Heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, has warned that the world risks the possibility of plunging into a "New Dark Age" unless urgent action is taken on climate change.
During his first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, Charles said the global economic crisis was "nothing" compared with the "horror" of global warming.
Flanked by Swiss Guards in ceremonial uniforms, the Prince of Wales met Benedict for a 15 minute reception in the Pontiff's private apartments - his first Papal audience since his divorce from Princess Diana and subsequent remarriage.
His wife Camilla, who wore a black dress and a black lace veil, in keeping with Vatican protocol, and appeared nervous in the presence of the Pope, accompanied him.
The Pontiff, who recently turned 82, has made concern for the environment one of the keynotes of his papacy, regularly calling for more action on global warming and installing solar panels on the roof of the Vatican, reports The Telegraph.
The Prince of Wales gave Pope Benedict 12 ceramic dessert plates decorated with hand-painted flowers from his estate at Highgrove. In return he received a copy of a 500-year-old etching of St. Peter's.
Earlier the Prince addressed the Italian parliament, telling deputies in a mix of English and Italian that time is running out in the fight against climate change and calling for a "Renaissance" of sustainable living.