Pope Francis Calls for an End to the Death Penalty

Among the many topics that Pope Francis addressed in his speech to Congress was his call for a global end to the death penalty.  In his speech he often used the analogy of applying the Golden Rule to social justice issues, as was the case with the death penalty.

Pope Francis said, “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.”

He went on to praise the U.S. bishops for their renewed call to end the death penalty and offered support to all who support abolition.

Francis’s remarks were reminiscent of the comments of  Pope John Paul II during his historic visit to St. Louis in 1999, when he called for a consensus to end the death penalty.  John Paul’s speech was a watershed moment for the death penalty movement. Beginning in 2000 the use of the death penalty began to decrease sharply in the U.S. Perhaps Francis’s remarks will have similar impact on death penalty practices.

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