Pope Francis at the general audience in the Vatican, Aug. 24, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA
Vatican City, Aug 31, 2022 / 10:45 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has asked Catholics around the world to pray in September for an end to the death penalty.
He made the appeal in his September prayer intention, shared with an accompanying video on Aug. 31.
“We pray that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country,” reads the prayer intention, promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
In the video explaining his prayer intention, Pope Francis said that “the death penalty is morally inadmissible as it destroys the most important gift we have received: life.”
“Let us not forget that, up to the very last moment, a person can convert and change,” the pope said.
“And in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is unacceptable. The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ refers to both the innocent and the guilty.”
More people were executed by the death penalty in 2021 than the year prior, with 579 executions recorded in 18 countries, according to Amnesty International.
The most known executions took place in China, followed by Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
In the United States, 11 people were executed by lethal injection last year in the states of Texas, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.
Catholic bishops in the US, notably Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, have advocated for individual prisoners on death row this year.
While the Church teaches that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice in the West.
Pope Francis revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 to state that the death penalty is “inadmissible.”
Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA at the time that he thinks this change “further absolutizes the pastoral conclusion made by John Paul II.”
“Nothing in the new wording of paragraph 2267 suggests the death penalty is intrinsically evil. Indeed, nothing could suggest that because it would contradict the firm teaching of the Church,” Fr. Petri continued.
In the pope’s video message, he urged “all people of goodwill to mobilize for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world.”
“Society can effectively repress crime without definitively depriving the offenders of the possibility of redeeming themselves,” Pope Francis said.
“Always, in every legal sentence, there must be a window of hope.”