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Catholic World News News Feature

Strong Vatican support for death-penalty abolition February 07, 2007

The Holy See has signaled strong support for an international effort to eliminate capital punishment.

In a message that was delivered to an international conference on the death penalty, the Vatican indicates support for the organizers of the meeting and for “everyone who works ... to abolish the death penalty or to impose a universal moratorium on its use." ?

The international conference was held in Paris last week, from February 1-3. The official statement from the Holy See, originally written in French, was released to the public by the Vatican press office on February 7.

Opponents of capital punishment are “facing new and disquieting challenges” because of recent public executions, the message says, apparently referring to the hanging of Saddam Hussein and his collaborators in Iraq. At the same time, the Vatican statement observes that public opinion has shifted against the death penalty.

The Holy See expresses “support for all initiatives that aim to defend the inherent value and inviolability of all human life, from conception to natural end.” The statement continues: “In this perspective, it is worth noting that the use of the death penalty is not just a negation of the right to life, but also an affront to human dignity."

While the Church recognizes the right of states to protect society and punish criminals, the statement argues that the use of capital punishment “is difficult to justify today.” There are other means of “preserving public order and people’s safety,” the statement claims, which are more in keeping with “the common good and conform more to the dignity of the human person.”