Catholic climate change and environmental activists have protested a German diocese’s enabling of lignite mining.

Driving the news

Demonstrators gathered December 14 near Aachen Cathedral to denounce that diocese’s “careless decommissioning of church buildings in the villages that stand in the way of lignite mining” in the Rhine region.

The “indifference of the diocese to church desecrations and demolitions in the villages threatened with relocation” because of the prospecting is in direct opposition to Pope Francis’ teaching in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’ on care for our Common Home, the activists deplored.

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“Mining, like all economic activities, should be at the service of the entire human community”, Francis further underlined in a May address to leaders of the extractivist industry.

“The involvement of local communities is important in every phase of mining projects”, the Pope stressed, adding that “mining should be at the service of the human person and not vice versa”.

The protesters at the Aachen action Saturday denounced that none of Francis’ conditions are being met in lignite mining activities in the Rhine region.

To illustrate their point, they posed the hypothetical of coal lying under Aachen Cathedral and the church having to be demolished to make way for the “profit interests” of an energy company.

That parallel with the destruction of other village churches was reinforced with a mock translation of the remains of the great Emperor Charlemagne, whose tomb is located in the Cathedral.

Why it matters

The Aachen protesters also deplored in their action December 14 that Rhine lignite mining projects are the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Europe, and as such make a massive contribution to global warming.

The alarming increase in average temperatures on the planet is something the Pope denounced in a message to the COP25 climate summit in Madrid December 4.

In that text, Francis called for “clear, far-sighted and strong political will… set on pursuing a new course that aims at refocusing financial and economic investments toward those areas that truly safeguard the conditions of a life worthy of humanity on a ‘healthy’ planet”.

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