Church leaders sign heritage bid and declare Bede the Einstein of his time

Two senior church leaders have hailed the Venerable Bede as the "Einstein of his time" after backing a major heritage bid in Sunderland.

The Bishop of Jarrow, the Right Reverend Mark Bryant, and the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Tom Wright, joined forces at an inter-denominational event at St Paul's Church in Church Bank, Jarrow.

Both bishops, plus priests, clergy and lay members from several Christian churches signed a Book of Life, a modern day equivalent of a monastic document, aimed at boosting the Wearmouth-Jarrow bid for World Heritage Site status.

Time is fast running out for people to back the bid, which is set to put the joint monastic site on the world map and provide a major boost to tourism and the local economy.

Bishop Bryant said: "We want the local people of Jarrow to back this bid, because they have a piece of world-famous history in their midst.

"If this bid is successful, it will make Wearmouth-Jarrow as significant as the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China."

Public consultation on the bid is open until July 7, with the final decision to be made by Unesco, by January 2010.

Bishop Wright said: "Bede was really the Einstein of his time – a great scientist, as well as a great historian.

"It's amazing to think that Jarrow was just a tiny village, and yet there was Bede writing the History of the English Church and People and the monks travelling across Europe to bring important manuscripts back to Jarrow.

"But Bede was still a local lad and a priest and pastor and part of the local community, but using his extraordinary gifts."

Yesterday's visit was organised by Churches Together and North East Christian Churches.

Father Bill Braviner, Team Rector of Jarrow, said: "The bid is certainly not a foregone conclusion and it's vital that we get maximum support from local people."

More information about backing the bid is available by clicking on to www.wearmouth-jarrow.org.uk