Vatican official: Church divestment from fossil fuels a “moral imperative” | Earth beat
An official from the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development urged Catholic institutions around the world to divest from fossil fuels, calling it a moral and theological imperative and a response to Pope Francis’ revolutionary encyclical on the environment.
“We know that fossil fuels are at the root of the climate crisis and destroying our planet. Yet we continue to invest [in] dirty fossil fuels, ”said Salesian Bro. Joshtrom Kureethadam, responsible for the ecology and creation sector of the dicastery, calling it a schizophrenic act. “It is a physical imperative that we change course, that we divest.”
“Science tells us this way,” he said, adding that “it is also a moral imperative. Our own brothers and sisters around the world are already suffering because of the climate crisis, and we cannot do them. push to greater suffering “.
“It is also a theological imperative,” Kureethadam said. “The Earth is God’s creation entrusted to our stewardship. We must take care of God’s creation. So let’s be courageous.
Kureethadam made the remarks in the video post that kicked off a May 19 Laudato Si ‘week webinar on the topic of divesting from fossil fuels. The event was part of the official program of the week, sponsored by the Dicastery of Integral Human Development, which closes a year of celebration of the Pope’s Encyclical 2015 “Laudato Si ‘, on Taking care of our common home. “
The call from the head of the dicastery was one of the most direct statements to date about divestment from the Vatican, which has increasingly been heard about the need to divert finances from fossil fuels.
As part of the Laudato Si ‘Year, the Vatican issued guidelines on how Catholics can implement the idea of integral ecology and other messages that Francis highlighted in the encyclical.
Recommendations included disengagement from fossil fuels and reinvestment in renewable energy infrastructure. The Vatican’s upcoming Laudato Si ‘action platform, slated for a smooth launch on May 25, also approves a divest-reinvestment strategy.
Kureethadam said that these initiatives, as well as Laudato Si ‘ himself, asking religious organizations to divert their finances from the fossil fuel sector and industries harmful to the planet and people.
“So let’s listen to Pope Francis’ invitation to step away from fossil fuels and protect our common home,” he said.
So far, around 250 Catholic institutions have publicly committed to divest or continue to avoid investments in the fossil fuel sector. The latest 21 were announced on May 17 as part of a joint announcement by 36 faith-based organizations from 11 countries coordinated by a campaign by the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Five more were announced during the webinar. Among the newly disaffected Catholic groups there were half a dozen dioceses in Ireland.
Bishop Brendan Leahy of the Irish Diocese of Limerick said divestment is “a practical step in responding to the cry of humanity”, in response to both climate change and increasing inequality and insecurity .
His diocese was part of the divestment announcement of the week. He took the plunge about three years after the Irish bishops’ conference did the same in response to a campaign by its overseas development agency Trócaire. Leahy said the public divestment statement, especially in numbers, can help motivate others to follow along and also take other steps towards green conversion.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Commission on Episcopal Conferences of the European Union, who, along with his Luxembourg archdiocese, have both divested, said the climate change emergency demands that the church and all peoples are taking action to stem global warming now. This includes lifestyle changes, which he says will be difficult.
“We have to start with simple things. And I think divesting from fossil fuels, compared to other things that we should be doing as well, is actually the simplest point. It’s a start,” a- he declared.
While financial studies have shown fossil fuel market values to be declining, Hollerich said that the pursuit of profit maximization, even with the aim of using that money for good, is “a great temptation, because it is completely false “.
“We have to show politicians that this is our true desire. And that it also means that we may accept a loss of income to save the planet,” the cardinal said.
Reabetswe Tloubatla, staff member of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute of the Bishops’ Conference of Southern Africa, described the social costs of extracting fossil fuels in the mining region of that country, where many residents suffer from chronic lung diseases related to polluted air.
In neighboring Mozambique, where the institute also works, the extraction and processing of liquefied natural gas has polluted mangrove forests and freshwater sources and displaced communities. The operator recently announced plans to move the processing facilities to an island off the coast, where Tloubatla fears the ecological decimation will repeat itself.
“You can’t take all of these fossil fuels out of the earth and burn coal to generate electricity, like we are doing here, without it having a direct negative impact on people, animals, plants, the world. water that’s around you. that, ”she said.
Bill McKibben, the environmentalist writer and climate activist who led the 350.org Go Fossil Free campaign, applauded the role faith groups and the Catholic Church, and particularly Francis, have played in the divestment movement .
“If you wanted proof that the Holy Spirit was at work in the world, you could do worse than think that it is… a young Swedish schoolgirl and a not-so-young Argentine pope helping to move forward the movement to face this most serious problem, ”he said, referring to the founder of the youth climate strike, Greta Thunberg.
McKibben said ending financial support for the fossil fuel industry is one of the important levers in responding to climate change, and joined others in encouraging dioceses and religious organizations to take this step. .
“I’m not a theologian, but it’s nice to have a time when you can go from energy from below to energy from above,” he added.
Asked how Catholics might approach their dioceses to ask them to reconsider investing in fossil fuels, Hollerich said bishops are often busy and deal with many issues at the same time. He compared his fellow prelates to grandfathers who might listen to their grandchildren, and suggested that young Catholics write to them to let them know about their concerns about climate change.
“So please young people,” he said, “talk to your grandfather bishop about divestment.”