Pope calls for jubilee moratorium on death penalty

IMAGE: CNS photo/Diego Azubel, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis
called for a moratorium on executions during the Year of Mercy and said the fifth commandment,
“Thou shalt not kill,” applies not only to the innocent but to the
guilty as well.

a criminal has the inviolable right to life, a gift of God,” he said Feb.
21 after reciting the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s

the beginning of an international conference “For a world without the
death penalty,” sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, the pope expressed hope that it will strengthen efforts to abolish the death penalty.

opposition worldwide
to the death penalty as “an instrument of legitimate social defense” is “a sign of
hope,” he said.

“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 pope said.

The pope appealed
to world leaders to reach an international consensus on the abolition of the
death penalty. He also proposed Catholic government leaders “make a courageous and
exemplary gesture by seeking a moratorium on executions during this Holy Year
of Mercy.”

“All Christians and people of goodwill 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 the respect of human dignity of people
deprived of freedom,” he said.

In his remarks before reciting the Angelus prayer, the pope
recalled his Feb. 12-17 visit to Mexico, calling it an “experience of

“The Lord has shown us the light of his glory through
the body of the church, of his holy people that lives in this land — a body so often
wounded, a people so often oppressed, despised, violated in its dignity. The various encounters we experienced in Mexico were truly full of light:
the light of a faith that transfigures faces and enlightens our path,” he

The main goal of
his trip, he added, was his
visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray before the miraculous image of Mary.

contemplated and I allowed myself to be gazed upon by she who carries imprinted
in her eyes the gaze of all of her children, gathering up the sorrows caused by
violence, kidnapping, assassinations, the violence against so many poor people,
against so many women,” he said.

Pope Francis also
gave thanks to God for his meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of
Moscow, calling it “a prophetic light of the Resurrection which the world today needs more than ever.”

“May the
holy mother of God continue to guide us on the path of unity,” the pope

Before concluding
his address, the pope prescribed some “spiritual medicine” to the
faithful for the Lenten season: the rosary.

including some poor, homeless and refugees along with religious, distributed
small white boxes with an anatomical drawing of the human heart that contained
a rosary along with the Divine Mercy image of Jesus.

this gift as a spiritual help to spread love, forgiveness and brotherhood,
especially during this Year of Mercy,” the pope said.

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