Students from 82 colleges urge Pope Francis to divest Vatican from fossil fuels

In a letter to Pope Francis, Fossil Free students from 82 U.S. schools boasted of their accomplishments on their college campuses and asked him to divest the Vatican from fossil fuels.

Fossil Free, a global network of “campaigns and campaigners” aimed at economically hindering companies that profit from fossil fuels, has recently busied itself with lobbying the Pope to join its cause.

The group has now extended its influence to 400 institutions worldwide. Its newest effort, which has unified a group of students from 82 colleges and universities in the U.S., urges the Vatican to divest from fossil fuels.

On June 18, Pope Francis tweeted, “[t]he earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” In a tweet the next day he wrote that, “[r]educing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility.” He also released an encyclical which read, “[w]e know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels… needs to be progressively replaced without delay.”

In response to the Pope’s statements, Fossil Free UCLA and other Fossil Free campus groups across the U.S. took to urging the Pope to divest the Vatican from all institutions and organizations that employ and/or take benefit from the usage of fossil fuels.

In a letter to Pope Francis, Fossil Free students boasted of their accomplishments on their college campuses and asked him to join their cause.

“We are standing on the precipice of climate catastrophe,” the letter reads. “[W]e 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.”

The letter also includes a call to action for Pope Francis to divest the Vatican from fossil fuels and a request for him to publicly call on universities to do the same during his visit to the U.S.

“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,” the group wrote. “We are doing all that we can, but we need your help so that together we can take part in the “globalization of hope.”

The Fossil Free movement at UCLA has gained considerable traction in recent years. During the Fall 2014 quarter, Fossil Free UCLA endorsed and co-sponsored an initiative to divest from a number of countries, including Israel and America.

While the group continues to push divestment initiatives, many students and alumni at the University of California Los Angeles aren’t on board with these ideas.

“I think that is really hypocritical that a left leaning group is calling on the Pope to divest from Fossil Fuels instead of investing more in this great technology,” Deepak Sahni, UCLA alumna and California Freedom Project correspondent, told Campus Reform.

Sahni explained that divesting from fossil energy will be counterproductive in fighting income inequality, polarizing society between the upper and lower classes.

“The pope made time in his US trip to talk to criminals about rehabilitation and re-assimilating in society,” Sahni continued. “These individuals will go into the underground economy that is filled with a life of violence and child soldiers.”

Current UCLA students have also expressed their dismay with Fossil Free UCLA’s manipulation of global affairs. Jake Kohlhepp, a fourth-year economics student and president of the Bruin Republicans at UCLA, told Campus Reform that "efforts to encourage the pope to divest from fossil fuels are morally misinformed.”

“Climate change is an issue humanity needs to deal with, but it is not the only factor that is important… If the pope cares about the poor, he will stay away from divestment, and instead encourage common sense regulation of pollution.”

Fossil Free UCLA did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

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