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Green group urges new Manila prelate to withdraw Church’s investment in coal

Withdraw from Coal voiced "hope" that Cardinal Jose Advincula "will be with us in listening to the cry of the Earth"

A pro-environment group called on the new archbishop of Manila to support the campaign to end coal financing by Church institutions in the country.

In a statement, the group Withdraw from Coal voiced “hope” that Cardinal Jose Advincula, the new prelate of Manila, “will be with us in listening to the cry of the Earth.”

The group has been demanding accountability from organizations that finance coal projects in the country, including Church institutions.

On Thursday, March 25, Pope Francis named Cardinal Advincula, who turns 69 on March 30, as the 33rd archbishop of one of the country’s biggest archdioceses.

Manila is the Philippines’ first diocese, with the entire country under its jurisdiction, before becoming an archdiocese in 1595.

In its statement, Withdraw from Coal claimed that the archdiocese is a top shareholder of the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI), which allegedly finances coal projects.

“In our effort to advance coal divestment among local banks, we found that [BPI] has been channeling the biggest amount of financing to the coal industry in the past decade,” read the group’s statement.

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“We eagerly await the ways we can work together with Archbishop Advincula in urging BPI to have public policies and positions to restrict its coal activities,” added the statement signed by Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos.

Bishop Alminaza succeeded Cardinal Advincula as prelate of San Carlos in the central Philippines in 2013.

As of December 2020, the Archdiocese of Manila owns 7.26 percent of the total shares of BPI and is listed as its fifth biggest stockholder.

Bishop Alminaza is a convenor of Withdraw from Coal, a network of civil society and faith-based groups and Church leaders, that has been engaging domestic banks toward ending financial support to coal developers and projects.

“As one who is known to be a leader that listens to his flock, we look forward to how [Cardinal Advincula] would embrace the poor and vulnerable especially as this time of unprecedented crisis lingers,” read the Withdraw from Coal statement.

Withdraw from Coal Coalition
The Withdraw from Coal Coalition presents to the media on March 18 its “scorecard” that assesses the exposure of Philippine banks to so-called dirty energy projects. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Appeal for prayer

Cardinal Advincula, meanwhile, appealed to the faithful to pray for him as he takes his new appointment, calling it a “blessing” from God.

“I take this blessing not only for myself but also for the faithful of the Archdiocese of Capiz and of course for the entire Philippines,” said the cardinal in a statement on Friday, March 26.

“I am asking the faithful and the religious of Capiz to pray for me as I also pray for everybody,” he said.

Cardinal Advincula’s appointment came almost three months after he was created cardinal along with 12 others on November 28 last year.

Due to the pandemic, the cardinal was not able to attend the consistory in the Vatican, but joined the celebration remotely from the Archdiocese Capiz through live streaming.

Archbishop Charles John Brown, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, was supposed to visit Capiz on May 28 this year to bestow the “red hat” and ring on Cardinal Advincula.

“As of now the nuncio still have that schedule. No changes so far,” said Father Emilio Arbatin, the archdiocese’s spokesperson.

According to the Church’s Canon Law, a bishop must proceed to the diocese to which he has been transferred and take canonical possession of it within two months.

No date has been set yet for the installation of Cardinal Advincula as the new Manila archbishop. Father Arbatin, however, said the cardinal is expected to be in Manila by mid-June.

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