Coming in from the cold

After almost six decades of Antarctic ministry, the Church has decided to withdraw from the world’s least populous continent.

Since 1957, New Zealand’s Christchurch diocese has been sending five priests to Antarctica every summer, where they served at the Chapel of the Snows, the world’s southernmost church, and four smaller chapels.

Numbers attending Mass at the Chapel of the Snows, situated at the US-run McMurdo station, have declined to a point where, it is understood, the US’s National Science Foundation asked the diocese to end its link with the base. A military chaplain will now provide inter-denominational services and pastoral support at the base.

Fr Dan Doyle, who has served the continent since 1984, said decreases in religiosity and numbers working at the South Pole, along with budget cuts, had prompted the decision.