Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2221. Pope Francis Appeals for Global End to Capital Punishment

By Reuters, The Guardian, February 21, 2016

Pope Francis has called for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, saying the commandment “You shall not kill” absolute and valid for the guilty as well as the innocent.

Using some of his strongest ever words against capital punishment, he also called on Catholic politicians worldwide to make “a courageous and exemplary gesture” by seeking a moratorium on executions during the church’s current holy year, which ends in November.

“I appeal to the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty,” he told tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Sunday.

“The commandment ‘You shall not kill’ has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty,” he told the crowd.

The 1.2 billion-strong Catholic church allowed the death penalty in extreme cases for centuries, but the position began to change under the late Pope John Paul, who died in 2005.

The pope added there was now “a growing opposition to the death penalty even for the legitimate defence of society” because modern means existed to “efficiently repress crime without definitively denying the person who committed it the possibility of rehabilitating themselves”.

Francis made the comments to support an international conference against the death penalty starting on Monday in Rome and organised by the Sant’Egidio community, a worldwide Catholic peace and justice group.

Francis, who has visited a number of prisons since his election as pope nearly three years ago – the most recent in Mexico last week – also called for conditions to be improved.

“All Christians and men of good will are called on to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve prison conditions so that they respect the human dignity of people who have been deprived of their freedom,” he said.

In the past, the pope also denounced life imprisonment, calling it “a hidden death penalty”. He said more should be done torehabilitate even the most hardened of criminals.

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