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A big-money Catholic group just said it’s yanking all of its cash out of fossil fuels

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A coalition of 40 Catholic institutions on Tuesday announced a decision to pull their money from — or block future investment in — fossil fuels. The Global Catholic Climate Movement called it the biggest collective announcement of divestment by Catholic organizations ever.

The group comes from all over the world — they include financial institutions such as Germany's Bank für Kirche und Caritas eG, and the Episcopal Conference of Belgium, which is the policy arm of the Catholic church in that country. Groups from the U.K., the United States, Australia and Italy were also among those divesting.

The Movement said that the Bank für Kirche und Caritas eG — which translates as Bank for the Church and Caritas — was one of the first Catholic banks to turn its back on fossil fuels. That entity, which has a balance sheet of 4.5 billion euros ($5.3 billion), was severing links with coal, tar sands crude, and oil shale.

"As a Catholic Church bank, we feel strongly responsible to participate in tackling the issue of climate change," Tommy Piemonte, the bank's sustainability research officer, said in a statement.

Piemonte added that the "integrity of creation and climate protection" is an issue the bank has been committed to since long before Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical Laudato Si. In that encyclical, the Pope described climate change as a "global problem with grave implications."

The announcement was welcomed by Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. "I hope we'll see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative," she said.