“When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change.”
– Stefania Proietti, Mayor of Assisi
To mark the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4, over 40 Catholic institutions are to announce divestment from fossil fuels. It is the largest faith-based divestment initiative ever undertaken.
The amount involved is not yet known but is said to be four times higher than a previous church record, adding to a global divestment movement amounting to US $5.5tn.
Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief and Paris climate agreement negotiator, applauded the move saying it was “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission”.
Ms Figures said: “I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative.”
Amongst the Church institutions involved in the divestment programme are the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the world’s Franciscan brothers.
The Guardian reported that a spokesman for the €4.5bn German Church bank and the Catholic relief organisation Caritas said they were committing to divest from coal, tar sands and shale oil.
In an associated symbolic action, the city of Assisi has announced it will eliminate the use of all oil, coal and gas holdings in advance of a visit by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, to mark the feast day of St Francis.
Assisi’s mayor, Stefania Proietti – a former climate mitigation professor – told the Guardian: “When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change.
“When we invest in fossil fuels, we stray very far from social justice. But when we disinvest and invest in renewable and energy efficiency instead, we can mitigate climate change, create a sustainable new economic deal and, most importantly, help the poor.”
These actions are being spearheaded by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which was inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Si’.