Sisters Of Loretto Divest From Fossil Fuels, Cite Pope's Encyclical

They voted unanimously.

The Sisters of Loretto, a Kentucky-based Catholic community, are joining a growing movement of religious groups taking a stand for the environment.

The sisters voted unanimously during their July assembly meeting to divest from fossil fuels, citing Pope Francis's landmark encyclical on the environment.

Sister Maureen Fiedler, who spent months working on the resolution, said she was "stunned" by her community's unified decision.

"This resolution has been in process since late 2014, but the new encyclical by Pope Francis -- 'Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home -- gave us a boost," Fiedler wrote in a column for National Catholic Reporter.

The papal letter, released in June, never outwardly mentions divestment but takes a strong, clear stance against fossil fuels. The encyclical states:

Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat [climatic] warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it... Concentrated in the atmosphere, [greenhouse] gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system.

Environmental activists lauded the pope's effort to raise awareness about climate change, but Catholic organizations were slow to respond with clear action.

With their decision, the Sisters of Loretto join a growing list of religious organizations that have divested from fossil fuels, including The Episcopal Church, The Presbyterian Church USA and The United Church of Christ.

"This Loretto resolution is in sync with a worldwide strategy urging groups and individuals of all kinds get rid of their investments in the fossil fuel industry (coal, oil, gas)," Fiedler wrote.

Prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben, who has worked on faith-based climate action in the past, tweeted his enthusiasm about the sisters' vote:

Fiedler explained the sisters' religious reasons for voting to divest, which include no longer profiting "from pollution and climate destruction" and making "a public moral statement about the importance of addressing climate change and its relation to fossil fuels."

"With the world hovering on the brink of climate disaster," she wrote, "it is the least we can do."

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