Pope Francis changes church's stance on death penalty

Pope Francis changes church's stance on death penalty

The death penalty is "contrary to the Gospel", the pope said past year, noting that the faith emphasized the dignity of life from conception until death.

"Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good".

He also cited John Paul II who taught that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes. It also notes that "more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption".

As part of the revision, Francis called on the church to recommit itself to working with civil authorities to eliminate the death penalty where it is still used as a deterrent to crime.

Its survey found that 53% of Catholics favor capital punishment, while 42% oppose it. Support for the death penalty is highest among white evangelical Protestants, Pew said.

Francis has long railed against the death penalty, insisting it can never be justified, no matter how heinous the crime.

The above video gives a brief history of the church's complicated relationship with capital punishment.

Francis, more than many of his predecessors, has embraced several liberal causes, in the past calling for the Catholic Church's role in protecting immigrants and pushing for action on climate change.

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The Vatican's change to the catechism, the church's guidance on interpreting Holy Writ (the Bible), was approved in May and published Thursday, as Yahoo News and other outlets reported Thursday. Only 43 percent of Catholics supported capital punishment, compared with a majority of white mainline Protestants (60 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (69 percent).

In the past, Pope Francis has spoken out against executions.

"Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life") was St. John Paul's 1995 encyclical letter on the dignity and sacredness of all human life.

"Already in the past, the church had expressed its aversion to the death penalty, but with words that did not exclude ambiguities", said Riccardo Noury, Amnesty Italia spokesman. The death penalty was meant only to protect society.

In the United States, where 22 percent of the population are Catholic, execution is still legal in 31 states.

In the United States, 23 people were executed, a slight increase from 2016 but a low number compared to historical trends, Amnesty said.

"I think what this does is get people to reexamine their own attitudes and convictions", said John Carr, the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, who said any shift in public attitude could be consequential. India also retains death penalty and now has 400 prisoners under the sentence of death, shows a project report by the National Law University, Delhi.

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