ROME – Support for the death penalty is a denial of the basic Christian belief that God can turn any person from a life of sin, a Vatican official told a group of justice ministers, judges and lawmakers examining positions on capital punishment.
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, spoke Sept. 29 at the conference “No Justice Without Life,” which gathered representatives from 16 countries in Rome for a daylong meeting.
The conference, sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, included government officials from Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Kenya, Benin, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Mexico, the Philippines and Kazakhstan.
Archbishop Marchetto said the United Nations’ 2007 resolution urging a moratorium on the use of the death penalty was the “first necessary step” to abolishing capital punishment completely.
The moratorium, he said, should give countries who still have death penalty laws time to “adopt appropriate instruments of law” to ensure the most serious criminals are not a threat to society and to increase the foundations of “a culture of life,” paving the way for the abolition of the death penalty.
“Despite everything, the church has always and will always defend the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death as a universal value,” the archbishop said.
If one accepts that respect for human life reflects the reality that God created people in his image and likeness, he said, then “the death penalty increasingly appears to be an unacceptable instrument even more than being a useless and dangerous one.”
“As Christians, how can we accept that someone be denied the hope of redemption?” the archbishop asked. “A man or a woman who made a mistake, who committed a crime, no matter how brutal, must have the possibility of being forgiven – while serving a tough sentence – and of living in hope.”