Pope calls for cat­e­gor­i­cal op­po­si­tion to death penalty

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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.

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