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Catholic institutions divest from fossil fuels to honor St. Francis

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Their assets will be reinvested in clean, renewable energy.

In honor of the anniversary of the death and the October 4 Feastday of St. Francis of Assisi, more than 40 Catholic institutions will be divesting from fossil fuels. Their assets will be reinvested in clean, renewable energy, a change that follows the recent call to action from Pope Francis, who, in his groundbreaking encyclical Laudato Si’, stated:

On climate change, there is a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act.

The group of 61 Catholic institutions that have pledged to fully or partially divest includes the Archdiocese of Cape Town; Georgetown University; the Franciscan Sisters of Mary; Newton University; and the Episcopal Conference of Belgium.

These divestments will participate in the global divestment movement, which is currently worth $5.5 trillion. Other divestors of note include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the University of Glasgow; the World Council of Churches; the British Medical Association, and actor/activist Mark Ruffalo, who is actually a top contributor.

The Guardian reports that UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres, who played an essential role in the negotiation of the Paris climate agreement, supports the decision, saying:

“[This is] 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.”

Pope Francis is continuing the work started by Pope Benedict XVI, who was frequently called “the Green Pope.” In January, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI released a papal message that explored the topic of “environmental refugees”:

“Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of ‘environmental refugees,’ people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources?”

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