Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2016 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi this week, seven Catholic organizations on five continents announced they are divesting from fossil fuel companies in an effort to care for creation. The announcement also fell on the last day of the Season of Creation, a Christian celebration and period of reflection on the state of the environment which began with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on Sept. 1.
The move is the largest joint faith-based divestment from fossil fuels to date. Earlier this year, four Catholic orders in Australia announced they were divesting of coal, oil and gas following the call of Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.” The initiative is also part of a larger, global movement to divest from fossil fuels, one of the largest such movements in history. Almost 600 institutions worth over $3.4 trillion globally have announced divestment commitments, according to gofossilfree.org.
Among the seven Catholic groups divesting is the Diocese of the Holy Spirit of Umuarama in the Brazilian state of Paraná, the first diocese and Latin American institution to make such a move. Bishop Dom Frei Jo√£o Mamede Filho of Umuarama said he felt he was following the call of the Gospel and of Pope Francis to care for creation and therefore “protect all forms of life.”
“We can not accommodate and continue allowing economic interests that seek exorbitant profits before the well-being of people, to destroy biodiversity and ecosystems, nor continue dictating our energy model based on fossil fuels,” he said. “We know that Brazil has abundant sources of clean and renewable energy that do not harm our common home. Therefore, I believe that the proposal to turn the Diocese of Umuarama into low-carbon is a practical way to achieve what Laudato Si’ calls for.” The Diocese is also taking steps to become low-carbon and is part of COESUS, an anti-fracking coalition in Latin America.
One United States group, St. Louis-based SSM Health, was also among the seven groups included in the announcement. Founded by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, SSM Health is one of the largest non-profit hospital systems in the country. “As a Mission-based Catholic organization, SSM Health has always been deeply aware of the importance of caring for our natural resources. Our renewed commitment to the environment keeps us consistent in word and deed with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, our founding congregation, and with the climate change encyclical released by Pope Francis in June 2015,” William P. Thompson, SSM Health President/Chief Executive Officer, said about the announcement.
The other groups included in the divestment announcement include the Federation of Christian Organisations for the International Voluntary Service (FOCSIV) in Italy; the Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea; the Missionary Society of St. Columban, based in Hong Kong and with a global presence in 14 countries; the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco — Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Milan and Naples (Italy), and the Jesuits in the English Canada province.
The announcement was coordinated by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, a community of lay people, priests, religious, bishops and a global network of member organizations “responding to the Pope’s call to action in the Laudato Si’ encyclical” by “working together on the climate change crisis.”