With messages loaded with tolerance and solidarity, Pope Francis has managed to bring down the most conservative structures of the Catholic Church. And with the power of his words, he has also helped break down the solid foundations of an outdated and bankrupt economic system, strengthening the way towards a new development model.
Highlighting the importance of the environmental cause and bringing to the middle of the public debate the concern with the “Common Home”, the Laudato Si Encyclical released in June 2015, he shed light on a battle front long deprecated by the Church. From there, several groups and individuals of the Church joined the global movement to fight the major emitters of greenhouse gases: fossil fuels. In Latin America, adhesion of the religious segment to the campaign that calls for the divestment in polluting energy sources such as oil, coal, and gas, has gained strength.
Last October, in Brazil, the Diocese of the Holy Spirit of Umuarama, in the state of Paraná, was the first diocese and the first institution in Latin America to join the Divestment. In addition to starting the process to become the first low carbon diocese, replacing the existing energy sources with renewable ones such as solar, the diocese has undertaken not to invest its resources in funds that finance projects with fossil fuels.
“We cannot settle and keep allowing economic interests that seek profit before the welfare of the people to continue dictating our energy model. “We know that Brazil has abundant sources of clean and renewable energy that do not harm our Common Home”, said the Bishop of the Diocese, Don Friar João Mamede Filho. According to him, the commitment to divest, which means stop financing projects that pollute, degrade and emit gases that cause global warming, is one of the practical ways to achieve what is proposed by the Laudato Si..
Since then, various initiatives have been taken in this direction. With the support of 350.org, there were training and awareness lectures carried out for church members about the impacts of global warming and the importance of incentives for renewable energy sources . An energy efficiency plan has been implemented in parish buildings and training houses, with self-generated solar power and biogas generation through organic waste. Members of the diocese have also encouraged others in the community to repeat this model in industries, businesses, offices and homes, aiming at energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Father Jailson João da Silva, Diocesan Coordinator for Evangelization Action at the Umuarama Diocese, said the mission from now on is to inspire other institutions to follow the same path. “What arises as concrete action helps show other parishes and dioceses that this is a viable project, which can actually help take care of our Common Home and ensure life on our planet.” With its great power of articulation and mobilization, the Catholic Church has a profound spiritual and cultural influence, helping mold the minds and actions of people in every corner of the world.
For Reginaldo Urbano Argentino, Coordinator of the Divestment Campaign at 350.org Brazil, the adhesion of the Catholic Church is fundamental for the movement to gain power globally. “It is a paradigm shift for the Church. The initiative of the Umuarama Diocese is already an example to institutions in Brazil, Latin America and the world. We will continue with the awareness and training campaign so that more and more people are converted by the Laudato Si and can help adopt a more just, free and sustainable development model, taking care of our greatest asset, which is life on the planet.”
According to him, previous encyclicals already talked about ecology, but only Pope Francis managed to bring up the concept of “integral ecology”, which means to practice care for the environment in an integrated manner across all sectors of society. In Brazil, through the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) and the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM), both bodies of the Catholic Church, a discussion on this change in thinking has began. In the last two years, CNBB brought to its Fraternity Campaign the issue of climate change, conservation of biomes and the care of the Common House.
Large sectoral groups of youth and other religious communities, such as schools of the Marist group and the Unicesumar Educational Center, the largest in the south of the country, are also joining the movement, which will have one of its key moments in the next month. The week of Global Mobilization for Divestment will take place between the 5th and 13th of May all around the world..
In Latin America, actions have been recorded in Bolivia, within the Bolivian Catholic University, and in Argentina, within the University of Buenos Aires, where there will be a lecture by Friar Eduardo Agosta, a priest of the Lomas de Zamora Diocese and a graduate-level Professor of “climate variability and its impacts”, on climate change, renewable energy, and the need to divest from fossil fuels. About 40 students have already confirmed participation, interested in the call for Global Mobilization for Divestment. Vigils are also planned for those who have been impacted by or are refugees of the climate in various regions of the continent.
The Great Climate Vigil for Creation will be held on May 6 at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Umuarama. There will be moments of prayer for those who are already being heavily affected by global warming, who have lost their homes, their families and, sometimes, even faith due to environmental disasters caused by the high level of pollutants thrown into the atmosphere.
Those who are the most vulnerable, the poorest, are usually the first ones to directly feel the effects of the evils from the greed of the fossil industry. Together, believers and non-believers will push to quickly replace this model that benefits the few over the many. And to start now the transition from fossil fuels to clean, free, renewable and accessible energy to all.