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Pope loses grip on Antarctica: Clergy withdraw from austral landmass

Hey, these tiny nuns REALLY like their fish! Wait a minute ...

The Catholic Church is abandoning Antarctica as a faithless wasteland of pr0n-guzzling irredeemables – or, as the rest of the world knows them, scientists.

The US National Science Foundation has asked the New Zealand diocese of Christchurch to abandon its foothold on the continent. The withdrawal will go ahead thanks to a decline in attendance at Mass, according to New Zealand's Stuff.

It quotes Father Dan Doyle, who first went to Antarctica 40 years ago, bemoaning the steadily declining attendance at services in the Chapel of the Snows, a non-denominational Christian church located at the United States' McMurdo Station on Ross Island, Antarctica.

It's the decline of the continent's summer population in general which might be considered the primary cause of the church's withdrawal.

"This was mainly because the Americans had cut budgets for its scientists and support staff and wanted to reduce their environmental footprint," wrote Stuff, surely leaving Father Doyle encouraged by the wider appreciation of Pope Francis' calls to protect the planet.

Where the Catholic Church had once provided counselling and religious services for the 2,000 folk stationed at the bases in Antarctica, the population does not now rise above 1,200, and even that number is only reached in the peak summer season.

Doyle identified a technological culprit in the changing desire for religious services. In the mid-1970s, a ham radio was a vital link to the outside world. Residents of Antarctica were isolated and needed local provision of services such as grief counselling.

Nowadays they just pop onto the internet, fulfilling their needs themselves.

A military chaplain will remain at McMurdo Station for inter-denominational religious services, as well as providing personal support to residents, Doyle said. ®

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