Yesterday, on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Catholic institutions and communities from all over the world celebrated the culmination of the month-long Season of Creation with the largest joint announcement of their decision to divest from fossil fuels.
The Catholic communities committing to switch the management of their
finances away from fossil fuel extraction include: The Jesuits in
English Canada; the Federation of Christian Organisations for the
International Voluntary Service (FOCSIV) in Italy; the Presentation
Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea; SSM Health in the United
States; the Diocese of the Holy Spirit of Umuaramá in the Brazilian
state of Paraná; the Missionary Society of St. Columban, based in Hong
Kong and with a global presence in 14 countries; and the Salesian
Sisters of Don Bosco - Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Milan and
Commitments range from divesting from coal, as is the case of the US
healthcare institution SSM, to redirecting the divested funds into
clean, renewable energy investments, as FOCSIV has announced. As for the
Brazilian Diocese of Umuaramá, it is both the first diocese and the
first Latin American institution to commit to divest from fossil fuels.
The fossil fuel divestment movement was acknowledged during the
presentation of Pope Francis's message on the World Day of Prayer for
Creation by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council
for Justice and Peace, when he pointed out that Pope Francis suggests
that "social pressure--including from boycotting certain products--can
force businesses to consider their environmental footprint and patterns
of production. The same logic animates the fossil fuel divestment
Major Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican organizations came
together between September 1st (World Day of Prayer for Creation) and
October 4th to observe the Season of Creation, calling on the 2.2
billion Christians worldwide to pray and take action to care for the
The urgent need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure was
highlighted by a recent report which found that the potential carbon
emissions from the oil, gas and coal in the world's currently operating
fields and mines would increase our planet's temperature beyond 2°C by
the end of this century, and even with no coal, the reserves in oil and
gas fields alone would cause warming beyond 1.5ºC.
The campaign to divest from fossil fuels is the fastest growing
divestment campaign in history, according to a report by the University
of Oxford. Up to date, nearly 600 institutions worth over $3.4 trillion
globally have announced divestment commitments.
"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." Peter Bisson sj, Provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada.
"This announcement is for FOCSIV an important commitment on climate
justice: we strongly believe that in order to fight climate change we
need to act at the root causes removing financial support at fossil fuel
industry and reinvest it in renewable. VIDES, a catholic NGO member of
FOCSIV, has positively welcomed the message of Laudato Si' and
Divestment, obtaining the important announcement of the Italian Salesian
Sisters of Don Bosco. We will continue in addressing religious
institutes: together, as Catholics, we have the moral duty of being the
proofs of a concrete commitment to stop the climate crisis and promote
environmental justice." Gianfranco Cattai, President of FOCSIV.
"The Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea has made
the commitment to work towards divestment of investments that are at the
expense of the environment, human rights, the public safety and local
communities. Presentation Sisters in Australia and Papua New Guinea
believe that the healing of the planet will only come about with care
for Earth and the whole community of life. We are one planet and one
Earth community and we have a common destiny." Sr Marlette Black, pbvm, President of the Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
"As a Mission-based Catholic organization, SSM Health has always been
deeply aware of the importance of caring for our natural resources. Our
renewed commitment to the environment keeps us consistent in word and
deed with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, our founding congregation, and
with the climate change encyclical released by Pope Francis in June
2015." William P. Thompson, SSM Health President/Chief Executive Officer.
"As Bishop of Umuarama Diocese, in communion with the Catholic Church
and attentive to the calls of the Gospel, I clearly understand the
message of Pope Francis in Laudato Si', which calls us to care Common
House through initiatives that protect all forms of life. We can not
accommodate and continue allowing economic interests that seek
exorbitant profits before the well being of people, to destroy
biodiversity and ecosystems, nor continue dictating our energy model
based on fossil fuels. We know that Brazil has abundant sources of clean
and renewable energy that do not harm our common home. Therefore, I
believe that the proposal to turn the Diocese of Umuarama into
low-carbon is a practical way to achieve what Laudato Si' calls for." Dom Frei João Mamede Filho OFMConv, Bishop of the Diocese of Umuarama, Brazil.
"Columbans have a long history of commitment to caring for the Earth
as part of our missionary identity. We see our Socially and
Environmentally Responsible Investment policy as an important expression
of that commitment and therefore are exploring ways to direct our
investments towards funds which respond positively to our issue
priorities such as renewable energy, community-based microenterprise,
and peace initiatives." Fr. Kevin O'Neill, Columban Superior General.
"All Bishops Conferences of the world called for 'an end to the
fossil fuel era' in a powerful statement last year. The divestment
announcement of these Catholic institutions simply is an update to their
investment policies following the Bishops' appeal." Tomás Insua, Global Catholic Climate Movement Global Coordinator.
"The diversity and global distribution of the organizations taking
part in this joint announcement show the leadership of the Catholic
communities in going beyond prayers and taking concrete action in
response to the repeated calls of Pope Francis to preserve our common
home. We celebrate this announcement and hope that the message it
conveys reaches people of all faiths and inspires more Catholic
institutions, including the Vatican itself, to take away the harmful
influence of the fossil fuel industry's ambition over our economies and
societies, and push for clean and just energy sources for all humanity."
Yossi Cadan, 350.org Senior Divestment Campaigner.
"For religious people, the aim of divestment is to bankrupt the
fossil fuel industry morally, not financially. Hopefully, because of
their duty to manage their resources, these companies will invest in
renewable forms of energy." Columban Fr. Sean McDonagh, leading international eco-theologian.
"As Catholic Christians we know that our participation matters. It
matters morally; it matters to God. Divestment from companies that
continue to mine fossil fuels is a necessary and significant step toward
building a world which is powered by the gifts God gave--like the sun
and the wind. We can turn the course of our momentum away from
greenhouse gasses and death and toward creativity, clean energy sources,
and hope." Nancy M Rourke, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of Catholic Studies Program at Canisius College.