Vatican issues sweeping new environmental guidelines

June 22, 2020

photo by William Dicks

The Vatican issued its first-ever set of comprehensive environmental guidelines on Thursday, setting forth a long-term vision for environmental action that emphasizes urgency and global coordination.

The guidelines come in an unprecedented document that is the fruit of a collaboration across all Vatican departments.

These first-ever guidelines are intended to be operational, and suggest concrete ways for the Church to implement Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on the care of our common home.

The document, titled “Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years After Laudato Si’,” was released on 18 June, the fifth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’.

The document summarizes five years of action on Laudato Si’ and establishes a vision for coordinated, ambitious action in the years ahead.

Watch: Vatican officials announce environmental guidelines

The comprehensive guidelines range from participation in the annual Season of Creation, all the way to the endorsement of the fossil fuel divestment campaign to boycott fossil fuel companies.

The guidelines frame investing in fossil fuels as an ethical choice, on par with other significant ethical choices.

The guidelines suggest that Catholic institutions’ ethical commitments should lead to “avoiding supporting companies that harm human or social ecology (for example, abortion and weapons) and environmental ecology (for example, fossil fuels).”

This is the first-ever endorsement of the fossil fuel divestment campaign to come from the Vatican as a whole. It comes on the heels of the largest announcement of divestment by faith institutions.

Last month, 42 institutions in 14 countries announced their commitment to drop fossil fuels. To date, faith communities have delivered the single greatest number of commitments in the global divestment movement, with nearly 400 commitments in the global total of over 1,200.

This document, which will lead the global Church for years to come, also asks Catholic institutions to take action during the Season of Creation, an annual celebration of prayer and action for our common home that starts on 1 September and concludes on 4 October.

Learn more about the Season of Creation

The Vatican suggests that participation in this annual initiative will help “the faithful understand and integrate care of creation as an essential part of our Christian vocation.”

Tomás Insua, executive director of Global Catholic Climate Movement, said: “It is a very important milestone that the Vatican has issued the first-ever operational guidelines for the Catholic Church to implement the principles of the Pope’s Laudato Si’ encyclical.

“The guidelines’ level of detail is remarkable and prophetic, ranging from fossil fuel divestment to pastoral activities such as the Season of Creation to be celebrated in parishes and local communities.

“We hope that this new document will accelerate even more the commitment of the Catholic community to care for our common home, particularly in the light of the Laudato Si’ Year that Pope Francis proclaimed recently.”

More information on the guidelines and the announcement can be found here.