Pope Francis: Abolish the death penalty worldwide

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Pope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican February 21, 2016. Pope Francis on Sunday called for a worldwide ban on the death penalty, saying the commandment "you shall not kill" was just as valid for the guilty as for the innocent. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican February 21, 2016. Pope Francis on Sunday called for a worldwide ban on the death penalty, saying the commandment "you shall not kill" was just as valid for the guilty as for the innocent. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican February 21, 2016. He called for a worldwide ban on the death penalty. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican February 21, 2016. He called for a worldwide ban on the death penalty. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday called for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, saying the commandment “You shall not kill” was absolute and equally valid for the guilty as for the innocent.

Using some of his strongest words ever 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.

“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-member 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 that 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 throw his weight behind an international conference against thedeath penalty starting Monday in Rome and organised by the Sant’Egidio Community, a worldwide Catholic peace and justice group.

Francis, who has visited a number of jails since his election as pope nearly three years ago – the latest in Mexico last week – also called for better prison conditions.

“All Christians and men of good will are called on to work not only for the abolition of the deathpenalty, 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” and saying that more should be done to try to rehabilitate even the most hardened of criminals.

  • DougH

    The Pope seems to have forgotten that the same Law that included the 6th commandment also prescribed the death penalty for a range of sins. If he is going to insist that “Thou shalt not kill” (better translated as “You shall not murder” in many modern versions) is absolute, then he is also insisting that God’s endorsement of the death penalty is fundamentally evil. Good luck squaring that circle.

  • That’s fine, as far as it goes. However, with 40 million abortions per year around the world, far too many of them illegal and unsafe, due to the Vatican’s long ban on contraception, the deaths of women from unsafe abortions far outnumbers the deaths from executions. If Francis wants to save lives he should quickly reverse the Vatican’s ban on contraception. – Edd Doerr (arlinc.org)

  • John F. Daly II

    Actually, there is no contradiction between Francis and the Bible. The biblical mandates of death for a range of sins came about because the Israelites were originally nomads. They didn’t have jails. So the only way to keep people in line was death. Pope Francis has recognized that because of changing times alternative penalties are available and more appropriate than death.

  • patrick

    Nominal correction :

    ” The 1.2 billion-member 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. ”

    Pope John Paul I died (assassinated) in 1978.
    Pope John Paul II died in 2005.

  • DougH

    Except that Pope Francis said that “Thou shalt not kill” was absolute, as valid for the guilty as the innocent. In other words, that the death penalty is NEVER right, whatever the circumstances. Also, there are plenty of poverty-stricken nations in the world right now, for whom holding long-term prisoners is a financial burden (unless, of course, those jails turn into utter hellholes). Would the death penalty still be valid in those nations?

  • P. S. John

    The fundamental question posed by the Pope revolves around ways and means of upholding human dignity of everyone under all circumstances. This is the supreme law upsetting all the existing rules and regulations. As for the criminals, even the hardened and seemingly incorrigible, reformation and rehabilitation are the preferred means as per the Church’s view in spite of the historical alternatives.
    John P. S.

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  • Pat

    You are mistaken if you think the majority of women seeking abortions are Catholics who aren’t using birth control pills or condoms because of the church’s ban.