Irish bishops call for 30% of church grounds for biodiversity

church grounds for biodiversity

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has urged parishes across Ireland to dedicate 30% of their church grounds for biodiversity and pollinators so grounds can be enjoyed “in perpetuity by the whole community.”

The initiative aims to protect local biodiversity, raise awareness about global conservation efforts and emphasise the role of people of faith in safeguarding the environment.

The bishops’ call comes in response to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

The move also aligns with the international commitment made at the 2022 United Nations conference on biological diversity, COP15, to restore 30% of land to nature.

Immense potential to impact ecosystems

With 1,365 parishes encompassing 2,646 churches across 26 dioceses on the island of Ireland, this initiative holds immense potential to significantly impact local ecosystems.

The plan has been hailed by Jane Mellett, Laudato Si’ officer with the bishops’ development agency, Trócaire, who told EarthBeat it was “Great to see this leadership in response to the biodiversity crisis.”

Mellet said that the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Ireland has welcomed the bishops’ proposal and would be happy to journey with a pilot parish.

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has been at the forefront of environmental initiatives. It was the first bishops’ conference globally to divest its assets from fossil fuels. This action has inspired similar commitments from bishops’ conferences in Austria, Belgium, Eastern Africa, the Philippines, and Scotland.

Timeframe provides time for parishes

Bishop Martin Hayes, the coordinating bishop for Laudato Si’ in the Irish church, clarified that the biodiversity and pollinators proposal is a strong recommendation, not a requirement. Parishes are encouraged to engage individuals passionate about gardening and local gardening experts to lead the implementation of the initiative.

To support the parishes, the Laudato Si’ Working Group (LSWG), associated with the Irish Episcopal Conference’s Council for Education, is developing resources such as The Faith Community Pollinator Plan and Gardening for Biodiversity.

The LSWG, comprising climate experts, theologians and Trócaire staff with experience in climate-affected regions worldwide, has played a vital role in advising the Irish bishops on environmental issues.

The timeframe of 2030 provides sufficient time for parishes to make a meaningful impact. Although most parishes will be starting from scratch, they hope to witness positive results within a few years.


National Catholic Reporter


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