Piazza San Pietro
Second Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2016
After the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The International Conference "A World without Death Penalty," promoted by the Community of Sant'Egidio will take place in Rome tomorrow. I personally hope this symposium may give a renewed push to the efforts for the abolition of capital punishment. There is a sign of hope in the development of a growing opposition to the death penalty in public opinion, even as a social instrument of legitimate defense. Today modern societies have effectively the opportunity to fight crime without permanently removing the chance of redemption from those who have committed crimes. This issue has to be considered within the perspective of a penal justice which is more and more in compliance with human dignity and God’s plan for humanity and society. The commandment "You shall not kill," has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty.
The extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a propitious occasion to promote, throughout the world, ever more mature forms of respect for life and the dignity of every person, as well. Even a criminal maintains an inviolable right to life, which is a gift of God. I appeal to the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty. And I propose, to those among them who are Catholic, to make a courageous and exemplary gesture by seeking a moratorium on executions during this Holy Year of Mercy.
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 the conditions of life in prison, in respect of human dignity of persons deprived of liberty.