July 29, 2016

Youth groups urge Pope Francis to Divest the Vatican during World Youth Day

KRAKOW, POLAND — In an open letter published today during World Youth Day, over 120 youth groups urge Pope Francis to cut the Vatican’s financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. In the letter released during a vigil at World Youth Day in Krakow today, they also ask the Pope to call on Catholic organisations to divest from fossil fuels.

The letter refers to divestment “as a means to strip fossil fuel special interests of their political power, which thus far has helped in blocking meaningful climate legislation to come to fruition.” By calling on institutions to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies and reinvest those funds into renewable technology and a new economy; “we force dialogue on climate change in terms of a global system that we urgently need,” the letter adds.

Last year, in preparation for Pope Francis’s visit to the United States, nearly 90 groups of students of all faiths delivered a letter that asked Pope Francis to support fossil fuel divestment on University campuses as well as at his own “campus” – the Vatican. “Now we bring this global call to one of the largest gatherings of youth in the world, because we are the first generation to spend our entire lives in a world overshadowed by the climate crisis,” said Karina Alvarez, Fossil Free organizer at Loyola Marymount University. “This is also a momentous opportunity to raise our voices in the call for environmental justice and remind the Vatican of the moral urgency behind  divesting from fossil fuels.”    

Divestment activists in Krakow also held a workshop to encourage World Youth Day participants to start divestment campaigns in their local dioceses and Catholic organizations, with the help of a new Divest-Invest toolkit for Catholic Communities.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown faster than any previous divestment campaign, including those against tobacco and apartheid in South Africa, according to a report by the University of Oxford. Globally, more than 530 institutions — from local councils and governments to universities and religious institutions — have divested, representing over $3.4 trillion in funds under management. Divestment is beginning a new momentum for the Catholic church as four Australian congregations made a joint announcement of their divestment commitments last June, and new announcements are anticipated to come during the celebration of the Feast of St Francis, later this year in October.



“Ethically, our knowledge of the impacts of burning fossil fuels changes everything. To divest from fossil fuels is a choice to stand against forces of destruction and to stand with those most vulnerable in our world. It is a choice for life.To divest and then reinvest in clean, renewable energy and a new economy are ways of living out the values so beautifully expressed in Laudato Si’. Those living in energy poverty would benefit most from non-polluting, sustainable, decentralised energy systems that are becoming more affordable by the year.” Doctor Neil Ormerod, Professor of Theology at the Australian Catholic University

“Divestment sends a strong signal to the marketplace: companies need to reorient their strategies towards a low-carbon future that is safe for humanity and all life on the planet.  By redirecting capital investments towards climate-safe energy, investors help to push the world towards achievement of the Paris Climate Agreement.  [Divestment] by the Catholic orders, and similar actions that are in the works, will inspire pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, universities, and other global investors to follow suit, and thereby add their financial weight to planetary safety, human dignity, and integral and sustainable human development.” Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Sustainable Development Goals.  


Contact: Jenny Zapata López, 350.org Global Communications Coordinator. [email protected], whatsapp +521 614 4277692. In Krakow: 577 171 977