Pope Francis took his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order. Much of the philosophy taught by Saint Francis is captured in Pope Francis’ Laudati Si Encyclical published in 2015, which emphasizes the role of the Church in promoting ideals and policies that protect the earth from human activities that promote climate change.
Saint Francis died on October 3, 1226, and his memory is honored every year by Catholics on that date. This year, 40 Catholic institutions will announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels on the 3rd of October. The amount of money involved is four times larger than any previous divestment by the Catholic Church and will add significantly to the global divestment movement that already totals $5.5 trillion.
Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, hailed Tuesday’s move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission. 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.”
The institutions joining the divestment movement this year include the archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the Franciscan brothers. The German Church bank and Catholic relief organization Caritas, which has nearly $5 billion in assets, is also committing to sell its investments in coal, tar sands and shale oil.
Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni is scheduled to travel to Assisi to celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis this year. The city of Assisi will mark the occasion by announcing it has divested itself from its oil, gas, and coal holdings. Mayor Stefania Proietti, who is a former professor of climate change mitigation, tells 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.”
If you have not read the Pope’s Encyclical, it is powerful and persuasive. Here is a short passage from the second section. The “sister” Pope Francis refers to is the earth.
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
Source: The Guardian