In a prophetic denunciation of the fossil fuel industry, Philippine bishops have called on Catholics to divest from fossil fuels and no longer accept donations from fossil fuel companies, considering the damage they’re wreaking on our common home.
The seven-page statement recently published also encourages dioceses to better incorporate Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ into their educational programs and institutionalize annual celebrations that help the faithful care for our common home, including Laudato Si’ Week and the ecumenical Season of Creation.
The climate crisis has killed thousands and affected millions throughout the Philippines, a southeast Asian island nation susceptible to rising seas and storms likely made strong by a warmer planet.
Here are five things to know about the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines statement, titled, “A call for unity and action amid a climate emergency and planetary crisis.”
1. Echoing Pope Francis and the Vatican: Divest now.
The bishops urgently called on institutions to use their position as shareholders to create a safer future by divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting in renewable energy.
“Through efforts by many members of the Church and civil society, we are now all the more aware that many of the financial institutions in whom we place our trust have been instrumental in the rise of fossil fuels, as well as other destructive and exploitative industries like mining and logging,” the statement reads.
“It is unacceptable that finances so graciously provided to us are used for such industries… Thus, we affirm our commitment to divest from coal and other destructive industries.”
By re-upping their commitment to divestment from fossil fuels, the bishops are joining the Vatican and Pope Francis, along with countless other faith leaders, who have urged people of faith to put their money where their values lie and divest from fossil fuels.
WATCH: Vatican leader urges institutions to follow Pope Francis invite and divest from fossil fuels
2. No more fossil fuel donations
Decades ago, Catholic Church officials in Italy and elsewhere stopped accepting donations from the Mafia. The Philippine bishops are calling for a similar policy on fossil fuel companies.
The bishops call for a “non-acceptance policy of donations of whatever kind, from owners or operators and any representative of extractive industries especially coal, fossil gas, mining, quarrying, logging, etc. (regardless of scale of operation).”
Erin Lothes, associate professor of theology at St. Elizabeth’s University (USA), called the refusal to accept such funds an “incredibly powerful action borne of [the bishops’] direct knowledge of the intense harm fossil fuels cause.”
She encouraged other bishops around the world to join the Philippine bishops in setting such prophetic policies. “We have no right to perpetuate the consumption of fossil fuels: now is the time to accelerate the transition to clean energy infrastructure through divestment, purchasing clean energy in one’s utility where possible, and seeking other means of reducing energy use and increasing energy efficiency. We can all take these actions,” said Lothes, who also serves as a Senior Program Manager for the Laudato Si’ Animators program with Laudato Si’ Movement.
“Pope Francis and the prophetic, compassionate witness of the Philippine bishops call every Catholic to examine their financial ties to destructive fossil fuels and begin to become part of the healthy, clean energy economy of the future, which is a joyful and hopeful action based in love for our neighbor and future generations.”
3. The future of the Philippines’ is at stake
The bishops acknowledge that the Philippines has already been devastated by the climate crisis, and that the country’s future, as well as the planet’s ecological limits, are on the line.
“As one of the most vulnerable nations in this era of global emergency, the Philippines has the moral imperative of pursuing the most sustainable development pathway possible for the sake of current and future generations,” the statement reads.
The climate crisis has already killed thousands and displaced millions throughout the country. Some of the strongest storms in the world have crushed the Philippines in recent years.
PODCAST: Why Typhoon Haiyan survivor A.G. Saño works for climate justice
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan carried winds up to 195 m.p.h. and killed up to 15,000 people, although an exact death toll may never be known. Earlier this year, Typhoon Rai, with winds up to 120 m.p.h., destroyed 1.5 million homes and left more than 400 people dead.
Scientists say a warmer world could be producing such strong storms. The ocean absorbs heat from greenhouse gas emissions, and warmer oceans can create more powerful storms because storms have more water vapor to collect while forming.
“We continue to suffer an increasingly warming world and ailing biosphere triggered by exploitative practices that benefit the wealthy few but cause poverty and hunger to many,” the statement reads.
PODCAST: Father Tony Labiao of the Philippines on storms in the Philippines
4. Lead by example
Catholic institutions in the Philippines should lead by example by using renewable energy in their facilities and communities, prioritizing ecological education, and promoting Laudato Si’.
The bishops explicitly call for dioceses to create an Ecology Desk, and if one has already been created, prioritize money to support that desk and its activities. They also encourage “congregations, schools, communities, and organizations to meaningfully contribute to the call for divestment through education campaigns and programs.”
Finally, the bishops pick up on chapter six of Laudato Si’, “Ecological Education and Spirituality,” where Pope Francis extols the importance of an ecological education. The Philippine bishops advocate for the establishment of Laudato Si’ schools framework and/or guidance.
“A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal” (LS 202).
5. Celebrate Laudato SI’ Week and the Season of Creation
The global Catholic Church will come together for the 2022 Laudato Si’ Week, which will be held 22-29 May, to rejoice in the progress we have made in bringing Laudato Si’ to life and intensify our efforts through the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
The Philippine bishops want everyone to join in on the celebration. They warmly invite all Catholics to “institutionalize the celebration of the Season of Creation and Laudato Si’ Week to nourish our spirituality and awaken our identity as members of a single, sacred Earth-community called to care for our common home and all life in it.”
The ecumenical Season of Creation, which takes place annually from 1 September to 4 October, will once again unite the world’s 2.4 billion Christians in prayer and action for our common home. The theme for the 2022 Season of Creation is, “Listen to the Voice of Creation.”
WATCH: The reveal of the 2022 Season of Creation theme