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Death penalty fosters revenge, not justice, says Pope Francis

The Pope delivered a video message to participants at the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty

Use of the death penalty is an unacceptable practice that sows vengeance and does not bring justice to the victims of crime, Pope Francis has said.

No matter how serious the crime, to kill a convicted person is “an offence 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 on June 21 in a video message to participants at the Sixth 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."



  1. Nicholson Reply

    God bless you pope Francis ..thank you for your infallible thoughts for us..

  2. Patrick Gannon Reply

    ““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."
    WHAT!??? That’s exactly what Hell is. It’s punishment for its own sake, and there is no room for hope; the Church even says not to pray for people in Hell.
    I doubt it will be long before we get an article that, as usual, tells us that the pope didn’t mean what he said. That seems to be the standard modus operandi for almost anything this pope says.
    There is good reason to reconsider capital punishment, but the very concept comes from the Abrahamic religions that insist their gods demand retribution, and use death as punishment repeatedly in the so-called “holy” texts.

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