Vatican urges Catholics to divest from fossil fuel companies


Last week, the Vatican issued its first-ever set of comprehensive environmental guidelines. The guidelines include an endorsement of fossil fuel divestment, as well as encouragement to participate in the Season of Creation, an annual season for ecological action.

Photo credit: Caleb Miller / Unsplash

The document, entitled Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years After Laudato Si’, was released on the fifth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’.

The comprehensive guidelines suggest concrete ways for the Church to implement Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on the care of our common home.

The guidelines frame investing in fossil fuels as an ethical choice, on a par with other significant ethical choices. The guidelines suggest that Catholic institutions’ ethical commitments should lead to ‘avoiding supporting companies that harm human or social ecology (for example, abortion and weapons) and environmental ecology (for example, fossil fuels).’

This is the first-ever endorsement of the fossil fuel divestment campaign to come from the Vatican as a whole. It follows the news last month of the largest-ever divestment announcement by faith institutions.

In May 2020, 42 institutions (including 21 from the UK) announced their decision to divest from fossil fuels. The group included the Jesuits in Britain, the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace (UK) and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, which became the third out of 22 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales to divest.

Several Catholic religious orders in the UK have already divested from fossil fuel companies. These include the Passionists, the Congregation of Jesus, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Presentation Sisters and Franciscan Sisters Minoress.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘This is a hugely welcome and significant intervention from the Vatican. We hope that Catholic dioceses, religious orders and Bishops’ Conferences in the UK and around the world will implement the recommendations to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives as a matter of urgency in response to the climate emergency.’

Tomás Insua, executive director of Global Catholic Climate Movement, said: ‘It is a very important milestone that the Vatican has issued the first-ever operational guidelines for the Catholic Church to implement the principles of the Pope’s Laudato Si’ encyclical. The guidelines’ level of detail is remarkable and prophetic, ranging from fossil fuel divestment to pastoral activities such as the Season of Creation to be celebrated in parishes and local communities. We hope that this new document will accelerate even more the commitment of the Catholic community to care for our common home, particularly in the light of the Laudato Si’ Year that Pope Francis proclaimed recently.’

The guidelines were announced during a press conference in Rome. The recording of the press conference is available here.

You can download the full guidelines here in Italian. We will make the English translation available as soon as it is published.

Divest your church

If you would be interested in encouraging your local Catholic diocese (or equivalents in other Church denominations) 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 for further information.

UPDATE 28 September 2020: The guidelines are now available in English, you can read them here (Divestment is mentioned on pages 177-178)

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