Pope Francis: Death penalty fosters revenge, not justice, pope says

Pope Francis: Death penalty fosters revenge, not justice, pope says

Pope Francis (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis during a general audience in June. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Use of the death penalty is an unacceptable practice that sows vengeance and does not bring justice to the victims of crime, Pope Francis said.

No matter how serious the crime, to kill a convicted person is “an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person,” as well as a contradiction of God’s plan and “his merciful justice,” the pope said June 21 in a video message to participants at the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty.

“It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty,” the pope said in his message to the meeting in Oslo, Norway.

The June 21-23 conference, sponsored by the French association “Together Against the Death Penalty,” promotes the universal abolition of the death penalty. The group expected more than 1,300 people — including government officials — from more than 80 countries to attend.

Thanking the participants for their commitment to “a world free of the death of penalty,” the pope said growing opposition to the death penalty as a legitimate means of social defense is “one sign of hope.”

The Year of Mercy, he added, also can serve as an occasion globally to promote “more evolved forms of respect for the life and dignity of each person.”

“It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal,” he said.

While the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the death penalty can be used “if this is the only possible way” of defending lives from an unjust aggressor, it also stresses the importance of not removing the possibility of redemption from a person convicted of a crime.

“The cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent,” the catechism states.

Pope Francis echoed the church’s teaching, calling on conference participants to also work toward improving prison conditions “so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated” and promote the rehabilitation of convicts.

“There is no fitting punishment without hope!” Pope Francis said. “Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.”

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Pope Francis: ‘Death Penalty Is Unacceptable’

Pontiff Says Sentence Contradicts God’s Plan for Individuals, Society

video message

Caritas Internationalis -YouTube

Pope Francis has reaffirmed that the death penalty is unjustifiable today.

In a video-message transmitted tonight to the participants of the VI World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, underway through June 23, the Pontiff stressed, “Nowadays, the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person.”

The Congress opens today and was organized by the French NGO Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which includes about 140 organizations from around the world.

“It is an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person,”the Pope continued, pointing out, “It likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment.”

Noting this sentence does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance, Francis reminded those watching, “The commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.”

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope told them, is a proper occasion for the world to better respect the life and dignity of each person.

“It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal,” he said.

The Pope also encouraged all to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated.

“‘Rendering justice,’” he highlighted, “does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender. The question must be dealt with within the larger framework of a system of penal justice open to the possibility of the guilty party’s reinsertion in society.”

Before concluding, assuring the participants of his prayers, Pope Francis said, “There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.”

“I trust that this Congress can give new impulse to the effort to abolish capital punishment.”

***

On ZENIT’s Webpage:

For full text:  http://zenit.org/articles/popes-video-message-for-world-congress-against-death-penalty-in-oslo

Pope’s Video-Message for World Congress Against Death Penalty in Oslo

“It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 11.47.23 AM

Below is the Vatican-provided English transcription of Pope Francis’ words in his video-message, given tonight, for the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway. The Congress, June 21-23, was organized by the NGO “Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort” and the “World Coalition Against the Death Penalty,” which includes about 140 organizations from around the world.

***

I greet the organizers of this World Congress against the death penalty, the group of countries supporting it, particularly Norway as its host country, and all those representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society taking part in it. I likewise express my personal appreciation, along with that of men and women of goodwill, for your commitment to a world free of the death penalty.

One sign of hope is that public opinion is manifesting a growing opposition to the death penalty, even as a means of legitimate social defense. Indeed, nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is an auspicious occasion for promoting worldwide ever more evolved forms of respect for the life and dignity of each person. It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal.

Today I would encourage all to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated. “Rendering justice” does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender. The question must be dealt with within the larger framework of a system of penal justice open to the possibility of the guilty party’s reinsertion in society. There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.

I trust that this Congress can give new impulse to the effort to abolish capital punishment. For this reason, I encourage all taking part to carry on this great initiative and I assure them of my prayers.

[Original text: Spanish] [Vatican Provided translation]

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In a letter (March 20,2015) to the International Commission against the Death Penalty, the Pope Francis says that today the death penalty is “inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. It is an offence against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person.” He adds that it “does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance.”