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Christians urged to work for abolition of death penalty

By Sarah Mac Donald - 22 February, 2016

Pope Francis waves as he delivers his first "Urbi et Orbi" message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican

Pope Francis has urged Catholic politicians around the world to support a moratorium on the death penalty during the Year of Mercy.

Following the Angelus on Sunday, the Pontiff said Christians and people of good will are called today to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve conditions in prisons, out of respect for the human dignity of prisoners.

He appealed “to the consciences of government leaders” to join the “international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty” and asked Catholic leaders, as a “courageous and exemplary act,” not to carry out any death sentences during the Holy Year of Mercy.

An international convention for the abolition of death penalty is taking place today in Rome, promoted by the Sant’Egidio Community. Its title is ‘For a world without the death penalty.’

Expressing his hope that the conference will provide “a renewed impulse to efforts for the abolition of capital punishment”, the Pope said growing opposition to the death penalty, even as an instrument of legitimate social defence, was a sign of hope.

Modern society, he continued, has the means of fighting crime without definitively taking from criminals the possibility of redemption.

He placed the question of capital punishment within the context of a system of justice that continues to conform more closely “to the dignity of man and the design of God for and for society.”

“The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’,” Pope Francis said, “has absolute value, and concerns both the innocent and the guilty,” and even criminals “maintain the inviolable right to life, the gift of God.”

Following the conclusion of the Angelus on Sunday, the Pope also announced that it was time for another dose of the “spiritual medicine” as the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square were given a gift of a small box, designed to look like a box of medicine, containing a small Rosary and an image of the Merciful Jesus.

“Lent is a good time to complete a journey of conversion, that has mercy at its centre,” the Pope said. He invited the faithful to “welcome this gift as a spiritual aid in order, especially during this Year of Mercy, to spread love, forgiveness, and brotherhood.”

It is the second time Pope Francis has offered Misericord in to the faithful.

In November of 2013, the Pope encouraged the faithful to use the “spiritual medicine” in order “to make concrete the fruits of the Year of Faith” which was coming to an end.

On both occasions, the gifts were distributed by volunteers, including homeless people, refugees, and the poor.

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