Pope Francis made a closely-watched speech today (Sept. 24) in Washington, telling US lawmakers that his commitment to “protect and defend human life at every stage of its development” means that capital punishment must be abolished around the world:
I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
A steadily declining majority of Americans, including Catholics, support the death penalty. As the Washington Post notes, the United States is one of the world’s leading practitioners of capital punishment.
The pontiff was speaking to a joint session of the US Congress, which is bitterly divided along partisan lines, and Republicans and Democrats alike had been hoping to hear moral support for their ideologies.
Pope Francis also spoke at length about the need to address climate change and the migration crisis in Europe. He gave shout-outs to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Dorothy Day.
The full text of the pope’s address is available here.