 31, St Ignatius’ feast day, to reinforce their prayers.
But they now want to seek permission from Pope Benedict to reverse the vow.
They are hopefull of success as The Pope has already spoken out about the dangers of climate change.
The Aletsch glacier, the largest in the Alps, is 23.6 km long, contains 26.5 billion tons of ice and covers more than 120 square kilometers.
“This is no PR stunt. The situation is serious. Over the past three centuries the glacier has retreated 3.5 kilometres and is about 300 metres thinner,” Herbert Volken, the mayor of Fiesch has told local media.
The Aletsch glacier in the Berneese Oberland is now protected by UNESCO
See below for some pictures of the glacier that PlanetSKI took while ski touring there 3 years ago and this report on the BBC.
For more on this story see www.swisinfo.com