Seven Catholic institutions announce divestment from fossil fuels
On the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, Tuesday 4 October, seven Catholic institutions around the world announced that they plan to divest from fossil fuel companies, citing the inspiration of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Sì.
Among the organisations joining the divestment announcement, the largest so far in the Catholic Church, were the Jesuits of the English Canada province; the Missionary Society of St Columban, based in Hong Kong; Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea; Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesians) in Italy; the Diocese of Umuarama, Brazil – the first Catholic diocese to do so; St Louis-based SSM Health in the US; and Federation of Christian Organisations for the International Voluntary Service in Italy.
“It’s important because we’re finally, as a Catholic community, starting to connect the dots between Laudato Sì and our investment policies”, said Tomas Insua, coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
“Climate change is already affecting poor and marginalized communities globally, through drought, rising sea levels, famine and extreme weather. We are called to take a stand”, said Jesuit Fr. Peter Bisson, provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada, which will end future investments in fossil fuels and remove them from its current portfolio within five years.
Umuarama Bishop João Mamede called divestment “a practical way to achieve” what Pope Francis calls for in his encyclical “Laudato Sì, on Care for Our Common Home.”
“We cannot accommodate and continue allowing economic interests that seek exorbitant profits before the wellbeing of people, to destroy biodiversity and ecosystems, nor continue dictating our energy model based on fossil fuels”, the bishop said.
Sister Marlette Black, president of the Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea, explained that her religious order has committed to fossil fuel divestment in order to heal the planet. “We are one planet and one Earth community and we have a common destiny”, she said.
This divestment announcement follows the one made by four Pacific-area religious orders in June to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Laudato Sì. It means that nearly 600 institutions have divested a total of $3.4 trillion from the fossil fuel industry.
At a press conference on the Pope’s message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on 1 September, Cardinal Peter Turkson said it is up to citizens to demand that the goals of the Paris Agreement are upheld, pointing to a part of Laudato Sì where Pope Francis said that consumer movements, like boycotts, can “prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production”.
“The same logic animates the fossil fuel divestment movement”, Turkson said.
You can view the recent Global Catholic Climate Movement webinar, including case studies of Catholic organisations that have divested from fossil fuels and invested in climate solutions, here.