“On climate change, there is a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act.”
Those are the words of Pope Francis, who has urged countries to take action on climate change to protect the planet and the world’s poor since becoming leader of one of the largest religious denominations.
Now it seems that the Catholic Church is itself making good on that imperative, according to The Guardian.
More than 40 Catholic institutions around the world are divesting from fossil fuels on the anniversary of the death of Saint Francis of Assisi — who is remembered for his devotion to nature and animals.
The sum of divestments will be four times greater than previous instances of divestment by the church, The Guardian notes, and shows just how powerful the global movement away from fossil fuels has become.
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The divestment movement began in 2011 to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy by giving organizations a tangible way to take action.
Divestment is the opposite of investment — it means pulling all funds from an institution and refusing future financial support.
In the past, successful divestment campaigns have targeted issues ranging from tobacco advertising to apartheid in South Africa.
None have been as far-ranging and financially steep as the divestment campaign against fossil fuels.
Collectively, more than $5.5 trillion worth of divestments have been made by organizations spanning all sectors of society. Medical associations, governments, pension funds, cultural institutions, philanthropies, private businesses, and more have divested from fossil fuel companies.
The Catholic Church’s involvement in the campaign stems partly from the Pope’s advocacy, but also from grassroots pressure. For example, the organization Global Catholic Climate Movement has pushed Catholic organizations throughout the world to divest.
The full scale of the church’s most recent divestment has not been revealed, but the Vatican bank alone manages more than $64 billion in assets.
One of the groups participating in this latest announcement, the German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas, manages $5.3 billion in assets, according to The Guardian.
Other groups involved include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, The Guardian reports.
In 2015, Pope Francis released an encyclical, or treatise, dedicated to climate change, where he outlined the threat of climate change and called for immediate action.
Since then, he’s consistently campaigned on the issue, invoking his the saint whose name he adopted at every turn.