Orthodox clergy serving the Divine Liturgy at the North Pole on 7 April 2008
Clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate celebrated the first Orthodox Divine Liturgy at the North Pole, 90 degrees north of Greenwich. The liturgy was served by Archbishop Ignaty of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka, two priests, and a deacon of the Kamchatka diocese in a tent erected several hours earlier on an ice floe especially for the occasion, an Interfax-Religion correspondent reported. The tent, large enough to accommodate 15 worshipers, was sanctified by Archbishop Ignaty in honour of the Twelve Apostles, “as a sign that the teachings of Jesus Christ have reached the very ends of the Earth”. ”We chanted the prokimen, a psalm dedicated to the Apostoles, Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the earth”, a priest said.
The temperature dropped to 25 degrees below zero Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit) when the Orthodox expedition arrived at the North Pole. The church service lasted for about three hours, with the priests wearing their white vestments over their polar outfit. The chants were sung according to the ancient Russian Znamenny rospev. Five Orthodox sacraments were performed during the service. Before the liturgy proper began, Mayor Vladislav Skvortsov of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky was baptised and anointed with chrism, thus becoming the first man ever to have been baptised at the North Pole. The baptism was performed by Archbishop Ignaty. Five of the laymen present, including the Interfax correspondent, confessed, were absolved, and received the sacrament of the Eucharist at the service. Deacon Roman Nikitin of the Petropavlovsk Diocese Missionary Department was ordained to the priesthood in the course of the liturgy.
After the liturgy concluded, Fr Roman spoke to the Interfax correspondent. “Now, after a long hiatus of some ninety years, Russia turns its face yet again to the north, which is a very strategic region for it. In Russia, we begin any good effort with prayer, so, it should not be surprising that we have just completed the liturgy at the North Pole, for the first time in the entire history of Polar exploration”. In addition to their other activities, the clergy blessed a 2-metres-high wooden devotional cross that was the gift of the personnel of the ice station situated some 100 kilometres away. Periodically, from this time forward, personnel from this ice station shall be stationed at the North Pole.
7 April 2008