About 50 people set out on foot from the Swiss village of Fiesch at dawn on July 31. As the sun rose over 13,000-foot (4,000-meter) Alpine peaks, the procession moved slowly up a mountainside and into the cool of a pine forest, stopping at a tiny church.
“Glacier is ice, ice is water, water is life,” intoned priest Toni Wenger, before beseeching God to stop the glaciers high above them from melting.
By changing a few, crucial words in the liturgy, Father Wenger reversed a Catholic ritual that for 350 years had implored the heavens to push back the glaciers.
The Vatican had approved the change as the effects of global warming became all too tangible in the Alps.
“We prayed for the ice to recede, and our prayer worked—too well,” said Herbert Volken, mountain guide and mayor of Conches, the district that includes Fiesch.
In 2009 the local parish council petitioned the Vatican to allow a change in the wording of the prayer. A year later the Holy See agreed, and Volken hopes the new prayer will work as well as the last one.
Tip: Chipshotz (via our Story submission form)
Here is a great example of superstition at work. They prayed to stop the destruction of their lands from the glacier’s floods and hazards. Global warming decimated the ice which has receded to such a degree that it’s causing its own hazards such as lack of water and increased fires. So, with the help of nature (aided by the industrial age), the prayer appeared to work. Now, reality bites.
The new prayers will do nothing to reverse global warming. Based on trends the rapid warming—and subsequent melting—will continue for at least the next 30 years. Yet, people will cling to their hope they can exert some effect on the environment by appealing to a higher power.