During his Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis has said that “all Christians and people of good will are called today to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty,” but also to improve conditions in prisons, out of respect for the human dignity of prisoners.
“The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’,” Pope Francis said, “has absolute value, and concerns both the innocent and the guilty,” and even criminals “maintain the inviolable right to life, the gift of God.”
While Catholic teaching does not doctrinally forbid the death penalty, the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2267 does say that while permissible in certain circumstances when the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity, those instances “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”
2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”
Video and transcript via RomeReports.com
During the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis asked the world to stop death penalty sentences, at least during this Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis said that societies should look for more mature forms of respect and dignity and recalled that even criminals have the right to life.
“I appeal to the conscience of government leaders so that an international consensus is reached to abolish the death penalty. And I propose to those who are Catholics to make a courageous and exemplary gesture: that no sentence is carried out in this Holy Year of Mercy.”
Pope Francis also found it useful to recall his recent trip to Mexico, an experience, he explained, that has transformed him. The Pope highlighted his silent encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe as a central component of his visit.
“I have beheld her and reflected on the one who has imprinted in her eyes the looks of all of her children, and who collects the pain of the violence, the kidnappings, the murders, the abuse of many poor people, many women.”
To return to the subject of the Misericordia, Francis gave a very symbolic gift to those who came to hear him speak.
“I thought to give those who are in the square a spiritual medicine called “Misericordina.” We have already done it once, but this is of better quality; it is the “Misericordina plus.” A box containing a Rosary and an image of Merciful Jesus.”
Jubilee volunteers began to distribute this curious papal gift throughout Saint Peter’s Square so that all of the pilgrims left the Angelus with an extra dose of mercy.