As part of his visit to the United States this week, Pope Francis renewed his call for world abolition of the death penalty. He included specific encouragement to those working to end the death penalty in the United States and a focus on hope and rehabilitation.
Here is the Pope’s full statement on the death penalty, excerpted from his speech in front of the join session of Congress.
“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
“This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
In response, here is a statement from Shari Silberstein, Executive Director of Equal Justice USA:
“Pope Francis’ call to end the death penalty echoes the concerns of a growing number of Americans, including Catholics and other people of faith. Across the country, people are deeply troubled by the death penalty’s failings, including the risk of executing an innocent person and the uneven way that it’s carried out.
“The outspoken support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and state Catholic Conferences has helped seven states repeal the death penalty and four more to suspend executions in less than a decade. We are thankful for Pope Francis’ and the Catholic Church’s principled leadership in efforts to end the death penalty.”
Statement by Marc Hyden, National Coordinator of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty:
“There is no question that the Pope’s strong opposition to the death penalty is having a real impact on American conservatives. We see it every day in our work with fellow conservatives who, often prompted by their faith, increasingly are recognizing that the death penalty is both an unnecessary and harmful policy.
“Pope Francis understands that the death penalty fails as a response to violence. The death penalty does not make society safer and it can inflict additional harm on murder victims’ families by prolonging the legal process. In light of these concerns and recent wrongful convictions and botched executions, more states should heed the Pope’s call to end the death penalty.”