Death in Australia of Eco-Theologian Denis Edwards

  • Fr Charles Rue

Sydney-based Columban priest Rev Dr Charles Rue pays tribute to Fr Denis Edwards, who died on 5 March. Fr Edwards was an eco- theologian, known internationally for his work on the Theology of Creation.

A priest of the Archdiocese of Adelaide, Australia, Fr Denis Edwards died on 5 March after suffering a stroke. Denis spent much of his priestly life researching and writing, lecturing and serving to promote the link between ecological science and the Catholic faith.

He was buried from St Francis Xavier's Cathedral on Adelaide on 12 March. Bishop Greg O'Kelly SJ, Apostolic Administrator and Bishop of Port Pirie, presided over a packed cathedral. It was filled with family and parishioners, including bishops Charles Guuci and Eugene Hurley from Darwin, clergy and those who had worked with Denis over decades.

Denis was born 10 December 1943 in Port Pirie and was ordained priest on 9 July 1966 in St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. In her remarks at the requiem Mass, a grandniece recalled that Denis had been a valued and integral member of their extended family.

A senior lecturer in theology with the Australian Catholic University's Adelaide campus, Denis was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2012 for his contribution to the Archdiocese and to theological education. Fellow lecturer and friend Rev Dr James McEvoy recalled at the funeral some the contributions Denis made to develop the ecological tradition of the Church and his contribution to eco-mission globally. Exploring the "giving of God's own self" in the Persons of the Trinity was a constant in his work.

A founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion, Denis wrote 14 books on the dialogue between science and faith, many of which were published by Maryknoll Missionaries' Orbis Books. He was a sought after speaker around the globe. In 2015 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

In Adelaide, Denis chaired the Adelaide Catholic Diocesan Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission for five years. From the 1990s he had worked with members of the Earth Bible ecumenical team which laid a foundation for the first developments of a liturgical Season of Creation in September.

Denis was a member of the original group of experts consulted by the bishops of Australia before they set up Catholic Earthcare Australia in 2002. He was the main author of its water statement on the Murray-Darling River Basin.

Denis had a long connection with Columban missionaries. He was one of the priests to warmly welcome the Columban team to do mission promotion in Adelaide Archdiocese in 1987. St Columban's College, North Turramurra, hosted the initial consultation, including Denis, which led to the formation of Catholic Earthcare Australia. Columban Fr Sean McDonagh collaborated with Denis during lectures in Australia and in Rome in the cooperative spirit leading up to Pope Francis publishing the encyclical Laudato Si' on care for our common home.

Archbishop O'Kelly said: "Denis has been a wonderful contributor and mainstay of the Archdiocese, a rock of strength for many. His writings gifted the Church across the world. He carried with him a prayerfulness and humility that clothed his scholarship." Administrator Delegate Fr Philip Marshall said the Church had been "blessed by his faith, his love and his presence among us."

Tags: Fr Denis Edwards, Dr Charles Rue, Eco Theologian

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