Catholic young adults call on dioceses to divest in letter to Bishops


This week, 176 Catholic young adults from all 22 dioceses in England and Wales have written an open letter to Catholic bishops calling on all dioceses to divest from fossil fuels ahead of COP26. The open letter published by The Tablet expresses the concern of young people about the ‘the impact of the climate crisis on younger generations and the most vulnerable’.

So far, five out of 22 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales have divested from fossil fuels, as well as several Catholic dioceses in Ireland. These include the Dioceses of Lancaster, Middlesbrough, Arundel & Brighton, Hallam and most recently the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Several religious orders, including Jesuits in Britain and the Sisters of St Joseph of the Peace, have also taken this prophetic step.

The letter asks the Bishops to follow the recommendation made by the Vatican that Catholic organisations avoid investment in fossil fuel companies, as part of an ‘indispensable energy transition’ to clean and renewable energy. The full text of the letter and list of signatories can be found below.

Marianne Kennedy Neary, one of the lead signatories of the letter, said: ‘As an NHS doctor and young Catholic mother, I strongly believe that Catholic dioceses need to divest from fossil fuel companies. The fossil fuel industry is fuelling the climate crisis, with concerning implications for human health through its impacts on clean air, access to clean water, food and shelter. Our brothers and sisters in developing countries are being hit the hardest, with extreme weather conditions affecting crops, spread of disease and access to clean water. Fossil fuel divestment is a vital step in the clean energy transition we need, so that all of God’s creation can flourish.’

Naomi Awre, Master’s Student at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and former Chaplaincy Assistant, said: ‘I’ve signed this letter as I am determined to do more to combat the climate emergency. It scares me to think that the children of my generation may live in a world which has been destroyed by our overconsumption, and I know that increasingly among young people this anxiety about the climate crisis is real. If we feel anxious in this country, how must young people feel in countries where the climate crisis is already destroying their homes? As people created in the image and likeness of God, they are my siblings and we share a common home, therefore I feel called to do more and call on our religious institutions to do more too.’

Danny Onsiong, risk manager at an investment firm and coordinator of the London Hub for the Economy of Francesco, said: ‘The climate crisis is a matter of urgency and cannot wait any longer – and fossil fuels are a major part of the problem. Oil and gas companies cause a lot of irremediable harm to the planet. Very often, we fail to see that because the most serious impacts are on the world’s poorest communities and on biodiversity. As Catholics, our faith calls on us to act, and I believe divestment from fossil fuel-related assets is a vital part of the solution if we are serious about an economy that is cleaner and more sustainable. Catholic institutions should be at the forefront of divesting from fossil fuel companies.’

Anna Barrett, Horticulture and Plant Science student at the Eden Project, said: ‘I felt it was important to sign this letter as the Bishops of the England and Wales need to be made aware of our views as young people on the Church’s investments in the fossil fuel industry, which are not consistent with our belief in the importance and value of creation. The church is beginning to recognise its capacity for change on the environment and it is very exciting to see this unfold. However, there are areas that cannot wait for a gradual change of heart – divestment has to happen now.’

Responding to the letter, Bishop John Arnold of Salford, lead bishop on the environment for England and Wales, told The Tablet: ‘I am very pleased and impressed by the evident concern being shown by so many young adults, students and school children about the urgency of responding to the damage being inflicted by climate change.’

Graham Gordon, Head of Policy at CAFOD, warned: ‘With just six weeks to go before COP26, it’s time for world leaders to get serious and take radical action, that meets the scale of what we face, to fight the climate crisis.’

All eyes are now on the Catholic dioceses that have not yet announced their divestment ahead of COP26. 

Divest your church 

Your church or diocese could be part of the global divestment announcement to be made by the World Council of Churches, Laudato Si’ Movement, Operation Noah, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith on Tuesday 26 October, joining many other faith organisations from around the world who will announce their commitment to ethical investment.

If you would be interested in getting your local church or regional Church structures (dioceses and equivalents) to make a divestment commitment, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please get in touch with Bokani Tshidzu on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org before Monday 18 October for further information or to register your interest.

Open letter to the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales

Dear Bishops, 

As Catholic young adults who are deeply concerned about the impact of the climate crisis on younger generations and the most vulnerable, we call on you to take urgent action to divest from fossil fuels ahead of the crucial UN climate talks, COP26, in November.

Thank you for your recent pastoral letter on the environment, in which you acknowledged the urgency of the climate crisis. We welcome the positive steps that Catholic dioceses across England and Wales have taken to switch to clean energy for church buildings.

We applaud the five out of 22 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales – Lancaster, Middlesbrough, Arundel & Brighton, Hallam and Birmingham – that have already announced their divestment from fossil fuels. However, we are very concerned that the majority of Catholic dioceses have not yet taken this step. We call on all Catholic dioceses to divest from fossil fuels ahead of COP26, joining a movement of more than 200 Catholic organisations around the world.

In June 2020, the Vatican issued its first-ever set of comprehensive environmental guidelines, entitled Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years After Laudato Si’. These Vatican guidelines recommend that Catholic organisations avoid investment in fossil fuel companies, as part of an ‘indispensable energy transition’ to clean and renewable energy.

Responding to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned: ‘This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet. If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as the report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.’

Despite these warnings, all of the major oil and gas companies continue exploration and extraction of new fossil fuels. Shell is planning to increase gas production by 20% in the next few years. BP plans to drill for gas on the edge of the world’s largest cold-water coral reef. According to a recent Channel 4 report, both companies have lobbied the UK government ahead of COP26, arguing that fossil gas is ‘a vital part of the solution’ on climate change.

We urge you to take prophetic action on the climate crisis, the greatest moral issue of our time, and ask you to advocate with the UK government to ensure that COP26 delivers for young people and the most vulnerable communities around the world. We offer you the support of our prayers.

Signed by the following lead signatories:

Michael Archibald, Hexham and Newcastle
Naomi Awre, Birmingham
Anna Barrett, Clifton
Jack Edwards, Southwark
Anna Fraine, Southwark
Marianne Kennedy Neary, Salford
Danny Onsiong, Westminster
Marion Osieyo, Southwark

+ Signed by 168 further signatories:

Victoria Frazer, Arundel and Brighton
Jacqueline Sheridan, Arundel and Brighton
Natalia Siemens , Arundel and Brighton
Joanna Spary-Smith, Arundel and Brighton
Andrew Ansell, Birmingham
Anna Maria Ansell, Birmingham
Maciej Bedlin, Birmingham
Marta Bedlin, Birmingham
Vincenzo Belcastro, Birmingham
Juliette Bone, Birmingham
Catherine Bridgwood, Birmingham
James Buchanan, Birmingham
Iona Caseby, Birmingham
Caroline Cook, Birmingham
Wojciech Cymes, Birmingham
Julia Fensom, Birmingham
Theresa Goh, Birmingham
Lucy Hayes, Birmingham
Francis Patrick Hillen, Birmingham
Si Chun Lam, Birmingham
Eleanor McCann, Birmingham
Charlotte Mccaugherty, Birmingham
Angela McColgan, Birmingham
Elspeth Morgan, Birmingham
Joseph Peecock, Birmingham
Theresa Price, Birmingham
Alexander Rogers, Birmingham
Jessica Rogers, Birmingham
Mariah Whelan, Birmingham
Laura Williams, Birmingham
Leila Bousbaa, Brentwood
Francesca Ceroni, Brentwood
Michael Chambers, Brentwood
Chris Knowles, Brentwood
Anita Motha, Brentwood
Cynthia Nebo, Brentwood
Clare Purtill, Brentwood
Meical Jones, Cardiff
Clancio Barreto, Clifton
Bernadette Barrett, Clifton
Robert Barrett, Clifton
Shain Desa, Clifton
Michael Farah, Clifton
Marguerite Holliday, Clifton
Ruth Holliday, Clifton
Alwin Saji Mathew, Clifton
Anushka Monteiro, Clifton
Anum Munir, Clifton
Rhoda Mwangi, Clifton
Maria Pereira, Clifton
Madeleine Prior, Clifton
Kianne Rodrigues, Clifton
Megan Thurow, Clifton
Jonathan Wagner, Clifton
Amelia Wreford , Clifton
KL Kaluza-Gilbert, East Anglia
Laura Mitcham, East Anglia
Emily Poyser, East Anglia
Stephanie Sibanda, East Anglia
Sam Caldwell, Hallam
Hannah Bartlett, Hexham and Newcastle
Jamie Donaldson, Hexham and Newcastle
Chloe Gallagher, Hexham and Newcastle
Rebecca Gallagher, Hexham and Newcastle
Lewis Humphreys, Hexham and Newcastle
Sarah Kime, Hexham and Newcastle
Joshua Nichol, Hexham and Newcastle
Adam O’Taylor, Hexham and Newcastle
Rebecca Rutland, Hexham and Newcastle
Josie Shilcock, Hexham and Newcastle
Anne Deeney, Lancaster
Alex Hill, Lancaster
Tom Allan, Leeds
Angela Hillman, Leeds
Matthew Maslen, Leeds
Rebecca Maxwell, Leeds
Jack Tunnecliff, Leeds
Claudia Melis, Liverpool
Kezia Harrow, Menevia
Tabitha Awre, Middlesbrough
Emma Morrison, Middlesbrough
Rachel Trend, Middlesbrough
Lisa Payne, Northampton
Clare Peecock, Northampton
James Bertram Morris, Nottingham
Hugh Cafferky, Nottingham
Rhiannon Kennedy, Nottingham
Mairi-Frances McKay, Nottingham
Luke Potter, Nottingham
Elise Richardson, Nottingham
Carey Shelton, Nottingham
Ollie Spencer, Nottingham
Katherine van Kroonenburg, Nottingham
George White, Nottingham
Sarah Carter, Plymouth
Alex Marsh, Portsmouth
Bor Yior Yee, Portsmouth
Michael Bourke, Salford
Phil Callaghan, Salford
Ian Doughty, Salford
Natalia Marsden, Salford
Sarah Abram, Shrewsbury
Emma Bennett, Shrewsbury
Patrick Garvey, Shrewsbury
George Pitt, Shrewsbury
Daphne Amevenu, Southwark
Faith Anderson, Southwark
Chris Carling, Southwark
Helen Carter, Southwark
Julia Corcoran, Southwark
Isabelle Cumming-Bruce, Southwark
Ewan Day-Collins, Southwark
Jose Carlos De Almeida Marques, Southwark
Lucia De Santis, Southwark
Siobhan Doyle, Southwark
Kate Eastmond, Southwark
Nicole Gillespie, Southwark
Rebecca Haile, Southwark
Daniel Hale, Southwark
Kelly Hockey, Southwark
Christelle Kamda, Southwark
Gislin Kamda, Southwark
Romuald Kouassi, Southwark
John Lavery, Southwark
Lucy Mahoney, Southwark
Andreia Filipa Brandao Martins, Southwark
Daniel Murphy, Southwark
George O’Shea, Southwark
Cat Porter, Southwark
Tiziano Santoro, Southwark
Lucas Silva Simoes, Southwark
Max Toone, Southwark
Sophia White, Southwark
Thomas Willcox, Southwark
Katherine Ajibade, Westminster
Julien Baron, Westminster
Caitlin Boyle, Westminster
Clara Browne, Westminster
Maria Carvalho, Westminster
Jonathan Child, Westminster
Asja Dally, Westminster
Eleanor Friery, Westminster
Carmen Gonzalez, Westminster
Lucy Gordon-Smith, Westminster
Ann Hayes, Westminster
Robert Hitchcock, Westminster
Festus Ifiti Jr, Westminster
Dennis Jenkins, Westminster
Nicholas Jones, Westminster
Chiara Labanti, Westminster
Julia Linke, Westminster
Maria Messina, Westminster
Margarita Montes, Westminster
Shingai Mushayabasa, Westminster
Catherine Nagle, Westminster
Ranjith Parayogasingam, Westminster
Roberto Pasqualino, Westminster
Alicia Ramos, Westminister
Helen Rodger, Westminster
Luisa Rodriguez, Westminster
Daniel Scullion, Westminster
Clara Sheaf, Westminster
Thomas Stephen, Westminster
Bokani Tshidzu, Westminster
Carl Welch, Westminster
Rebekah Griffiths, Wrexham
Samuel Jones, Wrexham
Maria Timney, Wrexham

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