Yesterday the Vatican issued its first-ever set of comprehensive environmental guidelines. The guidelines are intended to be operational and suggest concrete ways for the Church to implement Laudato Si', Pope Francis' groundbreaking encyclical on the care of our common home. The document, titled 'Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years After Laudato Si',' was released on the fifth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si'.
The comprehensive guidelines include encouragement to participate in an annual season for ecological action, called the Season of Creation, as well as the endorsement of the fossil fuel divestment campaign to boycott fossil fuel companies.
The guidelines frame investing in fossil fuels as an ethical choice, on a par with other significant ethical choices. The guidelines suggest that Catholic institutions' ethical commitments should lead to 'avoiding supporting companies that harm human or social ecology (for example, abortion and weapons) and environmental ecology (for example, fossil fuels)'.
This is the first-ever endorsement of the fossil fuel divestment campaign to come from the Vatican as a whole. It follows the news last month of the largest-ever announcement of divestment by faith institutions. In May 2020, 42 institutions (including 21 UK institutions) announced their commitment to divest from fossil fuels. The group included the Jesuits in Britain, the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace (UK) and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, which became the third diocese out of 22 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales to divest.
Several Catholic religious orders in the UK, including the Passionists, the Congregation of Jesus, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Presentation Sisters and the Franciscan Sisters Minoress, had already divested from fossil fuel companies.
James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: "This is a hugely welcome and significant intervention from the Vatican. We hope that Catholic dioceses, religious orders and Bishops' Conferences in the UK and around the world will implement the recommendations to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives as a matter of urgency in response to the climate emergency."
Tomás Insua, Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, said: "It is a very important milestone that the Vatican has issued the first-ever operational guidelines for the Catholic Church to implement the principles of the Pope's Laudato Si' encyclical. The guidelines' level of detail is remarkable and prophetic, ranging from fossil fuel divestment to pastoral activities such as the Season of Creation to be celebrated in parishes and local communities. We hope that this new document will accelerate even more the commitment of the Catholic community to care for our common home, particularly in the light of the Laudato Si' Year that Pope Francis proclaimed recently."
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