Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Single manager appointed to Templeogue College after four board members resign

Templeogue College: Department of Education inspectors to visit school amid  tensions between staff and management | Independent.ie

Four members from the board of management at Templeogue College stepped down from their roles.

The inspection took place earlier this year at the boys’ secondary school which has been at the centre of grievances and mediation efforts between leadership and some staff.

A mediator earlier this year found that many staff reported the atmosphere as “toxic” and pointed to a “clash of cultures” between leadership and core staff.

The Department’s whole school evaluation report on management, leadership and learning at the 700-student school stated that the quality of teaching and learning was good overall and teachers and school leaders had set high expectations for students.

It said the principal, deputy principal, assistant principals and other school leaders collectively managed and oversaw the smooth day-to-day running of the school, but improvement was needed in some areas including internal communication and communication with parents. headtopics.com

“While some teachers reported very positive working relationships with the senior management team, a significant number of teachers were disaffected and reported dissatisfaction with current leadership of the school,” it found.

St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh marks anniversary with thanks

The leader of the Irish Church has paid tribute to the “huge generosity” of those who funded the construction of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, which was dedicated 150 years ago this week.

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh gave credit to the Irish diaspora, especially in America and Canada, and to Protestant neighbours in Armagh, who helped to pay for the building.

Speaking in St Patrick’s on 24 August, the day the cathedral was opened and dedicated in 1873, he said visiting it is not like entering a museum or art gallery.

“This is the Lord’s house, it is a living space of prayer which is deeply sacred.

“For a century and a half, people have come here to lift their hearts and minds to God: in praise and thanksgiving, in sorrow and petition and intercession.”

Thinking of all the baptisms, first communion and confirmation ceremonies, the weddings and funerals that have taken place there, he said: “Imagine the millions of prayers that have been offered up here in times of joy and sadness, worry and happiness.

“I think of all the candles lit quietly in prayer, and faithful people asking God’s help with important relationships, decisions or exams, placing their hopes and fears before God.”

The archbishop said that no matter how splendid a church building may be, “we should always remember that the Church is made up of people – ‘living stones, making a spiritual house’ (1 Peter 2) and Christ is the cornerstone and sure foundation of the Church”. 

Archbishop Martin said that one day the beautiful cathedral of St Patrick’s would fall into ruin or be replaced.

“What is really important is we keep alive the faith and hope that this place represents and hand on the faith to our children and grandchildren.

“Wouldn’t it be a shame if this beautiful cathedral ceased to be a living house of prayer and ended up as simply another interesting tourist stop for visitors to Armagh?”

The foundation stone of the cathedral was laid by Primate William Crolly on St Patrick’s Day 1840, but all building work was later suspended due to the Famine and any funds raised were distributed for the relief of the poor.

Work on the cathedral resumed after Easter in 1854 under the leadership of Primate Joseph Dixon, but it was Primate Daniel McGettigan who oversaw the completion of the building and declared Sunday 24 August 1873 the day of opening and dedication. Massive crowds from across Ireland and beyond attended the opening.

The Archdiocese of Armagh has been celebrating the 150th anniversary with a series of events which included an outdoor “Celebration for Families” in the Shambles Yard in Armagh, at the main gates of the cathedral, on Thursday.

Evening prayer was held later on Thursday in the cathedral, and a specially commissioned icon of St Patrick written by the Redemptoristine Sisters in Drumcondra was unveiled and dedicated.

It depicts Saint Patrick as Enlightener of Ireland, with his hand raised in the gesture of blessing. He holds the cathedral of Armagh cradled in his arm in a gesture of protection, symbolic of his vocation as special intercessor for the people of Ireland and the Archdiocese of Armagh.

A print of the icon was presented to each parish of the Archdiocese of Armagh after the ceremony.

On Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan from St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York will be the main celebrant and preacher at a Mass of Thanksgiving in the cathedral.

However, members of the Dromore Group, survivors of child abuse by Fr Malachy Finegan, have hit out at Cardinal Dolan’s role.

In a statement, representatives of the group said they were “appalled by the decision of Dr Eamon Martin to invite Timothy Dolan to the Armagh celebratory Mass and the role afforded to him as chief celebrant”.

They said survivors of clerical sexual abuse have raised concerns over Cardinal Dolan because of allegations by Chris O’Leary, who alleges he was abused by Fr LeRoy Valentine at Immacolata parish in Missouri, at the same time as the then Fr Timothy Dolan was a priest in the parish.

Chris O’Leary has said he is “extremely triggered” by the fact that Cardinal Dolan is being “feted” in Ireland when he believes the US prelate has questions to answer over what he knew about Fr LeRoy Valentine’s actions in the mid-1970s.

In his address on Thursday, Archbishop Eamon Martin said that in recent weeks, at Masses on the top of Croagh Patrick and at the Hill of Slane, he recalled St Patrick’s dream in which he “heard the voice of the Irish people calling out: ‘We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us.’’”

“Here in St Patrick’s Cathedral, city of Armagh, I call out once more: St Patrick, intercede for Ireland!

“Come and walk once more among us. Inspire in us a determination to work for the renewal of faith, hope and love here in our land.”

Homily of Archbishop Dermot Farrell at Mass to mark the fifth anniversary of the World Meeting of Families

Ireland is diversifying, says Dublin archbishop after census results

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus does something that is vital in all human life: he speaks with those around him, and he listens to them.  Jesus meets his disciples.  

Five years ago, here in Dublin we had an important meeting: a meeting of people of faith from across the world.  

Pope Francis visited Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.  

In this church, our Pro-Cathedral, there was a particular meeting, when the Holy Father met three couples in this very place.  Using a dialogical format, three couples, from various points in the journey of marriage and family posed particular questions to him.

The first couple, Vincent and Teresa, were 50 years married.  In thanking God for their fidelity to their marriage vows, Pope Francis turned towards the words: “for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, all the days of our lives.”  Sometimes the challenge of loving another person forever turns out to be more difficult than those who made them ever imagined they would be.  Consequently, for many couples actually keeping their promises requires great commitment and generosity.

Pope Francis is very realistic about the difficulties that arise in family life. Every marriage partner is a human being, and to be human means that sometimes we make mistakes. We say and do things we shouldn’t say, or do and leave undone things we should say or do. The inevitable hurts and misunderstandings often arise from human frailty and thoughtlessness, as well as the scars left by life’s losses and regrets.  In our families, we forgive others and hope they will forgive us. 

There are triumphs in marriage and there are tragedies. Our pastoral approach to the lives of ordinary people who suffer can be inspired and guided by the words of Pope Francis who calls us to “hear the invitation of Jesus; repentance comes later, [he says,] closeness to Jesus comes later. Constantly he implores those of us in ministry “not to turn the Church into a “customs house” where the righteous, people whose lives are in order, those properly married, can enter, while everyone else remains outside.” “No” he says, “That is not the Church!”  (Pope Francis, Address at Vespers with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers in Lisbon, 2nd August 2023; see also Amoris Laetitia, 66).

Another couple, Denis and Sinead, had asked the Holy Father about the vocation of marriage.  His explored marriage as a sacrament, in other words, how marriage is an image of Christ’s love for the Church.  For couples who remain open to it, their love for each other constantly gives expression to, and is strengthened by, God’s life in the sacrament.  

Once again it is a question of seeking to be faithful to their vows of “for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, all the days of their lives.”  One can say that couples who decide to exchange their marriage promises in a church and have their marriage blessed by a priest are explicitly inviting God’s transforming presence into their relationship.  The gifts of God—knowledge, wisdom, and love itself—are given, not to be clutched, but to be shared generously.   Does giving not bring love to life?   The love a couple have for each other will reach new heights every time they see that love carrying others, especially in days of sadness and failure.

The third couple to whom Pope Francis responded were newly-weds, Stephen and Jordan.  They asked about handing on the faith to any children they might have. For all their necessity and merit of school-based programmes, Pope Francis stressed the unique and irreplaceable role of parents and the home in the shaping of values and in handing on the faith. The bedrock of all is the relationship between the parents themselves, their tenderness, affection, and generosity.  He recalled the generosity of neighbours of his during his youth, who shared food with a poor man that came to their house during mealtime: they gave not from their fridge, but from their table; they shared their own meal, not what they had left over. Everywhere actions speak louder, and no more so than in a family.

Families are good news because they are the place where God begins to reveal to us who we are, how we are, and what we are: that we are someone who is precious to others, that we need each other—not just to survive, but—to live, and that our lives together are filled with paradox and mystery—that love and loss are deeply entwined, as are failure, forgiveness and mercy.  Families are “a chance to take part in God’s dream…of building a world in which no will feel alone” (Amoris Laetitia, 319–21).  Family is the place where we may be ourselves.  Indeed, family is the place where we are known, and have no other option but to be ourselves.  In today’s Gospel (Matt 16:13-20), Jesus goes from asking the disciples, “who do people say that I am?” to asking them, “who do you—you as a group—say that I am?”  The healthy family is the safe place where we begin to hear who we truly are.  Where that discovery happens, God is profoundly at work. Like the Church, instead of remaining closed within themselves, families become more themselves by “going forth”, “caring for others”, and “transforming the world” (Amoris Laetitia 324).

Finally, in the light of today’s Sunday Gospel, there is one important dimension of life that families can bring, both to the Church and to society: the family is a place of dialogue.  Families witnesses to the Church and to the world the power and necessity of dialogue.  In real families, dialogue is not just a word, but a way of life.  Dialogue is not an idea.  It is lived by people, and it permits people to live. Dialogue is not always easy. Every one of us knows this from our own families!  Dialogue needs time: listening takes time, hearing takes time too.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in dialogue with his disciples.  He asks, they respond, he listens, he asks again, they respond again.  This takes time, and openness.  But that dialogue shapes them. Healthy dialogue is a mark of a healthy family, and healthy dialogue is a mark of a strong, confident community and healthy dialogue is a mark of a living Church.

Every loving couple knows how they must journey with each other, and every parent knows how they must journey with their children. In its decisive moments, that road can be very difficult, crucifying even. Letting go, letting others be, letting those we love become who they are, can cost a great deal. But love is patient (see 1 Cor 13:4, Luke 15:20), love does not control, and the family is the school of true love. St Matthew begins today’s account with the words, “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he put this question to his disciples…” (Matt 16:13) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi … way up in the north of the Holy Land. When he had been journeying with them and they with him. The mystery of the Church and the mystery of the family go hand in hand. May we all learn better to journey with each other, to trust each other more, so that together, God can make us more truly the Body of Christ, more truly the family of God.

My sisters and brothers, let us give thanks for our families and those in them who journey with us, their acceptance, their love, their hope, this extraordinary mystery, this extraordinary gift. With St Paul let us pray: “How rich are the depths of God—how deep God’s wisdom and knowledge—and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his ways… To God be glory for ever! Amen (Rom 11:33, 36)

Dermot Farrell,
Archbishop of Dublin

  • This homily was preached in Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral today, Sunday 27 August 2023 at 11.00 am.

Local TD supports removing Freedom of Drogheda from former head of the Christian Brothers

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd has said he believes the Freedom of Drogheda should be removed from the former head of the Christian Brothers, Edmund Garvey, because of the legal strategy the order has adopted in the High Court when being sued in historical sex abuse cases.

Mr O’Dowd, a former three-time mayor of Drogheda, said the councillors who are to vote on the issue next month must make their own decision, but he believed it was legitimate to remove the honour from Br Garvey given the “exceptional circumstances” that existed.

The strategy adopted by the order in the High Court, which began when Br Garvey was the organisation’s leader, is “not at all respectful” of the victims, prevents them getting closure, and affects not just the men but also those close to them, the Fine Gael TD said.

Br Garvey, who was born in Drogheda in 1945, joined the Christian Brothers as a 14-year-old juniorate in Baldoyle, north Dublin. He studied at UCD and Queen’s University Belfast and spent time working for the congregation in Rome, including in 1996 – the year of the beatification of the founder of the congregation Edmund Rice.

Awarded the Freedom of Drogheda in 1997, Br Garvey (78) was leader of the Christian Brothers in Ireland up to last year.

For the past number of years the order has adopted a strategy in the courts in relation to people seeking damages in historical sex abuse cases that has made it hugely difficult to bring the cases to hearing.

One victim of historical sex abuse has written to members of the board of the Co Louth-based Rape Crisis Centre North East complaining about the position taken by a former Drogheda mayor Michelle Hall, who is interim chair of the centre.

Ms Hall was contacted last year when she was mayor of Drogheda, by Dublin councillor Damian O’Farrell, who is acting as a representative of approximately 30 men currently taking cases against the Christian Brothers, and who has led the calls for the rescinding of the honour from Br Garvey.

In her response Ms Hall said the issue would have to be voted on by the 10 members of the Drogheda borough. “Nine of the members indicated that they did not wish to bring forward a motion, including myself. Cllr Eileen Tully hasn’t responded to date. That means that the Freedom of Drogheda award will not be rescinded.”

The victim, who is not being named, asked the board members if they believed there was a “conflict of interest” between the position taken by Ms Hall as councillor, and the “ethos” of the Rape Crisis Centre North East, which is to stand in solidarity with victims.

A motion on the issue has now been raised at county level and referred to the Drogheda district for a vote. Ms Hall has offered to meet with victims to discuss the motion prior to the vote, and a number of the victims are considering whether to take up her offer.

She told The Irish Times she did not wish to comment on the issue of Rape Crisis Centre but said she had worked “long and hard” in support of victims of sex abuse over the years.

Ms Tully, who took over as Mayor of Drogheda in June, told The Irish Times she believes the vote on the issue should be held in secret because of the level of “dissension” it has created.

Deirdre Kenny, the director of advocacy with the One in Four group, which provides support to victims of sex abuse and their families, said it supported the rescindment. “For survivors, once they have taken the step of coming forward they often feel the need to have the support of the community,” she said.

A request for a comment from Br Garvey met with no response. At the time he was granted the Freedom of Drogheda in 1997 the Drogheda native was head of the order internationally. When accepting the award, he apologised for the actions of members who had hurt those attending its schools. “For those who did have hurtful experiences, I apologise and ask forgiveness,” he said.

It is the greatest privilege to be the mother of Maynooth seminarian


The recent launch of a dedicated year for vocations to the Catholic diocesan priesthood is a daring one in these times. 

Some might say that the response to this initiative will be poor, but for others such as myself - perhaps biased as the mother of a seminarian in Maynooth – the feeling is one of “be not afraid”.

Throughout my life I have met many wonderful priests. These inspiring men of all ages give me hope for our priests of the future. They are a pastoral force to be reckoned with: engaging, clever, funny, very much in tune with the people they meet and good listeners. They are eager to serve and to work hard in order to help solve problems for those in need.

More fundamentally, they are spiritually grounded. What I observe in those who are discerning their vocation and treading the boards of their sacrificial life is a commitment to prayer and an openness to taking advice from the wise, older priests and laity. They are eager to learn, while authentically following the teachings of Christ.

One of these seminarians I know very well. He is my son Anthony. I had 13 children, five sons, three daughters and five miscarried babies. In 1990 one of my sons, Peter, died of cystic fibrosis at the age of seven. Peter’s by now famous remark was spoken to a nurse near the end of his life at Harefield Hospital, England. He politely asked the nurse who was remaking his bed, “my cross is my cough; what’s yours?”

Seeing her hesitate, Peter gently offered clarification: “my cross, you know, like Jesus, everyone has one”. So the nurse replied, “Oh well, I will have to think about it”. As do we all.

Suffering, in people’s lives, is rarely a stranger. Some share, others rarely speak of it, but its effect can be life changing, one way or another.

Peter was baptised in Twickenham, Middlesex, and his life was one of great suffering and courage, which inspired many. His experience of meeting priests was positive and he especially loved a great priest friend of ours who ministered to him through the sacraments of First Holy Communion, Confirmation and his anointing and burial in Bray.

Peter admired the ministry of priesthood and laughed a lot with priests, especially when on pilgrimage to Lourdes and to Međugorje. And this is how it should be. Catholic priests are called to exemplary living and behaviour.

Unfortunately, our times have been ravaged by the unthinkable. Abuse is a dark period in our world’s history. For survivors, it is a terrible path to endure, to walk, to remember and especially to forgive. To be betrayed by the very profession that is meant to love, support and protect every human being strikes at the heart and leaves a terrible wound. The Christian response is to pray for survivors and support them wholeheartedly, and to safeguard our community.

In my life, prayer has been essential to move forward, in a fulfilled way, so as to develop wholesome attitudes to gain essential healing. Prayer is central to the life of the seminarian who faces a daily challenge to get it right on his journey to become a faithful spiritual leader.

Priestly ordination is dramatic, and publicly expressed as such, as each seminarian lies prostrate on the altar before our Lord. We all pray for a a pastor after God’s heart. This is the greatest gift to a parish and the most precious gift of divine mercy. Our family has been privileged to experience the joyful culmination of all the years of Anthony’s study, prayer and service.

For us it is reassuring to reflect on the words of St John Mary Vianney, who had a rich understanding of the mystery of priesthood, when he said: “the priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods.”

When I was younger, I prayed at different times for each child in my womb. I asked God to guide each in accordance with His will regarding all their various unknown gifts, praying that each would be true to his or her call whatever that might be. My prayers are answered and I have been blessed for sure.

As I finish my writing I hear the strike of the Angelus bell.

Yvonne Maria Catherine Hartnett is a wife, mother and grandmother. A former student of fine art, and teacher, she paints to raise money for the Mary Meals charity and lives in Co Donegal, Catholic diocese of Raphoe.

What Pope Francis’ trip to Mongolia could mean for Vatican relations with Russia and China

Pope Francis’ next international trip will bring him to Mongolia, a democracy sandwiched between the authoritarian powers of Russia and China.

When Pope Francis lands in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar on Sept. 1, he will become the first pope in the history of the Catholic Church to visit Mongolia, but the trip could have geopolitical implications beyond the country’s small population of just 1,450 Catholics.

Mongolia is a post-Soviet democracy that continues to have strong ties with its geographic neighbors China and Russia as well as an important diplomatic relationship with the United States, which Mongolia calls its “third neighbor.”

In Pope Francis’ first speech at Mongolia’s State Palace, the pope will address not only Mongolia’s democratic leaders but also the local diplomatic corps, which includes embassy officials from Russia, China, and North Korea. This speech in particular presents an opportunity for the pope to send a message to Moscow and Beijing.


Russian state media has already signaled that it is paying close attention to the pope’s trip. The Kremlin-owned Tass news outlet even suggested the possibility of a papal plane layover in the  Moscow airport as a “neutral” location for Pope Francis to meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

During Mongolia’s era of one-party Communist rule in the 20th century, its political and economic ties with the Soviet Union were very strong, and Russia continues to be an essential energy supplier for the Asian country. 

The Soviets gave Mongolia’s capital its current name, Ulaanbaatar, meaning “Red Hero” in Russian, in 1924 in honor of communism. The Mongolian language has used a Cyrillic-based alphabet similar to Russian since the 1940s, although the government has announced plans to revert to the country’s traditional vertical script by 2025.

Today Mongolia imports 90% of its oil products from Russia and has abstained from U.N. votes that condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine has come up in many of the pope’s speeches during his international trips in the past year, including in a speech to government leaders in post-Soviet Kazakhstan, where the pope called for an end to the “senseless and tragic war” in Ukraine.

Due to its unique role as a Eurasian democracy, Mongolia has been put forward as a site for potential peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Pope Francis’ travel to Mongolia comes amid a Vatican peace mission led by Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who has made diplomatic visits to Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington, and was also asked by the pope to continue the Vatican’s “peace offensive” in Beijing.


Mongolia shares a nearly 3,000-mile border with China, which is also Mongolia’s most significant economic partner. Historically, the Mongols conquered all of China during the 13th century and later Mongolia was a part of China’s Qing dynasty for more than two centuries, so one could argue that this is the closest the Catholic Church has ever come to a papal trip to China.

Chinese Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow of Hong Kong has said that he will travel to Mongolia for the pope’s trip with a delegation of about 30 Hong Kong Catholics. Earlier this year, Chow became the first Hong Kong bishop to make an official visit to Beijing in nearly 30 years. 

While Pope Francis is in Mongolia, the Chinese Communist Party will implement new religious restrictions, titled “Regulations on the Management of Religious Activity Sites,” which come into force on Sept. 1. The restrictions ban the display of religious symbols outdoors, require preaching to “reflect core socialist values” and limit all religious activities to government-approved religious venues, according to China Aid. 

The Chinese religious freedom restrictions will affect Christians and Buddhists alike, including in the regions of Tibet and Inner Mongolia, which could be a potential talking point for the Buddhist-Catholic interreligious dimension of Pope Francis’ Mongolia trip. The pope, who has previously received a delegation of Mongolian Buddhist leaders at the Vatican, is scheduled to take part in an interreligious meeting in Ulaanbaatar on Sept. 3.

Vatican-China relations have had a rocky year. Last month, the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision to approve the appointment of the bishop of Shanghai who was previously installed by Chinese authorities without the Holy See’s approval. It was the second unauthorized appointment by Beijing since November 2022.

China currently dominates Mongolia’s trade, with Mongolia sending 86% of its exports to China. Coal accounts for the majority of China’s imports from Mongolia. During the Mongolian prime minister’s six-day trip to China this summer, the prime minister spoke about taking China-Mongolian relations “to new heights” and signed a contract for the construction of a $1.8 billion railway connection to further expand trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, a boost to China’s future Mongolian coal imports.

Notably, Mongolia also agreed to deepen cooperation to mine rare earth metals with its “third neighbor,” the United States, during an official state visit by the prime minister to Washington earlier this month. The U.S. also signed an “Open Skies” agreement with Mongolia, paving the way for Mongolian Airlines to fly to the United States for the first time.

Pope Francis is set to travel to outer Mongolia over the upcoming Labor Day weekend. During the four-day trip, the pope is scheduled to meet with government leaders, engage in interreligious dialogue, and offer Mass for the country’s small Catholic population.

Brazilian Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo dies at age 89

Nota de falecimento: Cardeal Geraldo Majella Agnelo – Arquidiocese de  Londrina

Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, archbishop emeritus of São Salvador da Bahia in Brazil, died Saturday morning at the age of 89.

According to the Archdiocese of Londrina, where Agnelo had been living since 2014, the cardinal’s health had been in decline since suffering a stroke in December 2022 and had worsened in recent days.

In a telegram of condolence for the cardinal’s death, Pope Francis praised Agnelo for his “long years of dedicated service to Holy Mother Church, always guided by apostolic zeal, in the various missions that have been entrusted to him.”

The bishops’ conference of Brazil said Agnelo had always stood out for “his friendliness and his virtue of creating bonds of friendship and communion between people.”

“His life was marked by a great love for the Church and a continuous dedication to the things of the Church, the service of the faith, and the witness of Christian life,” the Aug. 26 statement said.

The cardinal, the bishops continued, “always showed great zeal for the liturgy, for the good formation of priests and the Catholic people, and for unrestricted fidelity to the pope and the Church. He was an interpreter of the right liturgical reform desired by the Second Vatican Council.”

Agnelo, the third of eight children, was born in 1933 in Juiz de Fora.

After his ordination to the priesthood in 1957, he went on to study in Rome and to receive a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm.

Before becoming a bishop, the priest taught liturgical and sacramental theology at the Pius XI Theological Institute in São Paulo. He was also rector of Our Lady of the Assumption Seminary from 1974–1978.

In 1978, he was appointed bishop of Toledo. Just over four years later he was named archbishop of Londrina. He also served as president of the Brazilian bishops’ liturgical commission.

Besides the positions he held in Brazil, Agnelo also served at the Vatican from 1991–1999 as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In 1999, Agnelo was named archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia, and in 2001, Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal.

From 2003–2007, he was president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, and in May 2007, he was president of the “Conference of Aparecida,” a meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, at which the future Pope Francis had a prominent role as chairman of the final document drafting committee.

Agnelo retired as archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia in 2011 at the age of 77.

Ireland’s bishops decide to return 30% of Church grounds to nature by 2030

 Bishop Martin Hayes returns to his native parish to celebrate Mass in the  three churches - Page 1 of 7 - Tipperary Live

On the Emerald Isle, which draws many tourists for its green, unspoiled landscapes, Catholic bishops are in the process of becoming pioneers in the implementation of the encyclical Laudato Si’. They have set a goal for their dioceses and parishes throughout the island: “Return 30% of Church grounds to nature by 2030.”

The origin of this initiative, according to Bishop Martin Hayes, episcopal co-ordinator for the Laudato Si’ Working Group (LSWG) of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, stems from a COP15 gathering in December 2022 in Montreal (a U.N. conference on biodiversity) where participants agreed to “return 30% of land and sea to nature by 2030.” During the event, more than 190 nations came to an agreement after four years of negotiations.

The Irish Church immediately began to follow through.

“We thought it was a great development internationally and we wondered what it would be like if the Church did the same thing,” said Jane Mellett, the Laudato Si’ officer with the Irish Catholic organization Tròcaire and part of the 12-member Laudato Si’ Working Group, which was born in the wake of the 2015 encyclical. 

After launching the project last March, the Irish bishops published resources to implement the proposal in July.

“When we talk about Church grounds, we talk about the green area around each parish church which is usually a public space,” Hayes explained. This could involve a vast territory, since in 2022, a survey conducted by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) counted 1,355 parishes and more than 2,650 churches or Mass centers across the 26 dioceses of the country.

As the first concrete task, parishes are invited to form a group “to assess their parish grounds and map out an area with a view to returning 30% back to nature by 2030.” Hayes has advised them “to engage with local expertise from gardening centers and with horticulturalists.”

As a way of mapping for biodiversity, the Church proposes on its website a “Grounds Checklist” to help assess the properties. Parishioners are invited to list their natural resources — whether it’s a native hedgerow, natural stonewall, vegetable plot, compost system, or even an orchard or fruit bushes.

To make part of the Church grounds “a haven for pollinators and biodiversity,” simple and practical steps are detailed. For instance, the community can plant pollinator-friendly bulbs, install a bee hotel, create a tree nursery, sow shrubs and flower beds, promote alternative energy sources, or organize a recycling system.

Even in urban centers, Mellet said, “almost every church has some green space, and they could look at their car park, at window-boxes, to plant pollinator flowers not necessarily through grassland but in other ways.”

An ‘incredible step’ focused on the biodiversity crisis

In an interview with CNA, Ciara Murphy, who works as an environmental policy advocate within the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin, welcomed the bishops’ initiative as “an incredible first step.”

“It sounds like a simple task, but it’s actually a very important initiative because there is a lot of focus on emission and climate but this one focuses specifically on the biodiversity crisis,” she said.

The Irish bishops, she went on, “are showing very good leadership, proposing something that parishes and communities can really get behind.”

According to Murphy, many churches have a front lawn or a piece of land, and graveyards can be considered as well. “We can make them more biodiversity-friendly by trying to reduce pesticides or herbicides in the areas… It may even be as simple as putting a rainwater planter at the end of the gutter, or taking up a space in front of the church to plant some pollinators plants,” she explained.

Murphy, who is co-author of the recent book “The Parish as Oasis: An Introduction to Practical Environmental Care” with Kevin Hargaden, underlined that “grassroots work has already been done” in Ireland. She mentioned the “All-Ireland Pollinator Plan” — to which the bishops refer — in which faith-based communities are involved. Already, “there are a lot of examples around Ireland where people have made changes,” she asserted, giving the example of a church “where for every christening and every wedding, they gifted the parents ... a tree to plant in their home or family home.”

According to Mellett, there is a lot of interest in this new project.

“The National Biodiversity Data Centre is very happy about it; they said it will make a massive difference to local biodiversity around the country,” she said, adding that “raising awareness is no longer an issue for us; it’s on our news every day. What people want to hear is what they can do and how they can come together to do it.” 

Five weeks to reconnect with ‘sa nadúr’

Mellett pointed out another event promoted by the Irish bishops: the upcoming Season of Creation, celebrated from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, established by Pope Francis as an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

“In the past five years, the participation has grown massively. Each year we see an increase, many people go through Laudato Si’ courses, etc.”

On the homepage “Care for our Common Home,” the Catholic bishops offer a wide variety of resources for the Season of Creation focused this year on the theme “Let Justice and Peace Flow” (cf Amos 5:24).

Often absorbed by the digital world, the faithful are encouraged to reconnect with nature — “sa nadúr” in Irish — by “listening, looking, feeling” and “appreciating God’s ‘book of nature.’” The bishops also recommend including a general intercession every Sunday during the Season of Creation and organizing a special blessing of family pets on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4. 

For Murphy, these initiatives don’t stop there.

“In Laudato Si’, it’s really clear that environmental care is not an option, it’s an integral part of our faith,” she said, noting that the defense of the ecosystem “is a good space to link the biodiversity groups and the parish groups. It’s a lovely way to build communities and communication.” 

“It’s not just a matter of managing the ground,” Murphy told CNA. “It can be also a kind of spiritual exercise to work in the garden, work in nature, trying to foster something better from what was there.”