Religious congregations pledge to lead in financial exodus from coal

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Treasurers and leaders of at least 28 religious congregations from across the Philippines vowed to forbid assets under their care from being used to fund the development of dirty energy from coal, and promised to take charge in the transition to clean energy as a “concrete act of love for our Common Home.”

The commitment to ensure the coal exit of Church resources was made during a virtual gathering held Wednesday afternoon entitled “Online Conversation on Divestment: Invest in the Future” organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement – Pilipinas (GCCM – Pilipinas), along with the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP – NASSA/ Caritas Philippines).

“We, the undersigned, as leaders and treasurers of religious congregations, as witnesses to the love of the Creator made manifest in nature, and in celebration of the fifth year of Laudato Si’, express our full commitment to advance the coal divestment movement in the Philippines,” said the group in a manifesto issued on Thursday.

The pledge was made as part of the celebration of the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’, the encyclical of Pope Francis which called for “swift and unified global action” to address the climate emergency.

“In the spirit of Laudato Si’, we declare our recognition that divestment from destructive industries, especially coal, is part and parcel of our duties as stewards of Creation and of the assets of the Catholic faithful. We believe that coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels and the single biggest contributor to the climate emergency, goes against everything that the Church stands for – most especially the preservation of life and dignity of the human person and the care for God’s Creation,” the manifesto said.

The virtual gathering featured Church leaders Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila and Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos, and Gerry Arances of energy think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) as resource speakers to lead the discussion on the urgency of withdrawing from coal.

“Today, the Church, civil society, and communities are joining hands to advance clean energy for all. The commitment made by our leaders and treasurers to serve as voices of the coal divestment movement within and without Philippine local banks where they are stakeholders should be taken by bank decision-makers as indication that even more ambitious steps to preserve our Common Home will follow. They must divest from coal now,” said Bro. John Din, National Coordinator of GCCM-Pilipinas.

In light of the circumstances we are in due to the coronavirus pandemic, the declaration noted that divestment from coal is also very timely.

“We today find ourselves amid two global crises that reveal the consequences of decisions that fail to place the health of our people and the planet first: the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency, which both call for the bringing about of a better world. We believe that withdrawing from coal is key to attaining this,” the manifesto concluded.

“The Pastoral Letter on Ecology released last year calls for ecological conversion and hope in the face of the climate emergency. Among the concrete actions laid in this document are the transition to clean energy and divestment from coal and fossil fuels –actions that the Church can really take on to serve as an example for others and to ensure that resources of the Church are truly used for the common good…This is important because we cannot say that we believe and praise God our Father if we allow His Creation to be destroyed,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila.

“Here in the Philippines, there are 28 existing coal power plants and 26 more in the pipeline, including one proposed project in my home city of San Carlos. We shall continue to oppose this in all means possible – moral, spiritual, and legal. We have a decade left to create meaningful action to prevent even more catastrophic climate change, and so ending coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, is urgent. Financial institutions who continue to fund the coal industry play a crucial role in this,” said Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Diocese of San Carlos.

“As a community and as leaders of our congregations, we support the campaign on coal divestment not only to stay true to the teachings of the Church and to heed the call of the Holy Father, but also to protect the future of the youth of today and generations to come who have yet to enjoy the bounty of Creation,” said Fr. Angel Ace Cortez, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.

“Now is the time when we must not only listen to the teachings of the Church and the cry of the Earth, but also determine how we can truly walk the talk. Divestment from coal is a concrete action we can do in caring from our Common Home. Many are already taking on this challenge; how much more impactful would an even greater collective action be?,” said  Fr. Edu Gariguez, NASSA/ Caritas – Philippines.

“In as much as we desire to care for our Common Home, we are faced with and continue facing challenges. In this global pandemic, we realize just how fragile life can become, but we also focus on how we can protect life…There is a need to steward our resources, and as leaders in our own religious communities, this is a responsibility expected of us,” said  Sr. Marisol Navidad, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines./Stacy Ang

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