Catholic bishops urge parishes to set aside 30% of land for rewilding

Call issued in wake of Cop15 global agreement and Laudata Si’ report

Catholic bishops have asked parishes to set aside 30 per cent of their land for rewilding and other environmental projects aimed at supporting biodiversity.

The move comes in response to global agreements reached at the UN biodiversity conference, Cop15, in Montreal last December, which commits to protecting land, freshwaters and seas by the end of the decade.

It was also on foot of a report on the work undertaken by its Laudato Si’ working group, together with related initiatives at parish level across the country.

In response to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, and the impending loss of nature, the bishops are asking “parishes, through their parish pastoral councils and diocesan trusts, as a first step, to identify and care for 30 per cent of parish grounds as a haven for pollinators and biodiversity”, so it can be enjoyed in perpetuity by “the whole community”.


The bishops added: “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.”

The project involves rewilding, growing native species of plants and trees to support pollinators and enhancing biodiversity in the substantial landbanks of parishes.

The first goal of Laudato Si’ calls for a response to the “cry of the Earth”. The bishops noted: “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”, they said.

Key resources to help parishes identify and care for parish grounds will be made available, the bishops confirmed.

Climate activist Lorna Gold, who is president of the Laudata Si’ movement and director of FaithInvest, said the move was “a big win for Irish biodiversity” following a terrible report in the form of Plant Atlas 2020 this week. This research indicated 56 per cent of native Irish plant life has declined over the past 20 years.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times