Laudate Deum – 10 Clare Parishes return to Nature!
On the 4th of October every year we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis is synomous with linking the love of God with love of nature and the animal kingdom. Centuries of reflection and Franciscan discernment have produced a spitituality of care for the earth as a reflection of God the creator, the sustainer, in whom we have our origin and destiny.
Pope Francis in opting for the name Francis when elected Pope in 2013 indicated that he was serious and intent on addressing the important and critical issue of care for the environment. In 2015 he published a substantial letter on the environment entitled Laudato Si’, Paise be to Him – On Care for our Commmon Home. In that he pleaded for action to ease the effects of global warming, particularly in the developing world. Laudato Si’ was very well received by not only people of faith interest, but among the scientific community as well.
For the latter three weeks of October there is a 450 strong synodal gathering of bishops and laity, women and men of the Universal Church. The object of this meeting is to have a synod on the topic of synodality; how we do things, as Church. It is the culmination of a two-year global consultation process with the faithful.
One of the top items on the agenda for this important gathering is the issue of climate-change, especially in the developing world. It is no small coincidence that on the opening day of the synod a follow up letter on the environment was launched, a document called Laudate Deum, Praise God – to all people of good will on the Climate Crisis was launched. This substantial document is a supplement to and complements Laudato Si’.
Laudate Deum defines what the spiritual motives are on this important issue. In reflecting on the recognised reality of climate change and the clear evidence for it the letter takes a look at some of the successes and failures of various international conferences. In looking at rethinking use of power by some of the stronger countries it sketches what might arise in COP28 in Dubai. There is a key section entitled ‘A growing Technocratic Paradigm’. In that, Pope Francis outlines how opting in favour of economics and technological progress which takes precedence over people and care for the earth is detrimental for the world.
There is a stark warning at the end of the letter, that the warming planet is fast reaching a ‘point of no return’: ‘Praise God’ is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemy.
Return to Nature
One of the ways to address this important issue at local level is a joint effort by the diocese of Killaloe, Clare County Council and the Laudato Si’ promotion of Trócaire. Recently, the Irish Bishops’ Conference agreed that parishes in each diocese would return 30% of church grounds to nature by 2030. It is hoped that the new initiative ‘Return to Nature’ will go a long way in achieving this objective and to ‘live out our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork’.
The initiative will also help address the ‘biodiversity emergency’ which was declared by Dáil Eireann in May 2019. The most recent EU Habitats Directive Article 17 Conservation Status Assessment Report (2019) for Ireland coordinated and prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service found that 85% of habitats, and 30% of species (listed on the annexes of the EU Habitats Directive) were assessed as having an ‘unfavourable conservation status’. Habitat loss has been identified as one of the main pressures affecting biodiversity. The ‘Return to Nature’ initiative aims to manage 30% of church grounds for biodiversity which will comprise a range of measures. This will include providing a haven for pollinators to link in with the ‘All Ireland Pollinator Plan’, installing bird nest boxes and bat roost boxes; planting mini-orchards comprising native Irish tree species, native tree planting, eradicating invasive species, reducing pesticide use and chemicals. The initiative will look at how we have managed our church grounds in the past and how we can manage our grounds to benefit biodiversity going forward into the future.
In Killaloe diocese we are trialling a pilot scheme in County Clare initially; and sought the assistance of ten parishes in Clare who are willing to cooperate and take part in the ’Return to Nature’ initiative. The parishes will work closely with the local community in partnership with the Laudato Si’ Working Group of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Trócaire, officer Jane Mellet and Clare County Council’s Biodiversity Officer Barry O’Loughlin and the All Ireland Pollinator Plan. Actions for nature will also go towards achieving actions under the Clare Biodiversity Action Plan.
To date, the 10 Clare Parishes who have enthusiastically volunteered to participate in the biodiversity project are: Kilkee, Kilmaley, Clarecastle, Broadford, Kilrush, Killimer, Cooraclare, Inagh-Kilnamona, Kilmurry-Ibrickane, Miltown Malbay. We look forward to seeing the fruits of this initiative on Church grounds and please God broadening the scope of this project to other locations also.
Many thanks to Barry O’Loughlin of Clare County Council and Jane Mellet of Trocaire who are assisting us in this important work. Laudate Deum!
✠ Fintan Monahan, bishop of Killaloe
Clare Champion Article, 13th of October, 2023
address the ‘biodiversity emergency’ which was declared by Dáil ann in May 2019. The