Catholic institutions in major maritime areas divest from fossil fuels


12 Catholic institutions connected to the world’s oceans have announced their commitment to divest from fossil fuels. These include institutions in Panama, the Philippines, Greece and port cities across Europe.

During an international conference in Copenhagen last weekend under the title ‘The Common Good on our Common Sea’ an international audience came together to celebrate and discuss life on, around and in the seas and explore Catholic teachings on protection of the marine environment. The conference was convened by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, the Vatican’s social and environmental ministry, with participation from a coalition of leading Catholic groups. Speakers included Vatican representatives and Simon Bergulf, the Director of Regulatory Affairs for A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company.

During the conference, Catholic institutions that are connected to the oceans made announcements that they are divesting from fossil fuels. These institutions include the Archdiocese of Panama, Caritas Philippines, the Dioceses of Naples, Civitavechia-Tarquina, Savona and Siracusa (Italy), the Catholic Church in Greece and the Archdiocese of Malta.

Divestment is one of the ways in which climate change can be fought. Global warming results in rising sea levels, desertification and extreme weather events, which are especially felt by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. The Church is standing up against this injustice. To date, more than 130 Catholic institutions around the world have withdrawn investments from the fossil fuel industry.

In recent months, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Austria have also divested. Bishop William Crean, Chairperson of Trócaire in Ireland, pointed out that in order to avoid further damage to our environment and suffering such as forced migration, separation of families and increased pressures of resources a major shift in our energy and investment policies is required. The Austrian Bishops’ Conference chose to divest from all businesses that extract or produce fossil fuels. This decision includes all Austrian dioceses and all other institutions within their sphere.

In February, Operation Noah worked alongside CAFOD, the Global Catholic Climate Movement and other partners to organise a conference for religious on divestment. The conference was attended by 65 people from more than 20 Catholic religious communities.

Various Catholic religious orders in the UK have divested from fossil fuels, including the Passionists in England & Wales and the Columbans. While Catholic dioceses in England and Wales have been leading the way in switching to renewable energy, with 20 out of 22 dioceses already having made the switch, currently no Catholic dioceses in England, Wales or Scotland have made divestment commitments.

These words from Pope Francis are a call to action for all of us:  ‘It is our duty to thank the Creator for the impressive and marvellous gift of the great waters and all they contain, and to praise him for covering the earth with the oceans. (…) Constant care for this inestimable treasure represents today an ineluctable duty and a genuine challenge. (…) We need to pray as if everything depended on God’s providence, and work as if everything depended on us.’

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