Catholic institutions to make divestments from fossil fuel in environment action

Over 40 Catholic institutions will announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi. Though the sum involved has not been disclosed, the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than an earlier church record, and will add to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5 trillion.

The move was hailed by Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement today, as ''a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission''.

She said: ''I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative,'' The Guardian reported.

The action has been joined by several church institutions including the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the world's Franciscan brothers.

According to a spokesman for the €4.5-billion German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas, it was committing to divest from coal, tar sands and shale oil.

Those taking part included Assisi's Sacro Convento and other Catholic institutions in the Italian town, birthplace of Saint Francis, who inspired Pope Francis.

The "joint divestment from fossil fuels is based on both their shared value of environmental protection and the financial wisdom of preparing for a carbon-neutral economy," the Global Catholic Climate Movement said.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement, however, did not estimate the value of their fossil fuel holdings. According to Reuters several institutions it contacted had few or none to sell and wanted mainly to rule out future investments and urge others to divest.

"Many people say that Assisi is the city on the mountain - all people can see the choices, political and environmental, that Assisi takes," mayor Stefania Proietti told Reuters.