A year after Pope Francis called for action to protect the environment, four Australian Catholic organisations have announced they are completely divesting from coal, oil and gas in what they say is the first joint Catholic divestment in the world.
The move comes as prominent religious leaders call on the government to protect the Great Barrier Reef, stop approving coalmines and remove subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
The four Catholic orders publicly divesting are Marist Sisters Australia, Presentation Congregation Queensland, Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga; and the Passionists. Their divestment is being coordinated by the multi-faith group the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change and environmental group 350.org.
The amounts of money managed by these groups may be modest, but the announcement is part of the launch of a much wider initiative by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which aims to encourage Catholics to reconsider their investment options, on both an individual and organisational level.
The focus in Australia will now shift to bodies such as Catholic dioceses, Catholic Church Insurance and Catholic Super, which all operate under the church's investment guidelines. Given the Pope's strong position on climate change, the onus is firmly on these organisations to respond.