Pope calls for categorical opposition to death penalty
VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Francis called Wednesday for categorical opposition to capital punishment to be written into an update of the most important guide to Catholic teaching.
His comments, which will be controversial with many fundamentalist Christians and some Catholics, came in a speech to clerics attending a conference in Rome to mark the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The catechism is a question and answer guide to what Catholics should think about a wide range of moral and social issues.
Acknowledging that the Vatican itself had historically had "recourse to the extreme and inhuman remedy" of judicial execution, Francis said past doctrinal errors should be put aside.
"We have to restate that, however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person," he said.
The execution of a human being is fundamentally against the teachings of Christ because, by definition, it excludes the possibility of redemption, he said.
The Catholic church has steadily increased the strength of its opposition to the use of capital punishment in recent years.
Pope John Paul II made an appeal for a global consensus on abolition in 1999 and Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, issued a similar call in 2011.
The 1992 text of the catechism says authorities should take appropriate measures in the interest of the common good without excluding the use of the death penalty in extremely grave cases.
More recent updates say justifying circumstances are now rare if not practically inexistant. And a version of the catechism aimed at younger people now includes a question, "Why is the Church opposed to the death penalty?"
Francis has made clear his own personal opposition to the death penalty on numerous occasions.
"It doesn't give justice to victims, but it feeds vengeance," he said in June, 2016, arguing that the Biblical commandment "Thou shall not kill," applies to the innocent as well as the guilty.
40 M Tweeter followers Meanwhile, the Pope has racked up 40 million followers on Twitter, the Vatican said on Wednesday, underlining the Catholic leader's status as one of the world's biggest social media players.
The total, spread across accounts in nine languages, leaves Francis neck and neck with his occasional online sparring partner, US President Donald Trump (40.3 million followers), but still trailing the likes of Barack Obama (95 million) and Katy Perry (104 million).
A net nine million new Twitter users have followed the various @pontifex accounts in the last year, according to the Vatican, which views the microblogging site as increasingly important for communicating with the faithful and non-believers.
Francis, 80, has become a star of the platform, despite the dry, religious nature of most of his tweets. His use of Twitter could also seem at odds with him regularly urging young people to give their smartphones a rest in favor of real-world communication.
The Argentine pontiff's Spanish account has most followers (14.6 million), followed by English (14 million).
A hugely popular Latin one has 843,000 (more than the German or Arabic feeds), much to the delight of the ancient language's dwindling band of teachers.
Francis, who also counts five million followers on Instagram, is not the first pope to tweet.
His predecessor Benedict XVI started in December, 2012, just months before he retired because of failing health.
Tweets in the name of the pope appear on average just under once a day.
"God does not disappoint! He has placed hope in our hearts so that it can blossom and bear fruit," he wrote in his latest missive.
The central importance of prayer is a recurring theme and some messages are barely comprehensible to nonCatholics. But it is not all theology. The immediacy of the social medium also offers the leader of the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics a platform to react quickly to global events, or voice his views on the social issues of the day.
One early tweet reinforced his anticapitalist credentials, stating: "If money and material things become the center of our lives, they seize us and make us slaves."
There have also been some that offer homespun advice, such as: "I cannot imagine a Christian who does not know how to smile."
The Vatican's Twitter operation is not without risks given the hard-tocontrol nature of discussions on the site. Some papal tweets are greeted with sarcastic, mocking, or even obscene replies that make shocking reading for some of the devout.
But the Church has deemed the Internet has to be embraced and research suggests that has been the right call.
PAPAL STAND – Pope Francis, seen here during his weekly general audience at Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, firmly believes the execution of a human being goes against the teachings of Christ because it excludes the possibility of redemption.