"We are losing our attitude of wonder, of contemplation, of listening to creation and thus we no longer manage to interpret within it what Benedict XVI calls 'the rhythm of the love-story between God and man.'"
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On World Water Day: Austrian Bishops’ Conference announces divestment from fossil fuels
With climate change having a noted impact on water supplies around the world, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Chairperson of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, choose today, World Water Day, to announce that the Episcopal Conference of Austria will divest from all businesses that extract or produce fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
This decision includes all financial investments of the bishops’ conference, all Austrian dioceses, and all other institutions within their sphere.
“By signing the divestment commitment of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) the Austrian Bishops´ Conference joins the global divestment movement of over a thousand institutions. This is a prophetic step that consequently follows the undeniable truth that burning all known fossil fuel reserves will lead us to unthinkable catastrophes”, says Anja Appel, director of the Coordination Office of the Austrian Bishops´ Conference (KOO).
Around the world, Catholic institutions have been leaders in taking concrete steps to address the climate crisis. Austria is the third bishops’ conference to announce its divestment from fossil fuels, following Belgium and Ireland.
These bishops’ conferences join nearly 120 other Catholic institutions that have divested, including large German Catholic banks. These Catholic institutions are the leaders in a global total of over 1,000 institutions valued at over $8.5 trillion that have divested.
In a nation where half the population identifies as Catholic, the Austrian decision comes on the heels of a Vatican conference on the UN’s sustainable development goals, which include urgent action on climate change, and follows strong statements from Pope Francis about energy use, such as his statement to fossil fuel CEOs that “civilization requires energy use, but energy use must not destroy civilization!”
As always, this sort of Catholic action draws praise from an increasingly secular Europe.
In November, the president of Austria met Catholic pilgrims on a 1,500-km trek from the Vatican to the site of the UN climate talks and spearheaded the Declaration for Climate Ambition that was signed by 19 heads of state.
In July, the nation of Ireland, which recently legalized abortion, divested from fossil fuels as its bishops’ conference considered its own divestment.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Chairperson of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, said that the “financial means of the Church must not exert a destructive influence on our planet’s climate.”
The full statement from Cardinal Schönborn is here.
Bishop Werner Freistetter, responsible for International Church Affairs, welcomes the announcement of the Bishops´ Conference. “From the perspective of integral ecology, logic of profit can no longer be the solely benchmark for economic activities, while ignoring moral obligations," he said. “We call on other institutions to join the divestment movement with their pledges in order to maintain our common home for current and future generations.”
By adopting ethical investment guidelines in 2017 the Catholic Church in Austria already took an important step towards aligning financial investments of Catholic institutions with the care for our common home.
Tomás Insua, executive director of Global Catholic Climate Movement, cheered the news.
“The Austrian Bishops’ Conference divestment from fossil fuels is a prophetic stand for climate justice. The global Catholic community is taking bold leadership to protect the vulnerable people who urgently cry out for change. We have only a few short years to turn the arc of greenhouse gas emissions downward, and this visionary leadership by the bishops of Austria is a huge step in the right direction.”
Anja Appel, director of the Coordination Office of the Austrian Bishops´ Conference said “We Christians and our institutions have the responsibility to care for creation and work towards global justice. We are among this part of the world’s population which produces the biggest share of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore naturally we need to fight its main cause–the use of fossil fuels. This important step shows the Austrian bishops’ coherent effort to meet the demands of the Paris Climate Accord.”
The full statements from Bishop Freistetter and Anja Appel are here.
Photo: St. Francis of Assisi Church (Kirche zum heiligen Franz von Assisi) is a Basilica-style Catholic church in Vienna Austria. Built between 1898 and 1910.
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About the Blog
Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.