The following letter was written collaboratively by students forming a Jesuit network for fossil fuel divestment.

Most Holy Father,

We write to you as young people, as constituents of Jesuit institutions, other Catholic, Christian, and religious institutions, and non-religious institutions as people of goodwill, on behalf of an entire generation. We are standing on the precipice of climate catastrophe. Since the release of your encyclical “Laudato Si” in June, we have been inspired by your call for climate justice and the awakening of the Catholic and global community to the systemic causes of the climate crisis.

We have resonated with your criticism of the lack of response from our politicians and leaders in addressing climate change. St. Ignatius of Loyola urged us to see God in all things. Regrettably, many of our leaders are overlooking this important lesson. It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The message that we are getting out to the world through our fossil fuel divestment work echoes your observation that “The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” We wholeheartedly agree with your analysis, Holy Father, and we see 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. As you have taught, highly polluting fossil fuels must be replaced without delay, and that cannot happen while these interests have control of our political processes.

Additionally, fossil fuel divestment proclaims, as you did at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, that “there is an invisible thread joining every one of [the many forms of exclusion and injustice].” You asked: “Can we recognize it? These are not isolated issues. I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?”

We answer yes. All around us, we see the frightening consequences of an extractive capitalist economy, colonialism, systemic racism, and other forms of injustice. Divestment as a tactic is pivotal to the climate justice movement in that it forces us to think of issues with intersectionality on a global scale. One can not truly address the climate crisis and environmental injustice issues without dismantling the larger system which allows these things to continue. By calling on our institutions to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies, and reinvest those funds into renewable technology and into those communities which have been marginalized, we force dialogue on climate change in terms of a global system urgently in need of an overhaul.

Despite the colossal challenges that face our young generation, we have hope in the future and are fighting to secure a world for ourselves in which a just and stable future is possible. We have been inspired and invigorated by your witness to the Gospel, and your calls for real, structural change. We highly anticipate your September visit to the United States and the furthering of the conversation surrounding the changes that we urgently need. During your visit, we ask that you call on our universities, along with other institutions, to divest from fossil fuels. Some of America’s largest Catholic organizations still have millions of dollars invested in heavily polluting fossil fuel companies. Within a few years, this remarkably fast-growing movement has reached some incredible milestones, but unfortunately many of our own educational institutions, which cite Christian values, are ignoring your call for climate justice by refusing to divest.

Additionally, we ask that you continue efforts to divest your own “campus,” as The Vatican has an equal responsibility as our universities and institutions to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry. We wholeheartedly believe in the Catholic values of stewardship for the Earth and for oppressed people, and we are offering our institutions the chance to live out these values as well. We are doing all that we can, but we need your help so that together we can take part in the “globalization of hope.”

We thank you again for your love and your leadership, Holy Father.

As young people for a just world,

Climate Justice at Boston College
Boston College Alumni for Divestment
Fossil Free LMU, Loyola Marymount University
Tufts Climate Action, Tufts University
Saint Mary’s College Sustainability Committee
Swarthmore Mountain Justice
Bowdoin Climate Action
Maine Students for Climate Justice
University of New Hampshire’s Student Environmental Action Coalition
Divest Central Michigan University
Student Environmental Alliance at Central Michigan University
Take Back the Tap at Central Michigan University
Divest Chico State
Fossil Free Caltech (Teachers for a Sustainable Future)
Fossil Free UCLA at University of California, Los Angeles
Fossil Free University of Tasmania, Australia
Fossil Free Monash University, Australia
Fossil Free RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
Boston University Students for a Just and Stable Future
Fossil Free San Francisco State University
Fossil Free MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DivestNOW! Cornell, Cornell University
Fossil Free NAU, Northern Arizona University
Fossil Free Lesley, Lesley University
Divest Carleton, Carleton College
Southwest Divestment Network, Divestment Student Network
DivestNU, Northeastern University
Fossil Free AppState, Appalachian State University
Fossil Free Reed College Alumni
People and Planet, Fossil Free UK, United Kingdom
Go Fossil Free Washington State University
Colorado College Student Divestment Committee
Go Fossil Free Ball State
Divest Barnard from Fossil Fuels
Divest Dartmouth, Dartmouth College
Fossil Free Lakehead, Lakehead University
Divest University of Washington
Fossil Free ND, University of Notre Dame
Fossil Free Warwick University, UK
Pacific University: Go Fossil Free
Fossil Free Cal, UC Berkeley
Fossil Free UC, University of California
DivestPBurgh, State University of New York at Plattsburgh
Go Fossil Free SBCC, Santa Barbara City College, California
Divest DU, University of Denver, Colorado
Green Jays at Creighton University
Fossil Free NU, Northwestern University
Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, Columbia University
Sierra Student Coalition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fossil Free UCSC, University of California Santa Cruz
Divest Stonehill, Stonehill College
Stonehill College, Students for Environmental Action
New Progressive Alliance
University of Southern Maine: Go Fossil Free!
Fossil Free Yale
Divest VicSuper, Melbourne, Australia
Divest JC, Juniata College
Go Fossil Free, Penn State
Fossil Free University of Queensland
Divest James Cook University
Divest WNEU, Western New England University
Oxford University Fossil Free, UK
Brandeis Climate Justice
Hamilton Divests, Hamilton College
Fossil Free MU, University of Melbourne Australia
Fossil Free WashU, Washington University in St. Louis
Fossil Free Griffith University
Divest Tulane
Fossil Free ANU, Australian National University
Operation Noah
Climate Action 350-UW (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
350 Madison Climate Action Team
University of Iowa: Go Fossil Free
Oberlin Students for Divestment
Fossil Free Queensland University of Technology
Clarkson University Sustainable Synergy
Students United for Socioeconomic Justice, University of Texas at San Antonio
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Beyond Coal
Climate Action Society at the University of Virginia
Student Environmental Alliance at Loyola University Chicago
Divest JMU, James Madison University