04 March 2020, The Tablet

Jesuits divest from fossil fuels during protests

Jesuits divest from fossil fuels during protests

The protest began outside Westminster Cathedral and used the symbolism of Lent to raise awareness of climate change
Christian Climate Action

Catholic environmentalists have asked the Church to adopt a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030, in line with a recent commitment by the Church of England to meet such a target.

Fr Martin Newell CP, a Passionist priest, speaking at a Christian Climate Action demonstration on Ash Wednesday, 27 February, called for the “whole church including the religious orders to adopt carbon neutral targets”.

The protest, which began outside Westminster Cathedral, used the symbolism of Lent to raise awareness of the climate crisis, call Christians to action, and demand that Christian organisations divest from fossil fuels. Participants in the protests had a cross marked on to their forehead with fake crude oil, representing the failure of humanity to transition away from ecologically damaging sources of energy, like oil, coal, and gas.

On the same day the British province of the Jesuits announced their divestment from fossil fuels. Jesuits in Britain has equity investments of about £400 million, which are used to finance works and projects in Britain and around the world. The Jesuit’s divestment from companies whose major income is from the extraction of fossil fuels is already underway, and will be completed by the end of the year.

Fr Damian Howard SJ, provincial superior, said: “The decision to divest is principally a response to the clear moral imperative of acting to safeguard our planet for future generations.”

Jesuits in Canada, Italy and Australia have also announced they are divesting from fossil fuel companies. In January the Catholic dioceses of Middlesbrough and Lancaster became the first dioceses in England and Wales to divest from fossil fuels.

Christian Climate Action will be holding a continuous interfaith Prayer Vigil outside parliament throughout the 40 days of Lent. “Lamenting” the ecological and climate crisis, participants in the vigil will pray for leaders and political representatives to take urgent action.

Fr Newell emphasised the compatibility between the message of the protestors and the traditional spiritual meaning of Lent for Christians: “We’re called to repent from the way that our lifestyles and our economies are destroying God’s earth and life on God’s earth,” he told The Tablet

Asked if the Catholic Bishops’ Conference was considering adopting targets, a spokesman for the Environmental Advisory Group said: “Bishop John Arnold has said that he would love to see us with realistic targets. Laudato Si emphasises the urgent need for action and the latest scientific evidence confirms that this decade is crucial if we are to avert catastrophic climate change. The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales will be considering their response to this urgent crisis and looking for appropriate ways to make and evaluate progress.”

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