Faith Matters

30 per cent of Ireland's Catholic parish grounds to be 'rewilded' by 2030

The cherry blossom, pictured at St Paul's Church on Belfast's Falls Road, is symbolic of spring and a time of renewal, representing the fleeting nature of life... Catholic parishes are being asked to give over 30 per cent of their grounds to nature, to attract bees and butterflies. Picture by Mal McCann

Parishes often take a certain pride in how neat and tidy their grounds are – but soon they will be more concerned about letting them grow wild and attracting bees and butterflies.

Following their spring general meeting Catholic bishops' said they were asking parishes across Ireland to give over almost a third of their grounds to nature, a process sometimes called 'rewilding'.

Environmental issues have been firmly on the Church's agenda since Pope Francis published his encyclical Laudato Si', with its subtitle 'on care for our common home', in 2015.

The Irish Church has a Laudato Si’ working group and there are numerous initiatives being undertaken at diocesan and parish level across the country.

At last week's meeting the bishops received a report from the working group and heard its recommendations of how the Irish Church could make a practical response.

As a first step, they said that in response to the impending loss of nature to our world", the call of Laudato Si’ and agreements made at the recent UN Conference on Biodiversity, they were asking "parishes, through their parish pastoral councils and diocesan trusts" to identify and "care for 30 per cent of parish grounds as a haven for pollinators and biodiversity, in order that it can be enjoyed in perpetuity by the whole community".

"In embracing this initiative we encourage parishes to expand their circles of solidarity, to protect and care for biodiversity and recommend that, by 2030, 30 per cent of church grounds be returned to nature," said the bishops.

"The first goal of Laudato Si’ asks us to respond to 'the cry of the Earth’.

"In Laudato Si’ we read that this diversity of species has an 'intrinsic value independent of their usefulness. Each organism, as a creature of God, is good and admirable in itself'.

"Humanity is called to care for the Earth and all of its creatures, in other words to 'live out our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork'."