Archbishop Dermot Farrell prays in St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland, on Feb. 2, 2021./ John McElroy.
The archbishop of Dublin has urged Catholics to help tackle the “climate catastrophe” in a 64-page pastoral letter.
“The purpose of this pastoral letter is to initiate a diocesan conversation about how all can contribute to the care of our common home and recognize the many dimensions attached to this challenge,” he wrote.
“We are at a critical moment as a global community and so I wish to encourage all people of faith to embark on this journey to live our call to protect and care for the garden of the world.”
The 66-year-old archbishop released the letter, subtitled “The climate catastrophe — Creation’s urgent call for change,” on the eve of the Season of Creation, an “annual celebration of prayer and action for our common home” from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4. He invited parishes in Dublin archdiocese to observe the event.
“This pastoral letter, which I have titled, ‘The Cry of the Earth, the Cry of the Poor,’ approaches the climate catastrophe from the perspective of faith,” Farrell explained in an Aug. 30 statement.
“That is not to say, it excludes the insights and contribution of the natural sciences. On the contrary, healthy faith takes on board what God says through creation. Faith and science are not opponents; in a truly Christian view, faith and reason — fides et ratio — go hand in hand. God reveals himself through the world. That is the heart of our Catholic faith.”
He continued: “Scientists have issued a ‘code red’ not just for the environment, but for humanity itself. God now calls us, individually and collectively, to work for the good of the planet and the good of all. Let us not fool ourselves: there can be no enduring response to the cry of the earth without responding to the need for justice and dignity.”
The pastoral letter includes an appendix with poetry by the English Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who spent his final years in Dublin, and T.S. Eliot.
Pope Francis named Farrell as archbishop of Dublin on Dec. 29, 2020, succeeding Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who had led the archdiocese since 2004.
Farrell has a doctoral degree in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. After his studies in Rome, he taught moral theology at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he served as president from 1996 to 2007.
He was named the bishop of Ossory, in eastern Ireland, in 2018.
Farrell now presides over an archdiocese with more than 1.1 million Catholics in an area of Ireland with Catholic roots dating back to the 5th century.
In his pastoral letter, the archbishop urged parishes in the Dublin archdiocese to sign the “Healthy Planet-Healthy People” petition, endorsed by the Holy See.
The petition, directed at the U.N. Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, calls for an agreement limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).
Farrell also invited Catholics to become involved with the Laudato Sì Prize, an archdiocesan initiative inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical.
“This prize of €5,000 [around $5,900] will be awarded for the new initiative that makes the greatest practical difference to our response to the climate crisis and to our embrace of the way of justice,” the archbishop explained.
In his Aug. 30 statement, Farrell acknowledged that his pastoral letter was a “long document.” But he argued that the climate crisis was so grave that it demanded “extensive” reflection.
“All too often ‘religion’ appears as if it is no more than an intellectual failure of nerve. However, true religion is not a flight from the world: faith that is alive provides a framework for people to make decisions and take action,” he said.
“As a Church, and as a society, we need to reflect with greater depth, urgency, and seriousness about what we must do. This extensive pastoral is in the service of that deeper reflection.”
“If not for your own sake, then for the sake of your children, and for the world’s children, consider dedicating some time to the issues raised in its pages.”