Pope Francis today called again for an end to the death penalty, noting a conference on this issue to be held this week in Rome by the Sant’Egidio Community.
The Pope noted that public opinion is turning against the death penalty, a development that he said is a “sign of hope.”
He affirmed the dignity of all people, even criminals, and said that a penal system that is increasingly conformed to God’s vision for humanity does not allow for depriving criminals of a chance to redeem themselves.
The Holy Father said this Jubilee of Mercy is a good occasion to promote a growing maturity in respect for life and human dignity, and said that all Christians are called to work for the abolition of the death penalty.
He encouraged governments to unite in this cause, and invited Catholics who govern to make of this holy year a time in which the death penalty is not carried out.
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Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and president of the so-called C9, the Pope’s advisory council of cardinals, says taking on the issue of capital punishment represents a broader battle for the defense of life.
The cardinal said this today at a Sant’Egidio conference held in Rome, titled “A World Without Death Penalty.” It was held at the Camera of Deputies house of Italian Parliament in Rome.
ZENIT was at the IX International Congress of the Ministers of Justice where Cardinal Marx told us how critical this endeavor is, pointing out how in the United States especially, this topic is in need of change.
In his address, the German cardinal expressed that when he learned months earlier that this conference would come to fruition, he was very pleased. He expressed how good it was to bring this idea of abolishing the death penalty to the forefront in this Holy Year, for it enables an even greater public to be reached, including government and parliaments.
“I welcome the initiative and tenacity with which the Community of Sant’Egidio has taken on this battle of civilization.”
“It’s one step in the greater battle for life, for an integral view of life”
The approach of Sant’Egidio, the cardinal stated, is “very holistic, deeply Catholic or universal, to fight for the abolition of the death penalty.”
He noted this is because it draws in all the relevant parties, enhances the single or partial steps of each country, avoids any ideological preconceptions, intervenes on the individual cases of those sentenced to death, and at the same time, provides legal instruments to countries that request it.
He also lauded how they have engaged in sincere and open dialogue with all, especially those of other religions.
“I’m deeply convinced there’s no justice without life,” he said.
The archbishop of Munich, however, did lament that the attitude which Pope Francis demonstrated at Sunday’s Angelus address on the death penalty was not always “the way of the Church.”
“We must admit this,” he said.
However, he continued, especially under St. Pope John Paul II we saw great developments, in all the ways in which he called for defense of life, from conception to natural death, in all circumstances.
Noting that over the years, new developments and some courageous decisions have been undertaken to combat capital punishment, the cardinal quoted Pope Benedict’s words in 2011 and noted that his recommendations have been followed.
After greeting the delegations from various countries taking part in the meeting promoted by Sant’Egidio on the theme, ‘No Justice Without Life,’ Pope Benedict said, “I express my hope that your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate it, and to continue this substantive progress made in conforming penal law to both human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”
Cardinal Marx highlighted that while John Paul II was the one who carried this attention to such abolishment forward, Benedict and Francis have wholeheartedly followed suit.
“We are not just working toward a more just society,” he noted, “but one that’s more human.”
“In this Holy Year of Mercy, we can commit ourselves to abolishing the death penalty and fight for it on the political scene.”
“So often we hear politicians say: ‘Revenge,’ ‘Revenge,” the cardinal lamented, saying, “Revenge is never the solution to any political or social problem.”
Pope Francis has encouraged the Catholic Church throughout the world to become “protagonists of mercy,” Cardinal Marx said, noting that the Pontiff’s recent pronouncements on national punishment are “clear” and “insistent.”
Cardinal Marx also recalled how Pope Francis also made this point at the US Congress, during his Apostolic Visit to the United States in September, when he said: “The Golden Rule also reminds of us 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.”
“For the Rule of Law, Pope Francis says the death penalty represents a failure, as it obliges the state to kill in the name of justice,” Cardinal Marx underscored, “rather than work toward a society of mercy and defending human life.”