By Leslie Ann Aquino
Catholic prelates have committed to divest their fund deposits of firms investing in “dirty energy” such as coal plants, as a concrete response to Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment “Laudato Si.”
“They adopted it (10 action points) so they will divest…you divest from coal but you invest into renewable (sources of energy),” Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace/Caritas Philippines, said.
He said divesting from coal is one of the 10 action points for Laudato Si National Campaign which he presented to the bishops during their recent Plenary Assembly of the CBCP in Manila.
“Actually, the Vatican is asking the CBCP what the Church in the Philippines is doing in response to the challenge of Laudato Si…It said it should not be Caritas only, but the church as a whole,” said Gariguez.
“I challenged the body, we need to really find ways on how to live the Laudato Si as a Church in the Philippines,” he added.
“I told the bishops, we need to come up with a pastoral letter but it should be accompanied by action points because we need to ‘walk the talk.’ We need to do concrete actions in relation to the challenges of Laudato Si,” Gariguez added.
Later, he said he was able to talk to at least four bishops who have investments in coal, and they told him that they were willing to divest.
In a separate interview, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said the Philippine Bishops have been in the forefront of caring for the environment as this is an integral part of their discipleship or following the Lord.
He said they were actually the first among the episcopal conferences in the world to issue a pastoral letter on it in 1988, “What is happening to our beautiful land?” which was also quoted by Pope Francis in Laudato Si.
In view of the “climate emergency,” Alminaza said there is a need to respond with greater urgency.
“Soon we will release our pastoral letter with an updated assessment of our present situation and some very concrete action points we all need to operationalize ASAP because these are long overdue,” he said.
“Now it’s not just the four of us bishops in Negros making the call or some other individual bishops in our own local churches but the whole CBCP acting as one collegial body not just making a call but committing ourselves to ‘walk the talk,'” added Alminaza.
The prelate said it was saddening that depositors and shareholders are not keen on asking where their money is invested and where their profits are coming from for as long as they don’t incur losses or that they grow richer from their investments.
“As Filipino Catholic Christians, we need to make sure we don’t simply become rich at the expense of our environment and the health and survival even of our children and grandchildren – the generations yet unborn,” Alminaza said.
“While it’s laudable that our brothers and sisters in business and government are pooling their resources to help victims of natural calamities, would it not even be more urgent and important that they now sincerely look at their manner of doing business and the policies the government is setting to ensure they are not responsible or aggravating the climate breakdown that’s already happening in the world? It should no longer be ‘business as usual’ for us. Our deadline to act was yesterday. There is no time to waste,” he added.
Last March, Alminaza said talks were underway for Catholic dioceses to withdraw from “dirty energy” holdings to fight climate change.