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.”
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